The fight for the Transbay Terminal Project (TBTP) is by no means complete. We are still working hard to ensure that the future underground tracks for the Caltrain Downtown Extension (DTX) to the new Transbay Terminal (TBT) are not blocked by a high-rise condominium tower that a private developer, Jack Myers, plans to build on a vacant plot of land at 80 Natoma Street in San Francisco.
The Transbay Project's draft environmental impact statement and report (EIR) was approved by the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) and San Francisco Board of Supervisors in April. The EIR is available at http:// sfgov.org/site/tjpa_page.asp?id= 23586.
Work at the 80 Natoma site was halted in June by the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection over new concerns that the structural integrity of neighboring buildings and sewage lines would be compromised. Myers sued the City, asking the Superior Court to lift the work ban. On August 12, the court rejected Myers' motion. The SF Building Inspection Commission will consider Myers' appeal to lift the stop work order on September 20, pending an opinion from the City Attorney's office on whether Prop H requires them to halt construction that may interfere with the Caltrain Downtown Extension.
Myers refused an offer of more than $32 million (fair market value) by the TJPA for the vacant land as well as offers to find another suitable location to construct his building. He is demanding $175 million for the parcel -- $143 million over fair market value! He has also refused to work with the TJPA to design his building in tandem with the DTX tunnel to ensure that it could be built without affecting the structural integrity of his building. The SF Bay Guardian wrote of Myers, "I saw the face of greed -- real, ugly, unadulterated greed."
Supervisor Chris Daly introduced a resolution asking the SF Board of Supervisors to acquire the property at fair market value through eminent domain. Unfortunately the city, for whatever reasons, has taken a number of actions to delay the TBTP that have worked in Myers' favor.
On August 10, the SF Board of Supervisors received a report from the SF County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) that proposed an "engineering solution" to accommodate both projects. It calls for excavating the site, installing engineered fill to replace the unstable mud fill, building the 80 Natoma tower, and then later tunneling under it removing over 80% of its foundation on one side to build Caltrain DTX. The TA claims this will save ten million over the cost of exercising eminent domain and buying the property at fair-market value. Engineering experts, including the tunneling consultant for Muni's Central Subway project, testified that the SFCTA proposal is unworkable and should be rejected outright.
The purported SFCTA "solution" is a complete disaster in its geotechnical, engineering, construction, logistical, safety, insurability, legal and economic aspects. Insurance agencies are unlikely to underwrite the tunneling under the tower as its structural integrity would be at great risk. If this ridiculous proposal is enacted, it will become impossible to build the DTX. That would spell the end of the entire Transbay Terminal Project, because without DTX, the new bus facility would not be built and the massive redevelopment, including the construction of more than 3,000 affordable housing units, would not take place.
On August 13, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) board met to consider "Urging the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to initiate eminent domain proceedings to acquire Block 3721, Lots 045A, 046, 053, and 054, parcels On August 17, the SF Board of Supervisors, sitting as the SFCTA, reviewed the SFCTA's proposed "solution" to the conflict between the 80 Natoma and Caltrain DTX projects.
Unfortunately, SFCTA voted to give its staff up to $10 million to spend during the next 30 days to further investigate a conceptual engineering "solution" These SFCTA actions are illegal. Under Proposition K, the TJPA is designated as the lead agency, not the SFCTA, which cannot appropriate funds to itself for this preposterous "solution" project. In addition, state law places jurisdiction for the Transbay Terminal Project with the TJPA, and the SFCTA action violates that law. (Adding insult to injury, SFCTA had even called Myers to inform him of their "assessment report" on their "solution" before they bothered to inform the TJPA.)
The Supervisors also voted to delay consideration of condemnation of the property, and voted against allocating money to the TJPA to allow it to commence preliminary engineering for the TBTP. Supervisors Chris Daly, Bevan Dufty, and Tom Ammiano voted with us, except for the final vote where Ammiano joined the rest of his colleagues. All of the others, including McGoldrick, Sandoval, Gonzalez, Maxwell, Alioto, Ma, Elsbernd, and Peskin voted in a way that favored the developer, Myers. The delay in condemning the property, creates increased costs for the city and endangers the TBTP, contrary to the will of the voters and Prop H.
A letter signed by nine members of the state Assembly demands that the Board support the TJPA condemnation efforts. This letter was signed by John Burton, Don Perata, Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez, as well as Jackie Speier, Tom Torlakson, Byron Sher, Liz Figeroa, Leland Yee and John Dutra.
We have a chance to get the board of supervisors to vote for condemnation on Sept 21 but we have to keep the pressure on. Here's what you can do:
For more information, see:
The Transbay Terminal is essential for future statewide high-speed rail and the integration of our regional public transit into a convenient downtown hub. Don't let greedy private developers sabotage this project.
On Thursday, April 22, 2004, the San Francisco Planning Commission and Caltrain JPB certified the Transbay Terminal/DTX EIR and the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) authorized the project, clearing the way for this historic and vitally necessary project to go forward.
Transit advocates testified passionately before the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency (SFRA) on April 20 and a joint meeting of the San Francisco Planning Commission (SFPC) and Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB) on April 22, urging certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Transbay Terminal project.
The Project would extend the Caltrain line to a rebuilt and expanded Transbay Terminal at First and Mission Streets downtown to provide direct service to the city center and to provide more convenient connections to many transit lines. It has long been a high priority for BayRail Alliance and many other transit and land use advocacy groups.
There are several significant funding sources. Regional Measure 2, approved by voters in March 2004, provides $150 million for capital costs and $3 million per year (increasing 3.5% per year) for terminal operating costs. San Francisco's Proposition K sales tax, which voters approved in November 2003, includes $270 million for the Project.
Once certain conditions are met, the state will be transferring land owned by Caltrans to the SFRA to make the project possible. Tax increments and proceeds from the sale of some of these parcels will help to finance Project construction, providing improved operations and needed capacity for AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit, and other bus operators.
The EIR was certified unanimously by all three government bodies: SFRA, SFPC and JPB. Following the SFPC hearing, the Transbay Joint Powers Authority (TJPA) authorized the Project, finally clearing the way for this historic and necessary transportation hub to move forward.
What should have been cause for celebration, however, was clouded by last- minute amendments introduced by Michael Burns of the TJPA and an apparent behind-the-scenes attempt by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to kill the Project.
The mayor appears to be in cahoots with a developer, Jack Myers, of a proposed "80 Natoma Street" development, a high-rise building with a foundation that would block the path of the proposed underground Caltrain alignment (see aerial photo).
Fortunately, AC Transit director Greg Harper and SF Supervisor Chris Daly moved to eliminate some of the worst aspects of the amendments that Burns introduced. The TJPA resolution urges an agreement with the developers, though the engineering feasibility of re-routing tracks around the site is slim and the financial impact is unknown. Eminent domain (condemnation and seizure) of the property is an option for the TJPA if an agreement can't be reached.
To our dismay, the May TJPA meeting has been cancelled by the chair, San Mateo County Supervisor Mike Nevin. This delay hinders the progress of the Project and will potentially cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
We worry that Supervisor Nevin, rather than acting in the best interests of the project, is instead trying to position himself for an endorsement by Mayor Newsom for an upcoming Senate race against SF Supervisor Leland Yee. We urge all of you who live in Senator Jackie Speier's district to contact Supervisor Nevin to ask him to act now to expedite the Transbay Terminal Project.
Caltrain DTX / Transbay Terminal news from years past
October 2001. Governor Davis vetoes legislation that would have jump started the project.
September 2001. BayRail Alliance advocated combining the Caltrain extension and rebuilding of the Transbay Terminal into a single project. Read the letter to MTC.
April 2001. Santa Clara County VTA backed away from opposing SF Caltrain extension
January 2001. The Transbay Joint Powers Authority was formed to develop, construct and operate the new Transbay Terminal which will provide regional intermodal transit connections through its expanded bus and rail service, including the downtown extension of Caltrain.
November 1999. San Francisco voters approved Proposition H by a 69-to-31 percent margin, making it city policy to build the Caltrain extension and a new downtown station at First and Mission Streets. Prop. H also enacted an ordinance forbidding city officials and agencies from allowing any new construction which would obstruct the proposed rail route to the station.