Chinatown subway loved and hated

By Lulu Orozco
The Guardsman

A handful of small businesses and many residents along the Stockton Street corridor through Chinatown will be forced to relocate by the end of the month due to the city’s new plan to extend the MUNI T-Third Line.

The Central Subway Project has surprisingly become one of the more conscientious topics affecting the mayoral race.

The project intends to provide the densely populated Chinatown with a light-rail service. The new construction will continue the T Line from a new 4th and Brannan Street station, to where it will then travel underground for 1.3 miles, and link to citywide destinations at Union Square, Moscone Convention Center, SoMa, Yerba Buena and AT&T Park.

Locals in Chinatown have mixed feelings about the new line of transportation, because many are being displaced by the new construction project.

“It’s a waste of money, we don’t need that here,” said Raymond Hong, Chinatown native and business owner. “If they start construction it affects my business too, it’s not fair.”

Hong’s photography studio has been on the corner of Stockton Street and Clay Street for 16 years. Most of the businesses in the area are family owned.

Down the street from Hong’s photography studio, rows of empty businesses line the neighborhood, with signs posted on lifeless windows informing patrons they’ve moved.

“I want to stay on this street, but if the city can’t find us a new place for the business everyone here is going to lose their job,” said Howard Hong, owner of La Vii Beauty Salon.

The effort to relocate displaced, low-income residents cannot escape criticism. Malcolm Yeung , Public Policy Manager at the Chinatown Community Development Center, said the organization made it a point to support the plan only if low-income residents displaced by the construction were not negatively impacted, according to a report in The Examiner.

The CCDC, one of the few low-income housing developers in the neighborhood, is getting an $8 million grant from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to help subsidize a $32 million development project for permanent affordable housing at Sansome Street and Broadway.

The grant would help house the 19 families whose homes would be demolished by the Central Subway Project.

The Federal Transit Administration agreed to pay for 42 months of temporary housing for the affected residents of Chinatown.

According to Central Subway proponents Chinatown will become more accessible to the further regions of the city. The new line would eventually carry 78,000 passengers between the years 2018 and 2030.

“The new line is going to add more foot traffic to all the small businesses,” said Donald Li, family business owner in Chinatown. “We won’t know the long term effects until it happens.”

MUNI Light Rail carries an averages 686,000 daily riders.

The project’s construction cost started at $647 million in 2003, but has escalated to almost triple that amount at $1.6 billion today.

The construction process will use a new form of tunnel technology called deep tunneling, which allows most work to be done below ground reducing surface disruption.

“Who wants to sit underground to see the city,” Raymond Hong said. “That’s why we have the city buses, so that we can see what’s going on.”

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