Two Thursdays ago, the ongoing infrastructure improvement project on Haight was waylaid when work crews ruptured yet another gas line. The block was closed to foot and vehicle traffic for more than two hours while crews assessed the damage, at which point it was deemed safe to return to business as usual.
This is the third such incident since construction began, and business owners on Haight are beginning to take notice. We reported two weeks ago that the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association (HAMA) was considering seeking damages from the city of San Francisco, or else demanding that work stop on the project.
In the meantime, the city has responded. Grace Moore of the Department of Public Works explained two of the three recent leak incidents via email:
On April 29th, the contractor damaged a marked gas line at the intersection of Haight and Masonic. The contractor’s workers identified a pipe they believed was the active gas line, based on PG&E’s pavement markings. What they actually found was an abandoned gas line, and they damaged the live gas line a few feet further along the trench. After this incident, Public Works met with the contractor, Ghilotti Brothers (GBI), and their subcontractor, Synergy Project Management (SPM), to review their procedures to identify underground utilities. SPM revised their procedures so identifying underground utilities will be performed only by their foreman or superintendent. They agreed to perform more careful hand digging, especially near intersections, to locate utilities prior to excavation. Public Works also provided the contractors with additional drawings obtained from the utility companies, as another resource to locate and identify underground pipes and conduits.
On August 27th, SPM was cutting the existing 10” thick pavement layer in preparation for the installation of a new water main when a gas line was cut. Typically, gas lines are installed 24” below the pavement surface. The gas line that was hit was located only 11” below the pavement surface. While safety precautions and measures were taken to identify the horizontal location of the line, the contractor had no way of knowing that the gas line would be installed at such a shallow depth. PG&E representatives have confirmed the shallow installation of their gas line and are not holding the contractor responsible for this incident.
We also reached out to Shoe Biz owner and HAMA member Mehran Esmaili, who was behind the initial idea of potentially seeking damages from the city. He told Hoodline via email that while he has softened his stance and has no intention of being an impediment to the progress of the project, he does want to see higher safety standards in place, so that incidents like this stop happening.
I am concerned with the way in which all SF public agencies and the District act toward all daily and social issues of the Upper Haight, and make decisions without considering the needs of those who invest the greater portions of their daily lives on Haight. I want DPW to monitor the contractors, review PG&E plans carefully, and act as an effective and responsible liaison in the field. We are not looking for financial compensation, but passive behavior from the City and the contractors left us with only one option to capture the attention of the DPW and the contractor."
In the meantime, work continues, with the same contractor as before. The work of excavating old cable car footings, which was supposed to start on August 17th, has been delayed due to "traffic routing and water main issues." It's now slated to begin on September 9th, starting at Ashbury and moving over to Baker over the course of about three weeks.
Also beginning this week is the installation of water lines starting at Ashbury and heading east. That work will be concurrent with the footing excavations, to minimize the amount of time the street will be cut open. DPW says it should take two to three weeks per block. Expect parking to be severely impacted between Ashbury and Masonic.
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