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Castro Muni station elevator project delayed, Harvey Milk Plaza redesign slowly moves forward

The new Castro Station elevator will include a fourth stop at Market Street. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline
By Steven Bracco - Published on November 23, 2020.

Hoodline has learned that the construction of a new glass elevator at Castro Muni station and Harvey Milk Plaza (Market and Castro Streets) has been delayed until fall 2021.

While the Muni Metro remains closed, construction of the new elevator was set to begin this fall as apart of the Castro Station Accessibility Improvements Project. According to SFMTA spokesperson Kristen Holland, the project has been delayed until next fall due to changes in the design.

SFMTA announced the $14.5 million, 18-month elevator project in December 2018, with a completion date of 2022. With the delay, the project's completion date has been pushed back to 2023. Holland did not confirm an exact completion date or if the project cost had increased due to the changes.

The elevator was originally approved with three stops: street-level at Castro Street, entry-level at the plaza and fare gates, and below-ground at the inbound platform level. The elevator is required to bring the station into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.


The current Castro Station and Harvey Milk Plaza. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

At the request of neighborhood group Friends of Harvey Milk Plaza (FHMP), a fourth stop was added which will serve the Market Street sidewalk.

"We're pleased to say that the project now calls for adding a fourth stop to the new three-stop elevator," said Holland. The fourth stop will allow riders of Muni's 35 and 37 routes to enter directly into the elevator and down to the concourse level.

"The elevator will still include stops at Harvey Milk Plaza and the platform level as included in the original scope," confirmed Holland.


The new elevator will be built behind the metal fencing. | Photo: Steven Bracco/Hoodline

 

"These design changes impact the architectural and structural systems and will require re-doing several city approvals," explained Holland.

The new elevator will be constructed in the fenced-off area behind the plaza's display of photos honoring Milk. The project will also widen the sidewalk, replace the plaza's existing lighting, and regrade the pavement above Castro station to make it more accessible.

"We are conducting community outreach to update the neighborhood on the new design and construction schedule," said Holland.


The design chosen for the new elevator will need to add an additional stop. | Image: SFMTA

 

The elevator construction was supposed to occur in twain with FHMP controversial redesign of Harvey Milk Plaza. Castro station officially opened to subway service on June 11, 1980, less than two years after Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone's assassination. This year marked the 40th anniversary of Castro Station and Harvey Milk Plaza.

Andrea Aiello, president of FHMP, previously told Hoodline her group realized about two and a half years ago that doing the two projects together would be unachievable, due to design and CEQA approval delays.

In December 2018 the proposal received Phase 1 approval from the SF Arts Commission. Then in January, the project was awarded a $1 million state grant from the planned redesign. The grant was initiated by State Senator Scott Wiener's office and is being managed by the San Francisco Parks Alliance.

The proposal then received a Phase 1 Historic Resource Determination from SF Planning in July.

Hoodline readers will recall FHMP first kicked off the plaza redesign process in 2017, selecting local firm Perkins Eastman's design after an international competition.

But since then, the project has seen many design revisions. After significant community pushback, plans for a large on-site amphitheater were abandoned. A pink free-form structure, intended to take its place, has also been nixed. Critics of the proposal have long questioned whether to fully demolish and replace Harvey Milk Plaza, or simply update the existing layout.


ROMA Design Group's initial model of the plaza redesign. | Photo: FHMP

 

FHMP interim-executive director Brian Springfield tells Hoodline the group partnered with San Francisco design collective Parklab. Just last week, the group released an invited RFP (Request for Proposal) in search of a new project design firm. Earlier this year FHMP parted ways with Perkins Eastman who had been contracted to help with the schematic phase of the project.

Springfield says FHMP plans to interview design candidates in January and have a decision by late-January or early February 2021. Springfield declined to comment on which design firms had been invited to submit an RFP.

The delay in the elevator project comes as SFMTA announced last week that they'll need to redo some of the work from the $52 million 2018 Twin Peaks Tunnel upgrade.


Inside Twin Peaks Tunnel. | Photo: SFMTA

 

According to the SF Examiner, aging ballast rock, which stabilizes the track, will need to be replaced. SFMTA's director of transit, Julie Kirschbaum, revealed last month that the ballast rock was supposed to be swapped out under the original contract but instead was reused, apparently to save time. And now the aging gravel is causing potential problems with the train tracks.

Starting November 30, SFMTA crews will be entering the tunnel from Collingwood to replace aging ballast rock. Construction is anticipated to last until February 2021 with a break from December 24 through New Year's Day.

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