San Francisco business owners frustrated with long-running Taraval improvement project

Businesses along one of San Francisco's busiest corridors are voicing concerns about a rail improvement project that they claim is severely impacting their operations.

They said that the project, which has been ongoing for three years, poses a significant threat to their survival. They emphasize the urgent need for action to alleviate the situation and prevent long-term consequences for their businesses.

Taraval Street, typically bustling with activity, has been transformed by the ongoing construction as part of the L Taraval Improvement Project. The aim of the project is to enhance rail service efficiency and ensure street safety for all.

Guerra Quality Meats, a neighborhood fixture at Taraval Street and 15th Avenue, has been severely affected by the Taraval improvement project. Established in 1954 by Robert Guerra's father and uncle, the once-thriving business has been hit hard.

"They've taken 40% of our gross sales away from us," said Guerra. "Our customers can't access us via the parking, via the lack of wanting to come to the area and battle the traffic."

A similar situation unfolds at the Parkside Farmers Market, located just one block away.

"It's unfair for us," voiced Tom Ghishan. "We still have rent to pay, we have employees to pay, we have taxes to pay."

Loyal customers share their frustrations, saying that the limited parking forces them to take risks when visiting the area.

"During my last three visits, I've had to park illegally just to shop here," said customer Eric Rasmussen.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) said the project is necessary to enhance a crucial rail line.

"We're getting ahead of the curve, replacing things before they break and making sure the L Taraval is a reliable rail service for everybody in the Sunset for generations to come," said Tom Maguire with SFMTA.

The transit agency acknowledges the concerns expressed by business owners. SFMTA said it learned from the Van Ness Improvement Project, which dragged on for years and was over budget.

"We understand that complaint, and the project is being planned and staged in a way to minimize that impact. But, we can't make it zero," said Maguire. "I think the best thing we can do is to keep the project on time and on budget, which it is, and get it done by the fall of 2024."

Guerra said the Taraval project has already gone on too long. He said his only hope is that SFMTA will stand by an agreement to ensure the availability of parking when the holiday season approaches.

"They're saying they're going to give us parking to help us survive on the opposite side of the street," said Guerra. "Let's see how they come through."

Maguire assured that parking will indeed be available.

"We're going to make sure the businesses at 15th and Taraval have lots of parking, lots of loading," said Maguire. "They're able to have a normal holiday season so that the busiest time of year for them doesn't feel disrupted."

Business owners also highlighted the need for support from the city, including grants, advertising funds, to lure customers back to the area.