Taraval street and utilities project enrages merchants

For a half-decade, merchants along a stretch of San Francisco's Taraval Street have been suffering under the $90 million L Taraval Project. San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency and its Public Utilities Commission did it to create safer streets for pedestrians, Muni passengers and cyclists.

By the time it's done in late 2024, the five-year project will have taken as much time as it took to build the $1 billion Salesforce Tower from scratch.

Merchants tell KTVU that the project has been, is, and will continue to be a noisy, property-damaging and small-business disaster. 

"It has destroyed, basically, the economic infrastructure of all the small businesses on Taraval. They tore up the entire area and it's the second time I've had damage to my building because of it," said Michael Vorperian, owner of Noriega Furniture. 

Noriega Furniture is a 76-year-old legacy business. 

"We lost, at least I would say, at least 20 percent of our business due to the fact that customers…cannot find parking," said Paul Thishan, Parkside Produce Market owner.

"We're down 35 to 40 percent on customer count. It's not just for the safety. It's so they can change the zoning in the entire area. This is the infrastructure so they can change the zoning in the entire area so they can go up 8 stories from here to the beach," said owner Robert Guerra.

The Guerra Italian Store and Meat Market has been a family affair for seven decades. 

The merchants say this would have gone a lot better, had the city done a better job of communicating with them and telling them what was going on. It kind of brings up the old state made in the Paul Newman Cool Hand Luke movie: What we have here is a failure to communicate. 

"The most frustrating part of this is zero communication through the whole process," said Vorperian.

In a news release, the City has said it will take $1 million to be split among the many dozens of affected Taraval businesses. Merchants here say it's far less than what far fewer merchants near the Moscone Center will get from interruptions caused by the international APEC event last November. 

"They were inconvenienced for a week. So, they ended up with $2.5 million, we ended up with a million dollars. We've been inconvenienced for five years. I'm down [$3 million]," said Guerra. 

"I don't think that this was really worth it. I think it ends up being a whole lot of money spent, They're not going to regain the value for what they put into it," said shopper Suzanne Schinaneck.

An apologetic Muni had this to say to the merchants:

"So, at the same time we are replacing the rail tracks, the sewer and waterlines are also being replaced and those are things that take a long time," said SFMTA staff member Andrea Buffa.

The SF PUC, the installer of the new sewers and pipes and equally responsible for the long delays, chose not to respond to KTVU's inquiries.