Restaurateur Joel Campos has proposed a variety of development projects for the Pagoda Palace site since he obtained the property in 2004. In 2009, Campos’s proposal to turn the run-down theater into a bar and restaurant on the first floor with 18 housing units above was finally approved.
Now, with the Central Subway project the target of seven lawsuits, turning the theater into a dig-site to remove the tunnel boring machines (TBMs) might help bolster the North Beach community’s support.
Supervisor David Chiu proposed legislation early this month that would allow Campos to, after the demolishing of the Pagoda Theater and TBM extraction, proceed with his plans to build 18 condos over a bar and restaurant on that property. Negotiations are approaching the deadline, with a presentation to the planning commission slated for Feb. 7.
Campos says he is in support of this option, and “allowing the city to extract the machine there so we don’t disrupt the street of Columbus” would be a convenience, and “give less problems to the city, less problems to the community.”
The community response regarding the Pagoda option was still mixed at the update meeting at the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Association Tuesday night, hosted by Chiu. According to SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, it would cost $6million–$8 million to extract the TBMs from the Pagoda site, and $4.5 million–$6 million to purchase the machines from the contractor if they were left in the ground.
A longstanding argument for the extraction has been that if the TBMs were to be buried underground in North Beach, it would become an obstacle should there be future plans for a subway stop there. The possibility of a subway stop has also received a mixed response.
Central Subway Program Director John Funghi gave an update of the negotiations at the meeting, and said he was “cautiously optimistic” of both parties coming to favorable terms. There are issues with the square footage distribution of the restaurant and condos, which would not be in compliance with the planning codes under which Campos’s development plan was first approved, but Chiu said they may be open to allowances in this circumstance.
Chiu said they were negotiating for a lease of two years and first right of refusal to buy the property afterward.
Campos said he intends to pursue his restaurant–condo establishment after the extraction. “I believe there is no contemplation of [a North Beach subway stop] right now,” Campos said, but added that he thought a stop would benefit the community.
Local business owner Daniel Macchiarini commented that the Pagoda option was crucial to any benefit for the North Beach community.
“We should be developing for the future, and not just standing still,” Macchiarini said. “Right now this is a subway to nowhere, it is a million dollars per three feet, it’s going to have three stops and you can walk faster from the South of Market to North Beach.”
Macchiarini said he felt the best extension for the subway would be to the Wharf, “and the only way to do that is to build the Pagoda.”
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