Chinatown leaders heated over opposition to Central Subway 

click to enlarge Chinatown in San Francisco (AP file photo) - CHINATOWN IN SAN FRANCISCO (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • Chinatown in San Francisco (AP file photo)
  • Chinatown in San Francisco (AP file photo)

With San Francisco mayoral candidate Dennis Herrera expected to come out against the Central Subway this week, and former Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin already on record opposing it, Chinatown business leaders held a heated press conference at the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association this afternoon to express their displeasure.

“I just want to tell Herrera and Peskin, you guys are political rats,” said Eddie Au, vice president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. “Don’t come eat in Chinatown any more.”

Steven Lee, an elder of the Lee Family Association, which he said had 10,000 members, suggested that Herrera was using Muni’s Central Subway to win political points, at the expense of the Chinese community. That ploy would backfire, he said.

“Today the Chinese in San Francisco is not a weak spot,” Lee said. “I’m going to make sure he is not elected.”

Herrera, who like most city officials had long supported the project, has yet to formally change his position. But he was quoted in media reports this week agreeing with a civil grand jury report that found fault with the project’s design and funding plan.

Noting that Muni had never achieved its 85 percent on-time performance goal and is facing a $2.5 billion capital budget shortfall over the next 20 years, the civil grand jury said that funding would be better spent on improving Muni’s existing service.

The Central Subway, which would connect Chinatown with the Caltrain terminal at Fourth and King streets, is projected to cost $1.58 billion for 1.7 miles, with about half the price tag covered by federal stimulus money and a quarter by the state. The early stages of construction began last year, with service scheduled to begin in 2019.

“I pray that this doesn’t happen, that the Central Subway becomes a political football,” said the Rev. Norman Fong, a deputy director at the Chinatown Community Development Center.

Fong who brought a stack of petitions to the press conference said, “We have support of all the big shots in Chinatown. But what you don’t see is the 20,000 signatures. We don’t have cars, the buses are too crowded. Where else can we go but underground?”

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