Financial relief could be coming to struggling S.F. Taraval businesses amid transit project construction

Jerold Chinn
5 min readFeb 23, 2024
A view of the construction project on Taraval Street facing west on 19th Avenue in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, February 12, 2024. | Photo by Jerold Chinn

Business owners on Taraval Street in the Parkside neighborhood are fuming over a transit and underground utilities project that has caused merchants to worry about whether their businesses will survive before the project’s completion.

Next week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote on a proposed ordinance by District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan that will create a relief fund for businesses impacted by transit projects. The fund, which would be administered by the Office of Economic Workforce and Development, will initially have $1 million that will come from excess money not spent for the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

Additionally, the ordinance would provide $2 million in relief funding for South of Market businesses impacted by street closures caused by the APEC summit last November. OEWD would also be in charge of handing out the $2 million to SoMa businesses.

Merchants lined up at the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee Feb. 7 meeting demanding the city help businesses along the Taraval corridor who said foot traffic has diminished as parking in the neighborhood has become difficult due to the construction, especially between 19th and 22nd avenues.

Chan, the chair of the budget committee, worked with supervisors Matt Dorsey and Joel Engardio to offer financial assistance to businesses affected by APEC in Dorsey’s district and the SFMTA project along the Taraval corridor in Engardio’s district.

Dr. Dorothy Pang, a pediatric dentist located on Taraval Street, said the lack of parking has made it difficult for patients she serves.

“I wish to speak on behalf of my patients who are special needs who come to see me by wheelchair. I see a significant number of them. They cannot get to me without cars,” Pang said. “They are being affected by this SFMTA project deeply.”

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has led the L Taraval Improvement Project over the last several years to replace the overhead wires and rail. The agency is also installing new transit boarding islands at all L transit stops to improve the safety of passengers getting on and off the trains. Additionally, the city’s Public Utilities Commission worked on replacing the sewer and water main line.

The SFMTA divided the project into two phases with the first phase between Sunset Boulevard and the San Francisco Zoo completed in July 2021. Construction began in 2022 on the second segment of the project on Taraval Street between Sunset Boulevard and 15th Avenue and Ulloa Street. Work is anticipated to last until fall of this year, the SFMTA said on its website.

Engardio said the project will improve and benefit the Taraval business corridor for years to come but added that the city cannot give up on supporting mom-and-pop shops during the construction of the project.

“We can look at this budget committee as if we were an emergency room where we triage the problems coming in and direct resources to the areas in code blue. I can say that Taraval is in code blue. It’s at risk of dying,” Engardio said at the committee meeting.

Construction of the L Tarava Improvement Project as seen in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, February 12, 2024. | Photos by Jerold Chinn

Mark Sherman, who is part owner of Guerra Quality Meats, located at the corner of 15th Avenue and Taraval Street, said the deli has experienced a 40 percent drop in revenue over the last two years. Sherman added that the funding should not be the last step in helping businesses but a first step in compensating businesses impacted by the construction over the last two years.

Kevin Chen, the owner of Sushi Zen, located on Taraval Street between 20th and 21st avenues, wrote in a letter to supervisors that the project has prevented patrons from accessing businesses on Taraval Street.

“The Taraval St. construction has deterred customers due to parking issues, road closures, constant jackhammering and demolition, and lack of business access. This leaves many customers to dine elsewhere as this is an inconvenience to them,” Chen wrote.

OEWD Executive Director Sarah Dennis-Phillips said in structuring the relief funds, the department will look at making the process simple, equitable, and flexible in use and that the grants to get to businesses quickly.

Dennis-Phillips added that the department would need to do some more work with Engardio and Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who also represents a portion of Taraval Street, to understand the different impacts along the corridor.

Mayor London Breed signaled her support for the ordinance in a press release last week.

“Taraval Street is an important merchant corridor, and we know that there have been some real challenges during this construction project. We are listening to our merchants, and our goal is to support them so they can continue to thrive,” Breed said in a press statement.

According to the last construction update on the SFMTA’s website, parking spaces in the current work area from 19th to 22nd avenues will not be available until Feb. 23. Some of the parking spaces could be released after the date, the agency said.

The proposed ordinance also includes $500,000 to be spent on providing free parking for the first two hours at the Portsmouth Square Garage for the entire month of February and providing free Muni service (exception of cable cars) on the day of the Chinese New Year Parade, Saturday, Feb. 24.



Jerold Chinn

I am a freelance reporter in San Francisco with over a decade of experience covering transportation in the city. Bylines include SFBay and The Ingleside Light.