How to Navigate the Cesar Chavez “Big Dig”

Chavez Big Dig

Chavez Big Dig

And so it begins. Construction started recently on an extensive new project to replace the main sewer line that runs beneath Cesar Chavez Boulevard between Guerrero Street and the US 101 Hairball interchange. Along the way, Chavez will also get a major remodel, transforming it into a tree-lined, pedestrian- and bike-friendly thoroughfare that will look kind of, sort of, pretty much like that new stretch of Ocatvia Boulevard that connects Hayes Valley to Market Street.

It will take time, but remember this mantra: Infrastructure Is Sexy. When the project is done, we’ll not only have a dashingly handsome new sewer main, but Chavez will also look more happy and more better. Between then and now, however, it will be a dirty, traffic-snarled mess. Thankfully, our next-door neighbors at  Noe Valley SF have pulled together a handy overview of the project, and what to expect along the way. They’ve kindly allowed us to republish it here, to facilitate your long-range strategic planning:

The sewer work is scheduled to begin in late June, starting at Hampshire and working west. The construction crews will work on three- or four-block chunks at a time. These blocks will have no parking during the work, which will involve digging a trench 10 to 13 feet wide to accommodate the 72 to 84-inch-diameter pipes being installed.

In addition, on the south side of Cesar Chavez, the existing pipes will be relined. Workers will need to block traffic for this as well.

From Hampshire to Treat, the trench is expected to be closer to the north side of the street; west of Treat, the trench is expected to be closer to the middle of the street. Two travel lanes in each direction will be maintained on Cesar Chavez throughout the project, but the lanes will move according to where the trench is. The existing three lanes of traffic west of the project will be gradually merged into two lanes in the construction area.

For the crossing of Mission Street, workers will avoid digging a trench to minimize disruption to Muni and BART service. Instead, they will dig two pits, one each at Capp and Bartlett, and install the pipe with a trenchless method.

In addition to Cesar Chavez, sewer construction work will take place on the following streets in the area as part of this project:
* Harrison: from Cesar Chavez to 26th
* Valencia: from Cesar Chavez to Mission
* Fair: from Mission to Coleridge
* Coleridge: from Fair to Coso
* Coso at Coleridge

Each block should take five to six weeks, and the first large segment from Hampshire to Folsom should take about nine to 10 months. When each three-block chunk is completed and reopened, the street will be striped according to the new streetscape striping, with parking lanes, bike lanes, two car travel lanes in each direction, and turn pockets or turn restrictions as outlined in the approved plan. As part of the streetscape improvements, the greening, repaving, and median work won’t begin until the sewer work reaches Folsom, about nine months after it begins.

The sewer work on Cesar Chavez would take 15 to 16 months, and the streetscape work another nine months, totaling about two years. Work hours will be Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm, with some possible weekend work. City officials emphasized that residents will have local access, and, on the occasions when driveways must be blocked, the contractors will contact households individually to work with them on solutions.

Notices that will be distributed before the project starts will include a 24-hour number for questions and complaints. The city will conduct meetings […] every three or four months to update and obtain feedback from the community.

Alex Murillo of the DPW Office of Communications and Public Affairs will be the contact person for the project, and he gave out his office phone number (415/437-7009) and cell number (415/627-8106). Brave man! He can be reached at The project is also up on the DPW website:

The project manager for the streetscape aspect is Kris Opbroek, who can be reached or 415/558-4045.

PHOTOS: Telstar Logistics

14 thoughts on “How to Navigate the Cesar Chavez “Big Dig”

  1. I had no idea this was going on. Can’t argue with the need for it tho’. If any street needs beautification, that’s the one. Who’s paying for this, by the way? No, I don’t want to know.

  2. Having lived through the last part of Boston’s Big Dig, I had a reflexive, physical reaction to this blog title. <>. But I look forward to the infrastructure improvements! And no matter how much people complained about the Big Dig, the end result was a huge improvement. (Except when light fixtures were falling on cars and killing people.)

  3. So excited to see this finally starting up. It will be a great improvement to the area and we can live with the inconvenience for a while. Thanks for the post.

  4. I just wish they were laying Muni tracks down the center. A line to 22nd St Caltrain would be rather awesome.

    And Some history on the original sewer if you’re curious:

    Precita Creek was one such arroyo. It fell from “Sun Valley” (south of Noe Valley), was joined by springwater and runoff from Bernal Heights, and at high water cut a 30-foot wide path across the southern Mission District, along today’s Cesar Chavez Street. Its waters dispersed on the way to Potrero Hill, and eventually ended up in Islais Creek’s vast estuarine bog. By the 1860s, the area near today’s Precita Park had become a small village. Some 30 houses lined the creek, drawing their water upstream and using the creek as an open sewer. The marginal water flow in the stream was inadequate to properly carry the sewage off, and as a sanitary measure, the city built the first box sewer.

    This sewer was thirteen feet across and ten feet tall, a wooden hallway big enough to drive a carriage through. The sewer was made large enough to carry storm flows–the volume of water that comprised a 30-foot wide creek. During dry season, the box was nearly empty, except for a trickle of liquid at the bottom. A couple years after its construction, an internal inspection found the box to be a stinking mess. Solid wastes had built up where laterals, or residential hookups, connected to the big box. Strange foliage grew in the darkness, fertilized by the human waste and compost that congealed on the floor.

    Indeed, the ecosystem inside the box was so efficient at removing nutrients, the water flowing out at the east end of the sewer near today’s General Hospital was clean enough to drink.

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