S.F. Agency Looks to Resume Work on Troubled Haight Street Project

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Two workers from Synergy Project Management hold a foreman by his ankles as he works in a Haight Street manhole on July 21, 2015.  (San Francisco Public Works)

San Francisco city officials hope to resume work in early March on a major infrastructure project in the Haight neighborhood that was stopped last October after crews caused a series of natural gas leaks.

The job's safety problems have led San Francisco Public Works to consider agencywide changes on complicated underground jobs it is expected to take on in coming years as the city works to repair its aging infrastructure.

"Anytime we have problems, you want to use that as a 'lessons learned' opportunity," Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said. "We certainly are looking at that, particularly around construction around gas lines, so we want to increase the training for all employees."

Last month, the department succeeded in firing a subcontractor on the $13.7 million project, which involves replacing some sewers and water mains and repaving streets.

That subcontractor, Synergy Project Management, was tied to at least four gas line breaks and was involved in several incidents that raised questions about its safety practices. One of those episodes involved workers dangling a foreman headfirst into a manhole.


The agency  is now moving forward with replacing Synergy with two other firms, Anvil Builders and Michael O'Shaughnessy Construction.

The project's history has prompted Public Works to push for more training and oversight the second time around.

"We can never guarantee that there will not be another gas line strike, but we are taking every step we can to minimize the possibility," Gordon said in an interview. "The contractors are working with PG&E as well as Public Works to make sure that we have increased training both for the Public Works employees and the contract employees around gas lines."

Now, whenever crews are involved in active construction on the Haight Street project, the city will have an employee on-site -- a move made in the wake of the job's problems.

The project's safety practices led to concern from the neighborhood's residents and merchants. Last month, a Board of Supervisors committee held a hearing about the project's dangers, called for by board President London Breed.

"When work does resume, my No. 1 goal is to ensure the community is safe and the residents and merchants are involved in the process every step of the way," Breed said in an emailed statement.

Public Works officials plan to present information about the project at a Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council meeting Thursday evening. The agency plans to meet with the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association next Tuesday and will hold its own community meeting about the project on Feb. 24.