Streetcar: Obama’s Gift To Nob Hill

Streetcar: Obama's Gift To Nob Hill?

Marisa Demarco
3 min read
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David Liotta is the only member of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association’s board who does not like the idea of a modern streetcar running down the middle of Central.

The much-debated streetcar, called a "trolley" by opponents, has been in and out of the news for years. It would run from east of Nob Hill to Downtown. Early estimates put the installation of a streetcar at about $106 million.

Streetcar fans, including Mayor Martin Chavez, may have found another way to fund the project. President Obama’s working to pass a stimulus package of hundreds of billions of dollars, and city and state leaders want to slide a plate under a slice of the pie. On Chavez’ wish list is about $90 million for the streetcar.
Sen. Cisco McSorley showed up at an neighborhood association meeting on Thursday, Jan. 8, and said Nob Hill should jump on the opportunity, according to Chris Smith, president of the Nob Hill Neighborhood Association.

Liotta’s concerned because he says the association didn’t ask residents before it decided to try to pull in federal funding for the streetcar. "We represent our community, and we did not go out and ask our community what we should be pooling our money for," he says. He opposes the streetcar because he feels it would be incongruous with the historic neighborhood. After a meeting on Sunday, Feb. 1, the association decided it would send a letter requesting federal funds, and Liotta would mail his own letter.

Smith says the neighborhood showed its support for the streetcar when it developed the sector plan for the area years ago. "These are recommendations of what the neighbors said they wanted," he says. So what are the benefits of a streetcar that aren’t already provided by existing bus and Rapid Ride lines? Some people may choose not to use the available options because of a negative perception of the bus system, and “a streetcar might bring different people to the area," Smith says.

Board member Jason Cohen says the streetcar falls in line with the goals of the stimulus package. "It’s really the exact kind of thing the Obama administration has been talking about in terms of putting a down payment on our future," he says. He points to the construction jobs that will be created to build the system and continued jobs in operations.

Cohen also sees benefits for the businesses near Nob Hill. "I think there’s been a lot of effort at the city level to try to promote a safer and more socially beneficial environment around the San Mateo and Central area that’s been problematic for several years." A streetcar would break down the barriers that exist between neighborhoods, he adds.

The next Nob Hill Neighborhood Association meeting will be Thursday, Feb. 12, at Immanuel Presbyterian Church (114 Carlisle SE). Go to the association's website at

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