It’s supposed to bring relief for countless San Francisco commuters, but has turned into a bit of a headache for others: construction for the Central Subway Project set to link neighborhoods via light rail has apparently driven out rats onto the streets in North Beach.
“At a good point you could see about 20 to 30 of them at night, running around here,” said Miles Marken, a San Francisco native who spends some days and nights playing his guitar at the park. “Usually they come out at night, but you can see them significantly running across the field just everywhere around here.”
Stefano Cortara also grew up in North Beach. He said there’ve always been rats, but not this many.
“They’re doubling and doubling and doubling,” Cortara said. “Rats get in the businesses and everything.”
The San Francisco Department of Public Health said it has received 83 complaints about rats so far this year. The city’s 311 service said it has gotten 124 complaints related to rats in 2014 so far. Both agencies’ data shows the most recent complaints come from North Beach, specifically around Washington Square Park, which sits very close to one of the construction sites for the Central Subway Project.
But the question is why? And for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) the question is why now? The excavation work done at the empty Pagoda Theater across the street from Washington Square Park wrapped up a little over a week ago.
Agency spokeswoman Kristen Holland said typically rodent activity is highest at the start of construction, which is why the city did abatement work prior to the official beginning of construction at each site.
“We contract through the Department of Public Health for our rodent abatement program,” Holland explained. “They start that before the start of construction.”
There are, however, smaller projects still ongoing in the area related to the Central Subway project. Martin Turrubiartes, a Synergy Project Management employee working on a project around a sewer line, said he sees rats every day, adding that construction workers are having to eat and live among countless rodents.
“They’re stepping all over them because it’s so dark in there you don’t really see until you put a light on them, and then you see them. They start running,” he described.
For Marken, the problem has gotten out of hand because it’s now impacted his house.
“I live up on Chestnut and basically, I’ve noticed an increase in our basement too,” he said. “I’m definitely investing in some traps right now just because I noticed food missing.”
The city has invested in its own traps. The Department of Public Health told NBC Bay Area that the city has placed six bait boxes along the perimeter of Washington Square Park and has sealed holes with wire mesh, although filed complaints reported some of those holes were already back open.
Officials with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department are set to go back to the park on Friday, along with an inspector from the Department of Public Health.