San Francisco

San Francisco's Washington Square Park Closure Sparks Business Problems, Lawsuit

Several residents and restaurants in San Francisco's iconic North Beach are up in arms over a project that has temporarily shut down a popular park. Some people are so upset, they are suing the city over environmental rules.

Crews are working on an irrigation project at Washington Square Park that, once complete, will save millions of gallons of water a year. The park is fenced off while crews work on the project, which has rattled some businesses worried about losing customers.

Some restaurants, like Tony Gemignani of 'Tony's Pizza,' worry about the project's six-month timeline and the timing on the work.

"Just it being in the summer, everyone wants to go to the park," said Gemignani, who owns four businesses in North Beach. "It's really tough on all the businesses here I feel."

San Francisco said the upgrades will benefit North Beach for decades to come.

As for the lawsuit filed on environmental grounds, the city attorney's office told NBC Bay Area the "lawsuit is completely without merit. It alleges that the California Environmental Quality Act wasn't followed, and that is simply not the case."

Marc Bruno is leading the charge on the lawsuit.

"They are turning this park into a debris box," Bruno said.

Bruno said the irrigation overhaul is not necessary and the city has veered wildly on costs and promises of not closing the park in the first place.

San Francisco's Rec and Parks Department could not comment on pending litigation, but did say keeping the park open in phases would have cost up to a half-million dollars more and extended the construction time.

As it stands, the closure is a little open-ended. It says May to late Fall of 2019 — a projection many in the area question.

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