A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works
In the Works
2022 – That’s a Wrap!
The end of the year brings colder weather, shorter days and time for reflection. It’s become a tradition of ours to focus the December edition of the In the Works digital newsletter on San Francisco Public Works’ accomplishments over the past year.
We cut the ribbon on several impactful capital projects, among them the built-from-the-ground-up floating Fireboat Station No. 35 and the Southeast Community Center; and the renovations of the Bayview Playground, Rossi Pool and the Castro-Mission Health Center. For these projects, we provided such services as architecture and landscape design, engineering, project management and construction management.
We worked in unison with partner City departments on several initiatives to improve the quality of life for residents and to help businesses recover from the pandemic. They included the Tenderloin Emergency Initiative, the Shared Spaces parklets program and a crackdown on illegal sidewalk vending.
We assisted in hundreds of greening and cleaning events with a dedicated force of volunteers; celebrated the Warriors’ championship – and cleaned up after the team’s victory parade; and shored up the aging steam loop system that heats City Hall and nearby civic buildings. In addition, we helped community groups bring neighborhood murals to life and rolled out the City’s next generation of public toilets.
This newsletter provides just a glimpse into all Public Works does. Our portfolio is broad but threaded together with a common purpose of serving the people of San Francisco. It is a mission that we take great pride in delivering.
From the entire team at San Francisco Public Works, we hope 2023 brings you good health, happiness, peace and hope!
Weed Control with Flames
Public Works’ landscape maintenance crews utilized an innovative weed-control technique known as flaming, which reduces the reliance on chemical herbicides to get the job done.
After Mayor London Breed declared a State of Emergency in the Tenderloin, Public Works joined a unified roster of City departments to bring positive change to the neighborhood.
Improving the Tenderloin
A playground overhaul came to life in the Bayview neighborhood. The renovation offers visitors an expanded play area for kids, new exercise equipment, a nature exploration zone and much more.
Angela J. Rossi Pool
Angelo J. Rossi Pool, an aquatic draw in the Inner Richmond for generations, reopened after a complete $15 million makeover.
Public Works landscape crews and community volunteers joined together to tame weeds, mulch and add native plants to the garden surrounding the stunning Bayview Gateway.
Floating Fire Station No. 35
We celebrated the completion of San Francisco’s new floating Fireboat Station No. 35, an innovative project that meets the present-day needs of maritime-based operations for the City's firefighters.
A new public plaza now exists where there once was an unwieldy intersection. The goal of the makeover: to create a vibrant community hub.
Blossoms of Hope
The deliberate destruction of two beloved cherry blossom trees in Japantown 15 months prior grew into Blossoms of Hope – a community-inspired project.
Every year on April 18 at 5:12 a.m., City officials and aficionados of the City’s past – many in period dress – gather at Lotta’s Fountain to mark the anniversary of the City’s 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire. Our skilled trades workers come out beforehand to make sure the cast-iron City landmark looks its best for the annual event.
Battery Bridge Plaza Mural
Alameda Creek Watershed Center
We made headway on the $27-million Alameda Creek Watershed Center, a new interpretive museum and botanical garden designed by an integrated team of San Francisco Public Works architects, landscape architects and engineers.
The building and landscape project will continue to tell the story of the Alameda Creek Watershed – its human and natural history and the role it plays in San Francisco’s water-delivery system.
Healthy Streets Operations Center
The number of people living without shelter in San Francisco dropped 15 percent over the past three years, a positive trend thanks in part to the efforts of the Healthy Streets Operations Center and Public Works' support.
Hundreds of thousands of revelers came out for two gatherings – the Warriors NBA Championship parade and the annual Pride parade. After the celebrations, our cleaning crews worked their magic.
Ocean Beach Sand Removal
Our annual sand maintenance activities at Ocean Beach kicked off, with crews working to redistribute approximately 43,000 cubic yards of sand.
As part of our Racial Equity Action Plan, we delved into our history to learn from past actions and illuminated how we can further promote racial equity. This special report looks at a handful of major moments in our history that have impacted communities – both positively and negatively.
The new Public Works Commission and Sanitation and Streets Commission convened for the first time, with a joint session held on July 28 in City Hall.
Southeast Health Center
San Francisco’s new state-of-the-art public health center in Bayview-Hunters Point opened with expanded patient services through a lens of holistic care to better serve the historically under-resourced neighborhood.
Trash Can Pilot
San Francisco Public Works placed prototypes of our next-generation public trash cans on the street for real-life testing.
Sidewalk Vending Permits
A new law requires street vendors to secure a permit with Public Works to keep pedestrian travel paths open. Staff at the Bureau of Street-use and Mapping have been patrolling street vending hot spots in the Mission, Chinatown and at United Nations Plaza to educate merchants and keep pedestrian travel paths open.
Our Bureau of Urban Forestry headed to tree-shaded Ada Court, off of O’Farrell Street, to implement a novel rodent abatement strategy.
Steam System Repairs
Our crews from the Bureau of Building and Street Repair wrapped up a month-and-a-half-long effort that focused on an underground stretch of the aging Civic Center steam network along Grove Street. They inspected the condition of the sections of the steam system that they could access from manholes: steam valves, steam traps, flanges and pipes – checking for leaks and broken and worn components. Next, they replaced the materials that couldn’t be repaired, which was just about everything.
Castro-Mission Health Center
Working with the City’s Department of Public Health, we completed renovations on San Francisco’s first neighborhood-based primary care clinic that will help improve the patient experience for thousands of people each year.
Glass Panel Installation
Crews from the Public Works Glass Shop installed six new glass panels along the Bayview/Linda Brooks-Burton Library's Third Street façade.
More than 100 Glen Park residents and City staff came out to celebrate the newly completed pair of public murals that focus on the flora, fauna and history of the neighborhood.
Glen Park Mural
Running down the middle of Carolina Street on Potrero Hill lies a median 960 feet long and 26 ½ feet wide that is one of the largest vegetated roadway islands in San Francisco. Public Works collaborated with neighbors to turn a once neglected median into an activated space that the community can steward and enjoy for years to come.
Carolina Street Median
Southeast Community Center
At the northern edge of San Francisco’s Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, the newly built Southeast Community Center is an oasis of community-building against an industrial backdrop.
New Public Toilets
In partnership with the JCDecaux street furniture company, we began ushering in a new generation of public toilets in San Francisco that sport a contemporary design and are built to perform.
Broadway Tunnel Repair
Without warning, a flat-bed truck towing a too-tall telescopic boom ripped open the tiled ceiling of the Broadway Tunnel’s eastbound bore. The Public Works team responded lickety-split.
Voters Back Reunification of Public Works
On Nov. 8, San Francisco voters approved Proposition B, a ballot measure that returns our Operations division back to San Francisco Public Works. The proposal won with nearly 75 percent voter approval. The vote reverses a previous ballot measure adopted two years ago to divide the department into two and create a new Sanitation and Streets Department, comprised of the Operations division.
More details on the successful ballot measure can be found here.
The split, mandated by the previous ballot measure in 2020, officially took effect on Oct. 1 of this year but was put on hold, pending the outcome of the Nov. 8 election a little more than a month later. The reunification takes effect Jan. 1, 2023.
Although much work went into preparing for the planned split, that work will not be
wasted. In partnership with the Office of the City Administrator, we analyzed every division, bureau and position, took stock of our services and programs, inventoried our assets and gained a strong understanding of the dozens of intersections of our work across the organization. All this knowledge will allow us to improve our internal coordination and take us into the future as a more effective and efficient organization.
Proposition B of 2022 keeps the department under commission oversight. There still are two commissions: the Public Works Commission which provides general oversight over the department, including adopting the budget and approving contracts; and the Sanitation and Streets Commission, which holds hearings, reviews data and sets policies regarding sanitation standards and maintenance of the public right of way.
Public Works’ Graffiti Busters Now Provide Courtesy Tag Removal
on Private Property in SF’s Neighborhood Commercial Corridors
Public Works launched a courtesy graffiti abatement program this month for storefronts and other private property in the City’s diverse neighborhood commercial corridors.
The aim is to relieve participating property owners and businesses of the financial burdens of removing tags from their buildings, and letting professional Public Works crews or our contractors wipe out unsightly graffiti.
The two-year pilot program was funded in the City’s budget, adopted over the summer by the Board of Supervisors and signed by the mayor, with $2 million set aside for this fiscal year and another $2 million for next year.
The program is a win for small businesses and property owners who are targets of graffiti vandalism and face the expense of removing the unwanted tags. It's also a win for San Francisco’s neighborhoods by eradicating the ugly blight that creates an unwelcoming environment.
Under City law, private property owners are responsible for removing graffiti in a timely manner. Public Works inspectors respond to hundreds of graffiti complaints every year, lodged through the City’s 311 customer service center. If the tags aren’t removed within a month, financial penalties can start to kick in.
“We do not want to penalize people, but we do want to make sure graffiti is removed quickly because we know from experience that tags attract more tags and degrade the look and feel of our neighborhoods,” said interim Public Works Director Carla Short. “We welcome this opt-in graffiti abatement program, which gives us additional resources for our crews to tackle tags on private property in our commercial areas and offer some
relief for small businesses still recovering from the pandemic.”
Local business operators welcomed the free program.
“This is great. Very happy it’s happening and that the City is helping,” said Viet Nguyen, as he watched a Public Works graffiti team wipe out tags on a corner property that houses his new restaurant at 20th Avenue and Irving streets. Vandals had covered his windows and exterior walls with tags. The building has been hit with graffiti dozens of times over the years.
The infusion of extra funding for this two-year pilot allows Public Works to bring aboard a new six-person graffiti cleanup crew. Previously, Public Works focused solely on removing graffiti from public property, such as sign posts and retaining walls, in the public right of way.
Property owners whose buildings are tagged with graffiti now have the option of requesting courtesy graffiti abatement. They must agree in writing not to hold the City liable should any property damage or injuries occur during the abatement operation. Before the work is done, Public Works confers with the property owner on which graffiti-removal tactic will be most effective: painting over the tags with a closely matching color, for example, or removing them with chemical cleansers or power washing.
During the two-year pilot, Public Works will track whether the level of resources adequately meets the demand so the mayor and supervisors can determine next steps.
The biggest storm so far of the winter rainy season rolled in during the second weekend of December, providing our trees and gardens with much needed water. The downpour also kept our frontline crews busy – removing downed trees, patching potholes and clearing clogged storm drains to relieve spots of localized flooding.
The rain also caused a small slide on the eastern slope of Telegraph Hill, near the intersection of Lombard and Montgomery streets, where about 3 cubic yards of rocks came tumbling down. The rockslide didn’t cause injuries or damage property, but it did catch the attention of the Public Works engineering team whose job it is to assess landslides in San Francisco’s public right of way and develop and implement a plan to address future hazards.
This wasn’t the first slide on Telegraph Hill. We’ve overseen two other slope stabilization projects there in the past decade, though not on the particular section impacted the weekend of Dec. 10.
Check out this short Public Works TV episode from 2014 that showcases one of the projects. After making the area safe by removing the small boulders that landed in the street, our Operations division crews erected temporary barricades at the bottom of the hillside to catch any other rocks that might come down.
The next step was the issuance of an emergency declaration by the Public Works director, which allows us to quickly bring on a contractor to prepare the hillside for a deeper level of analysis. The specialized crews initially will clear vegetation from the undeveloped hillside so we can get a better understanding of the condition of the rock underneath. They then will make a plan to address future slides.
This work is not new to us. In addition to the previous Telegraph Hill projects, we also managed a large-scale slope stabilization project on the hillside above O’Shaughnessy Boulevard across from Glen Canyon Park.
Crews utilize various methods to stabilize the hillside, among them, hanging from the hillside on rappelling ropes. The specially trained workers knock away loose rock in a controlled manner and drive metal rods deep into the rocks to hold a hillside in place. We also install steel netting below known slide areas to keep rocks and boulders from tumbling onto the roadway and sidewalks.
We’ll cover the progress in future editions of the In the Works digital journal.