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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

December 2023

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So Long 2023. Hello 2024!

Hey 2023, it feels like we were just getting to know you and then whoosh, just like that, the year is coming to an end.

We started out in January working around the clock responding to record storms that downed trees, flooded streets, undermined hillsides and mushroomed potholes. Our crews, braving howling winds and torrential downpours, met Mother Nature’s challenges with skill, dexterity and resolve.

A break in the January rains brought out more than 100 volunteers to join us at the kickoff of the new season of the Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day greening and cleaning events. And from there, the year really got rolling. 

We began construction on the Better Market Street project, the Castro Muni Station elevator upgrades and the Mission Branch Library renovation, to name just a few capital projects we worked on. We upgraded public staircases; cleaned the streets; partnered with residents on neighborhood murals; helped the City prepare for a major global summit; began a new street vending program; and, opened San Francisco’s first street tree nursery. Our department also successfully navigated a rigorous national reaccreditation process and made our interim director permanent.

As San Francisco continues the post-pandemic economic recovery, Public Works remains at the forefront in advancing the City’s overarching goal of keeping our neighborhoods clean, safe and welcoming. There is no magic wand. But there is a drive to work hard, adroitly and with a strong sense of purpose.

This edition of the In the Works digital journal ends the year with a quick snapshot of all we do at Public Works. Our portfolio is vast and impactful. Our work touches every neighborhood – every block – in San Francisco. We take tremendous pride in how we contribute to the well-being of the City and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of San Francisco.

From the entire team at San Francisco Public Works, we wish you a happy and healthy New Year. We hope 2024 is a year that as a city, and a world, we keep a focus on working together for the benefit of the common good.


Storm Response!

From Dec. 27, 2022, through Jan. 18, 2023, Public Works collectively responded to 3,027 storm-related service orders – everything from trees down on power lines to flooded intersections and rockslides.

The soggy start to the new year kept our frontline crews occupied night and day and also put our green infrastructure in San Francisco to work.


Green Infrastructure


Love Our City

Together with more than 100 volunteers, Public Works kicked off the 2023 season of the monthly Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day greening and cleaning workdays.


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Highlighting Our Surveyors

Thousands of notched markings, cross cuts and special disks – collectively known as monuments – can be found on the ground, on sidewalks, the corners of buildings or beneath the surface throughout San Francisco, marking reference points for mapping real property in San Francisco. Our City Surveyor explained the Rosetta Stone-like role they play in providing a deeper understanding of San Francisco geography.

After years of planning and community outreach and multiple design iterations, the Better Market Street project officially began.


Better Market Street

Lunar New Year Parade

San Francisco hosts the biggest Lunar New Year Parade outside of Asia and Public Works was involved before, during and after the parade – from planning to cleanup.



Arbor Day 2023


We celebrated Arbor Day 2023 with lots of hard work, a burst of community pride, a bundle of fun and a strong commitment to greening our urban environment.


Barges Batter Landmark Bridge

During a storm, three privately owned construction barges broke loose from their tethers at Pier 48 and rammed into the Third Street Bridge, causing significant damage.


Fixing the Third Street Bridge:
An Uplifting Experience

After a series of test lifts of the historic Third Street Bridge, which was battered in a major storm in March when three runaway barges rammed into it, the drawbridge once again was able to resume lifts.


Lotta's Fountain

Like every year on April 18, at 5:12 a.m. – the date and time the devastating 1906 earthquake struck San Francisco – City officials and history buffs gathered at Lotta’s Fountain to mark the anniversary of the disaster. And every year, our crews make sure the historic landmark sparkles, shines and is in good working condition for the annual commemoration. 


Chinatown Alley Paves the Way

As you explore the streets in Chinatown, make sure to stop by Wentworth Place to appreciate the incredible craftsmanship demonstrated by skilled artisans from Public Works who recently completed upgrades to this charming street.


Crooked Street Irrigation Project


The meticulously maintained gardens straddling San Francisco's famed Crooked Street on Russian Hill received a long-awaited refresh – with a twist.


Public Works Week 2023


We celebrated Public Works Week 2023 from May 21-26, recognizing the department’s outstanding projects, services and employees. Events included our Operations Open House, Employee Recognition Ceremony and tours of new capital projects.


2023 AIA Conference

The 2023 AIA Conference on Architecture gave our architects at Public Works a chance to share their work with their peers from around the world.


Pride Parade Cleanup


Pride 2023 festivities in San Francisco brought out hundreds of thousands of revelers, capped with the high-spirited annual parade along Market Street and our street cleaners’ blockbuster operation that followed.

1 Year. 500 Blocks: Paving Goal Set

Public Works set a goal to resurface an extra 500 blocks over the 2023-24 fiscal year, a proactive operation to build on our work improving the condition of the City’s roads.



Pedestrian Bridge Mural

A once drab pedestrian bridge connecting the Balboa Park and Sunnyside neighborhoods now pops with a delightful mural.


New Soil Cells


Our newest tool: soil cells – rectangular-shaped plastic units with a honeycomb-like design that protect and contain tree roots beneath the sidewalk – were installed for the first time for one of our streetscape projects on Market Street, among the most dense and constrained corridors in San Francisco. 


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Mission Branch Library 

Preparations advanced for the renovation of the historic Mission Branch Library, a project that Public Works is delivering in partnership with the San Francisco Public Library.

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Harvey Milk Plaza

Harvey Milk Plaza has been at the center of the Castro community for decades and kicked off an important upgrade and renovation to make it more accessible and inviting.



Every month, Public Works crews descend on neighborhood streets filled with shops, cafes and storefront offices for a specialized street cleaning operation known as CleanCorridorsSF. They pull out their power washers, paint brushes, weed whackers and brooms and jump into action.


Goodbye Ficus Trees

Public Works Bureau of Urban Forestry crews began removing six towering ficus trees on Sutter Street in the downtown area to mitigate a public safety hazard.


Japantown Peace Plaza

Driven by a community vision, plans have been cemented for a major makeover of the historic Japantown Peace Plaza.


$12 Million Tree Grant

The federal government awarded Public Works a $12 million grant to plant and maintain trees – a game-changing initiative to combat extreme heat and climate change, create green jobs and improve access to nature.

APWA Accreditation

San Francisco Public Works received full accreditation for another four years by the American Public Works Association. This accreditation formally verifies and recognizes that our department is in full compliance with the recommended management practices set forth in the national organization’s Public Works Management Practices Manual. 

The purpose of accreditation is to promote excellence in the operation and management of a public works agency, its programs and employees. Accreditation is designed to assist the agency in continuous improvement of operations and management and in providing a valid and objective evaluation of agency programs as a service to the public and the profession.

First awarded APWA accreditation in 2010, San Francisco Public Works is one of a handful of large cities in California to undergo the rigorous evaluation process.

In the letter notifying us that we were granted reaccreditation, Shawn Poe, chair of the APWA Accreditation Council, wrote: “Your team’s work to achieve accreditation demonstrates the dedication and pride in the operation of your department and your community overall.”


When you dig in a city as old as San Francisco, there are bound to be some surprises.​

And in the case of a Public Works-led project to rehabilitate a staircase nearly a century old on a Russian Hill slope, you may have to watch out for tombstones, caskets or even human remains.


Unearthing SF History


911 Center Upgrades 


An around-the-clock operation, the City’s 911 Call Center houses dozens of dispatchers who field thousands of emergency calls each day and relay information to San Francisco’s first responders and public safety personnel. 

A bond-funded $9 million renovation of the call center’s second floor to add capacity for more dispatchers entered the final stages of construction and inspections. Public Works has been handling the project from planning through design, bidding and construction. 



New Street Tree Nursery


San Francisco’s new $6.5 million street tree nursery – the first of its kind in San Francisco – took root on a barren South of Market lot and culminated with a joyous celebration marking the opening of the transformative project.


APEC Summit

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San Francisco hosted the APEC summit – a week-long event that brought to town President Biden, nearly two dozen other world leaders and large contingents of corporate executives, journalists and government officials from across the globe.

Public Works conducted cleaning, landscaping, graffiti removal and beautification projects in the high-activity areas.

Carla Short Appointed
Public Works Director

Mayor London Breed announced on Nov. 8 the appointment of Carla Short as the new permanent director of San Francisco Public Works, calling her pick “the right person for what is one of the toughest jobs in the City.”



Creating a More Resilient Bayview: One Tree at a Time

The Bayview, one of the most ethnically diverse and fastest-growing neighborhoods in San Francisco, also has one of the lowest percentages of land covered by tree canopy compared to the rest of the City.

Public Works is hoping to change that, working with the community-led Resilient Bayview initiative to get more trees in the ground in the neighborhood. 

Trees play a crucial role in advancing environmental, health and economic justice. They combat climate change by removing and storing carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming; clean the air by filtering hazardous particulate matter that can contribute to asthma and other respiratory illnesses; provide habitat for birds, bees and other wildlife; remove pollutants from stormwater before it reaches waterways and manage it to reduce the risk of localized flooding; provide cooling shade; and beautify the streetscape to create a more welcoming environment.

This month, the Public Works Urban Forestry, Landscape Architecture and Community Engagement teams took part in the Resilient Bayview Climate Summit, an ongoing effort to improve conditions in the Bayview. 

They met Dec. 5 at the Southeast Community Center and were joined by our nonprofit partner Friends of the Urban Forest, as well as dozens of other local government agencies and community organizations, to prepare Bayview residents for rising temperatures due to climate change.

The initiative aligns with the City’s Urban Forest Plan, which targeted the Bayview and other low-canopy neighborhoods for more investment in trees and other green infrastructure. The amount of land in the Bayview shaded by tree canopy is 6.7%; the rest of San Francisco averages more than double that with 13.7%. 

Public Works, steward of San Francisco’s street trees, has been planting more trees in the Bayview in recent years. That effort will be accelerated in coming years thanks to a $12 million federal grant awarded to the department to plant thousands of trees in the City’s low-canopy areas. 

Resilient Bayview summit participants brainstormed ideas to prepare the neighborhood for more trees. For example, working with Bayview residents to find appropriate street tree species and planting locations throughout the neighborhood, ensuring vulnerable young trees are properly watered and cared for during their three-year establishment period, and transforming underutilized parcels into welcoming community gathering places. 

Public Works landscape architecture intern Ava Ross, in partnership with urban forestry inspector Allegra Mautner, prepared posters depicting tree species that thrive in the Bayview and have lower pollen counts to lessen impacts on residents with asthma. Among those tree species are the African Fern Tree and the Willow-Leafed Peppermint.

We want to make sure that we work closely with the community as we move forward with the plans. The summit provided a forum to strengthen collaboration.


Storm Season Starts

The Public Works sandbag giveaway operation ramped up the week before Christmas when the first series of storms of the season rolled through San Francisco.

During the week leading up to Christmas, we handed out more than 500 free sandbags at our Operations Yard in the Bayview. We also ran a special two-day sandbag event in the Marina District on Dec. 15 and 16 where another 350 sandbags were given away. San Francisco residents can retrieve up to 10 free sandbags per address. They’re intended primarily for people whose homes are prone to flooding.

We started this year’s rainy season with more than 15,000 sandbags on hand, and will order more if the supply starts to run low.

Last year, with the series of record storms that pounded San Francisco from New Year’s Eve through March, we gave out more than 35,000 sandbags.

The rainy season always keeps our crews busy – clearing catch basins, responding to downed trees and branches, filling potholes, shoring up sliding hillsides and more. 

We work closely with our City partners, among them the Department of Emergency Management, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the Fire Department, for a coordinated response. While City crews are on the job to keep San Francisco residents, workers and visitors safe, community members also can make preparations for the winter storms. Learn more.

Check Out the Mission Branch Library Remodel

Construction is well underway on the Mission Branch Library renovation project, with crews at work on both the interior and exterior of the landmark building.

The $34 million overhaul will make the branch energy-efficient, less cramped and more resilient to extreme weather. The renovation also restores the original entrance and the central staircase that were removed during a previous renovation in the 1990s.

The branch library, located at 24th and Bartlett streets, was designed by G. Albert Lansburgh, a well-known Beaux Arts architect, and opened in 1915.

Public Works is providing architectural and construction management services on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library. The construction contractor is S.J. Amoroso Construction Co., LLC, a San Francisco-based company.  

The upgrades, which began in August, are expected to take approximately two years to complete. While work is underway, the library services moved to a temporary location around the corner at 1234 Valencia St. Learn more about the renovation project by clicking here.




A San Francisco tradition will return this January with a Christmas tree recycling program that turns the holiday pines, spruces and firs into environmentally-friendly mulch and keeps them out of the landfill.


Recycling your Christmas tree is easy. Simply place your unadorned tree curbside, next to your blue recycling bin, the night before your regular collection day between Jan. 2 and Jan. 12. Recology will take it away.


Before putting your tree out for pickup, please remember to remove all tinsel, decorations, nails, plastic bags, stands and lights – anything that was added to the natural tree. If your tree measures more than 6 feet tall, please cut it in half. Trees should not be put into a plastic bag.   


“We never want to see old Christmas trees left out on the sidewalk willy-nilly for extended periods of time where they can become hazards,” said San Francisco Public Works Director Carla Short. “San Francisco’s tree-cycling initiative helps keep our neighborhoods clean and safe by allowing residents to dispose of their old trees properly and put them to good use as mulch that can be used for gardens and farms.”  
Additional information is available online at Residents and businesses can contact Recology at or call (415) 330-1300. 

See you next year!

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