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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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June 2024

Public Works crews hustled to reposition 30,000 cubic yards of sand on Ocean Beach under a tight deadline this month, an annual operation with a mission – and a Sisyphean vibe.


One Thing for Shore:
It’s Hard to Fight Mother Nature 

Every year, Public Works conducts a massive sand-moving operation at Ocean Beach.

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Showing Our Pride

Inspired by this year’s in-house theme, “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” Public Works got into the spirit of Pride month, an annual tradition celebrated throughout June to highlight the contributions and history of the LGBTQIA+ community.

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Are You Game? Check Out Neat Street

While in real life there’s no simple click to get this good work done, we have created our very own internet-based video game to capture the spirit of maintaining, cleaning and greening San Francisco’s streets and sidewalks.

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Creating a More Accessible
Green Oasis

Public Works is helping upgrade a little neighborhood park along Minnesota Street to make the area safer and more accessible for all.


A Golden Opportunity to
Spruce Up Downtown

Father-and-son team Dale and Marcus Berger gave new life this month to a part of San Francisco history. Their task: Repaint 23 ornate light standards in the City’s Golden Triangle – the area bounded by Market, Powell and Sutter streets.



Volunteers joined forces with Public Works crews at this month’s Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day event.

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Moving Sand
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Dennis Kapsas, a universal operating engineer with the Public Works Bureau of Building and Street Repair, maneuvers an excavator on Ocean Beach.

One Thing for Shore: It’s Hard to Fight Mother Nature

Every year, a major Public Works sand-moving operation at Ocean Beach involving massive excavators and bulldozers takes its cue from a congregation of Western Snowy Plovers, the federally protected shorebirds that are about 6 inches long and weigh less than 2 ounces each.

Western Snowy Plovers, a federally protected bird, frolic on Ocean Beach about 10 months a year and only when they depart can we conduct the sand operation.

Our crews only can work when the small birds migrate from Ocean Beach on the western edge of San Francisco during a short window in late spring or early summer to nest in other coastal areas and inland salt flats.

This year, we got the OK from the bird monitors at the federal Golden Gate National Recreation Area to start work on June 17. The work must be wrapped up by the end of the month  to make sure the plovers, which are listed as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, won’t be disturbed upon their return.

“We’ve got two weeks out here so we’ve got to pretty much go as fast as we can. There’s so much sand to move,” said Dennis Kapsas, a universal operating engineer with the Public Works Bureau of Building and Street Repair. “We’ve got to keep moving all day long.”

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Dennis Kapsas adds fuel and oil to the excavator.

Normally, he grinds and paves streets as part of our resurfacing program. But the sand relocation operation puts him behind the controls of an excavator...

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Dennis Kapsas (left) gets ready to go back to moving sand, while his co-worker, Cesario Aton III, adds fuel to his bulldozer.

...where he scoops up sand with a bucket, moving it from one location to another, in this case, from the east side of the beach near the promenade closer toward the shore.

Sand builds up along the pedestrian promenade at Ocean Beach.

Once he positions the sand into large piles, a bulldozer comes through and spreads it out more evenly along the beach.

The excavator and bulldozer operators work as a team to move sand from the eastern edge of Ocean Beach toward the water.

“Mother Nature brings it in … and we push it back out,” he said.

Bucketful after bucketful. After bucketful.

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Bucket by bucket, the sand is moved closer to the ocean to delay its incursion onto the adjacent Great Highway.

In all, this year, our heavy machinery operators, running two excavators and two bulldozers, will reposition about 30,000 cubic yards of sand, weighing approximately 75 million pounds and enough to fill more than nine Olympic-size swimming pools.

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It’s a beach, so of course there’s sand. Lots of it.

The annual operation has one goal: reduce the likelihood of sand buildup on the Great Highway, which runs adjacent to Ocean Beach, during windy weather.

Moving the sand that has built up into small dunes where buildup is worse – notably between Noriega and Santiago streets and at Judah Street – delays the natural progression of sand incursion onto the Great Highway.

Sporadic closures of the Great Highway, due to the buildup of windblown sand on the roadway, normally occur every year during the winter and spring months. In recent years,  the situation has significantly worsened due to climate change, drought and sustained high winds. Sand accumulation on the Great Highway makes it difficult and hazardous for vehicles and bicycles to navigate.

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Wind blows sand from Ocean Beach onto the adjacent Great Highway. Several times a year the buildup makes the road impassable for cars and bikes.

Kapsas, who has been operating heavy machinery for 35 years, the last 10 with Public Works, enjoys the assignment. He played with toy trucks when he was a boy, and now he gets to operate the real thing.

“This is pretty fun, these big pieces of equipment. They’re pretty powerful. You move a lot of sand in one day with these things,” he said.

As a bonus, he has a great view of the Pacific.

He understands the Sisyphean aspect of the work, knowing full well that the sand will blow back towards the Sunset neighborhood over the coming year. 

“It’s an ongoing process out here,” he said. “It’s never going to end.”

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Our goal: Move more sand toward the Pacific and away from the road and pedestrian promenade.

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Showing Our Pride

Inspired by this year’s in-house theme, “Sowing the Seeds of Love,” Public Works got into the spirit of Pride month, an annual tradition celebrated throughout June to highlight the contributions and history of the LGBTQIA+ community.

One of our most illuminating Pride projects this year involved  Public Works electricians. They programmed the special lights that bathe the palm trees along the Market Street median in the Castro in the hues of the rainbow. The neighborhood place-making project, championed by the Castro Community Benefit District, was completed just in time for the peak of Pride festivities. The colorful uplighting will illuminate the trees year-round. 


Each tree is lit with a different color of the rainbow.

While many activities were focused on our staff – with a Rainbow Flag raising at our Operations Yard and another at our street tree nursery, department-wide emails showcasing history-making LGBTQIA+ people and events and more – the highlight was participation in the annual Pride Parade on June 30. 

We hosted two staff-led Pride flag-raising ceremonies this year – one at our Operations Yard (left) and one at our street tree nursery.

We boasted the largest-ever Public Works contingent marching in the high-energy procession that started at the foot of Market Street and ended at Eighth Street near Civic Center.


The day before the Pride Parade, Public Works employees join together on their day off to ready the floats.

Prior to the parade, our street inspectors check the route to make sure construction sites in the public right of way are secured and tripping hazards are abated. And, as always, a team of our hard-working crews followed the parade, cleaning up after the hundreds of thousands of revelers. The Pride Parade cleanup is one of our largest events of the year – a well-choreographed operation involving dozens of Public Works Operations employees using brooms, blowers, rakes, shovels, power washers and specialized sweeper and flusher trucks to get the job done. 

Public Works celebrates Pride 2024 with our biggest-ever Pride Parade contingent.

Left behind in the roadway and on the sidewalk were all manner of Pride Parade debris, from colorful beads, feather boas and confetti to empty water bottles, deflated balloons and hand-drawn posters.  

As soon as the last float takes off, our street cleaning team gets to work.

Whether walking in the parade or cleaning up after, the Public Works team takes a lot of pride in our Pride involvement.

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Kids Game

Neat Street, a new internet-based video game, gives players an opportunity to virtually green, clean and maintain San Francisco neighborhoods. 

Are You Game?
Check Out
Neat Street

Click. Street tree planted! Click. Pothole filled! Click. Graffiti tag wiped out!

While in real life there’s no simple click to get this good work done, we have created our very own internet-based video game to capture the spirit of maintaining, cleaning and greening San Francisco’s streets and sidewalks.


Neat Street unites civic pride and arcade-style gaming to promote the value of caring for our neighborhoods – while having fun.


Players of Neat Street will benefit from sharp vision and nimble fingers to progress through the levels of Guitar Hero-like gameplay to make San Francisco’s streets greener, cleaner and more inviting.


From filling potholes and removing graffiti to building benches and installing trash cans, kids (and kids at heart) will learn about some of the crucial work Public Works does 24/7 to maintain, clean and beautify San Francisco.

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San Francisco Public Works’ very own arcade-style video game aims to promote a spirit of community stewardship.

Although the game is designed primarily for young people ages 5 to 12, teens and adults also will find it entertaining, challenging and – hopefully – inspiring.


Neat Street drops players into fictional San Francisco neighborhoods to fix, paint, plant and clean their way to completing the adventure. They can choose from among five young characters with interesting hobbies and quirky personalities. As a player progresses through six challenging levels, they unlock new skills and characters; the game was designed to encourage replay and goal completion.

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Players progress through increasingly challenging levels of Neat Street, testing their online gaming skills.

Our communications team partnered with San Francisco-based lowercase productions to bring the game to life.


At Public Works, we’re always on the lookout for new and creative ways to engage the community and teach them about our mission to take care of San Francisco.


Neat Street requires a mouse and a keyboard to play and can be launched from any web browser, such as Chrome, Safari and Firefox.

Check it out!

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Minnesota St

The Minnesota Grove in the Dogpatch neighborhood serves as a magical urban oasis.

Creating a More Accessible
Green Oasis

In San Francisco’s Dogpatch – a neighborhood with industrial roots that has undergone a transformation into a sought-after district dotted with restaurants, bars and art galleries – a community-made oasis sprouted years ago, nestled among warehouses, loft apartments and barbed-wire-topped fences.

The lush greenspace along Minnesota Street, between 24th and 25th streets, was created by residents more than a decade ago. Now, Public Works is helping upgrade the little neighborhood park and providing streetscape improvements to make the area safer and more accessible for all.

The Public Works-led project – which encompasses Minnesota Street, between 23rd and 25th streets, and 23rd Street, between Minnesota and Tennessee streets – includes new landscaping, sidewalks, ADA-compliant curb ramps, corner bulb-outs, roadway paving, drainage, street lighting, seating and more. Crews were busy this month, working on the comprehensive $2.5 million project that kicked off in February and is expected to wrap by summer 2025.


Yordan Nikolov, a junior engineer with Public Works, shows where improvements are going in along the Dogpatch streetscape.

Much of the work is intended to make access safer and easier for pedestrians. In some cases, the current sidewalk just abruptly ends or is nonexistent. Many of the streets themselves are in poor condition, worn down from heavy use in the mixed commercial-residential area. Curb ramps are mostly missing.

“If you're visually impaired, you're kind of just left pretty much to fend for yourself,” said Public Works Project Manager Trent Tieger.

To shorten the distance people need to cross to get to the other side of a street, crews will install bulb-outs, which also help slow down vehicles. As part of the ADA requirements for the improvements, crews will use “visually distinct concrete colors,” Tieger said. 

“Typically, our sidewalks are kind of a lighter gray color and then our curb ramps are a darker gray,” he said. “You'll see in other places, specifically downtown, they use the dark sparkle kind of concrete and so you have kind of the reverse where the sidewalk itself is dark and then your curb ramps are a lighter color.”