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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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March 2021

This doggie denizen of the new, state-of-the-art San Francisco Animal Care and Control facility frolics in the light-filled courtyard. Check out our featured story in this month's digital journal.



Beaming with Pride

San Francisco Public Works and the City’s Department of Public Health marked the steel completion of the new Southeast Health Center expansion project in Bayview-Hunters Point. 

A New Second Street Comes to Life

This month we celebrated the completion of the transformative Second Street Improvements Project, which makes this important South of Market connector safer and more attractive.

Arbor Day 2021:

A Tribute with Trees

This year, we planted a small grove of trees in honor of lives lost to COVID-19.

Wooden You Know It, Our Carpenters Come Through Again

San Francisco’s Safe Sleeping Sites, where unhoused residents can pitch a tent in a secure location, got a needed upgrade this month with new sleeping platforms.


Tree-cycling Project

Gets an A+

When a towering pine on Sunset Boulevard reached the end of its natural life this month, our Urban Forestry crews cut it down to keep the public safe. Today, the wood from the tree serves a new purpose: outdoor seating at Miraloma Elementary School.


Rebirth of a Mission Neighborhood Park

When visitors return to Garfield Square in the Mission District, they will see a transformed community hub with a renovated indoor pool, new clubhouse and a welcoming courtyard that knits the two together.

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San Francisco’s old animal shelter served the City for more than 30 years, taking in and caring for 10,000-plus critters a year. But it never reached its full potential due to the limitations of the building that housed it – a converted Mission District warehouse that was cramped, outdated and vulnerable to the ravages of a major earthquake.

That all changed this month with the opening of a state-of-the-art facility built to serve the City’s animals and the humans who care for them.  




Our design team had three primary objectives: modernize the facility to meet current animal health and welfare requirements; remain functional and able to operate off the grid with water and power for at least 72 hours in the event of an earthquake or other disaster; and restore and preserve the building’s façade, which has stood since 1893 and is a registered historical landmark.


Working with our client, San Francisco Animal Care & Control, Public Works played a central role in this much needed project. Our architects, landscape architects and engineers provided the design services, and our project management and construction management teams from the Building Design and Construction division ushered it through to completion. Construction began two years ago.

The new shelter includes a modernized veterinary suite, better ventilation, improved cleaning systems to reduce the spread of disease and equipment that more effectively controls noise and odors. The new adoption center’s expanded play and training areas for animals, and larger education spaces, will better serve the public, animal care staff and volunteers.

The $76.4 million project provided a unique opportunity and challenge given that it involved the reuse and rehabilitation of a historic building.



With nearly double the square footage of the old facility, the new 65,000-square-foot shelter at 1419 Bryant St. was designed to allow staff and volunteers to carry out more programs and services than what the confines of the old shelter permitted. That shelter, at 1200-15th St., was tucked into a Depression-era warehouse that was seismically unsafe, crowded and lacked proper ventilation. 

Finding a new site that would address these deficiencies and serve Animal Care & Control’s unique needs was complicated. Planning began a decade ago and the site search and acquisition process began in 2014. After multiple locations, as well as a plan to renovate the old facility, were considered, we landed on the Muni fleet storage property as the ideal space.


The new San Francisco Animal Care & Control headquarters and shelter is located in the Showplace Square Historical District, an area of brick warehouses and factories built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Initially the building served as the powerhouse for the Market Street Railway Company, which operated the first electric streetcar in San Francisco. After the Market Street Railway Company went out of business, the building housed the City-run transportation agency's overhead line maintenance vehicle fleet. 


To make sure we didn’t erase this important piece of the City’s past, we devised an adaptive reuse for the building – essentially building a new building within the existing footprint, while keeping the historic brick façade and industrial wood windows. Even the roof profile was maintained. On the interior, we sliced the building horizontally into three stories where there previously only had been one large warehouse space. What resulted is a one-of-a-kind building in San Francisco, unlike anything we’ve built before: a 21st-century shelter that meets both the needs of Animal Care & Control and the requirements of honoring the historic structure.

Our design team took inspiration from a wide variety of sources. They conducted multiple case studies of shelters elsewhere, visited other Bay Area facilities, attended animal care and control conferences and reached out to San Francisco Animal Care & Control staff to learn more about their on-the-job needs. All the research, planning and preparation was done with the goal of supporting the needs of a City agency that serves an essential role.



San Francisco Animal Care & Control provides a wide range of services, including wildlife protection; disaster response services in San Francisco and surrounding counties; animal cruelty and neglect investigations; emergency care; lost and found services; animal adoptions; and public education. Unlike the privately run SPCA, for example, Animal Care & Control cares for wild animals, such as raccoons and squirrels, in addition to dogs, cats and other adoptable species. They even, on occasion, have a pig, pelican or goat in their care.


As California has battled severe wildfires in recent years, Animal Care & Control has provided vital emergency response services throughout the state. When evacuations are ordered as fast-moving flames encroach on residential areas, pets can get separated from their owners, creating additional stress during an already traumatic experience. When this occurs, the staff works tirelessly to round up animals that might be lost or injured in hopes of reuniting them with their owners. They even leave out food and water in evacuated areas to sustain lost animals. 

To help achieve this level of service, Animal Care & Control relies heavily on volunteers. In 2019 alone, more than 400 volunteers dedicated nearly 27,000 hours of service to the department. Though staff handles all specialized treatment and care, volunteers take on a variety of responsibilities, including socializing and exercising animals. The volunteer program was suspended for most of 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 but will resume once the pandemic subsides.



Each of the new facility’s three levels are thoughtfully designed to create a cohesive and functional environment. A guiding principle of the overall design called for separating predators from prey. This is why the first floor is dedicated solely to dogs, while cats and other smaller species are located on the second floor. The dogs get the first floor because their kennels typically require the most cleaning. Large trench drains, which work most effectively on the ground floor, were installed in the middle of each dog kennel area.


The first floor also features two separate lobbies, each serving different needs. The main lobby is for prospective adopters and people coming through to volunteer, take a training class or pick up a dog license. There, they are met with vibrant, colorful murals by local artist Fabiana Rodriguez that depict a wide variety of species cared for at the shelter. 


The second lobby, known as the intake lobby, is where the more stressful and emotional  encounters with the public take place. That’s where animals are surrendered by their owners and where people go to look for lost pets. 

The heart of the first floor, both physically and in spirit, is the courtyard dog run. This space, sporting artificial turf, provides plenty of room for the shelter’s canine residents to stretch their legs, get some sun and play a game of fetch with a staffer or volunteer.


Along one wall of the courtyard, a set of stairs specifically designed for dogs connects the facility’s three levels. Each step is only four inches high and stretches two feet deep in order to accommodate dogs of all sizes and ages. As an added benefit, the courtyard allows for plenty of natural light to enter the building’s interior.


The second floor is where you can find the rest of the furry, feathered and scaly residents. There are separate areas for cats, reptiles, birds and small animals, such as guinea pigs and hamsters, all of which have the modern amenities necessary for making each animal’s stay as comfortable and healthy as possible. 


As a general design principle, high-use areas and animal spaces are concentrated near the building’s exterior to take advantage of the ample sunlight. This design element accentuates one of the building’s most striking and attractive architectural features: massive arched windows that are original to the historic building.


A majority of the “back-of-the-house” areas are located on the second floor. These include office space for staff and volunteers, conference and meeting rooms and specially designated areas for wildlife and feral animal housing that are not open to the general public.

The second floor also houses a spacious veterinary suite complete with two surgery stations, an X-ray room and modern fixtures.


Our designers had to get creative in how to provide animals with safe places to exercise. With no space outside – other than the surrounding sidewalk – two animal runs were installed on the roof. One is for dogs and the other for smaller animals, such as bunnies and guinea pigs, so they, too, can frolic in the fresh air. 


Rounding out the project’s thoughtful design is a series of seemingly small but impactful features. To cut down on the excessive amount of garbage that animal care facilities tend to produce, we installed specially designed flush fixtures that work like toilets where scooped-up animal waste can be deposited and flushed into the sewer. That way staff members don’t need to fill bags with dog poop and send it to the landfill.  


There also is a series of wall-mounted hoses throughout the complex that are connected to a central piping system that pump a mixture of water and animal-safe soaps and disinfectants that provide faster and more efficient cleanups than traditional mops and buckets allow. 


Katheryn Jones, Animal Care & Control’s Adoption Partner Transfer Coordinator, summed up the project’s significance beautifully: “The animals are less stressed in this new facility, and that, in turn makes me less stressed. It's easier to do our jobs when the animals are content, and the compassion fatigue is significantly lessened when we don't have to worry about how our animals are emotionally faring.” 

Hearing messages like these from people on the frontlines makes the years that went into planning, designing and constructing this transformational project more than worth it. After all, making San Francisco a healthy, safe and resilient city is a core value of San Francisco Public Works, and the new animal care and control facility advances that goal. 


If you'd like to learn more about this project, check out our Snapshots LIVE! webcast.

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The final beam is lifted into place for the new Southeast Health Center expansion project.

BeamIng with PrIde

San Francisco Public Works and the City’s Department of Public Health marked the steel completion of the new Southeast Health Center expansion project in Bayview-Hunters Point. 

Now that the City is under a less restrictive Shelter-in-Place Order, a small, socially distanced crowd was able to attend the construction milestone event, known as a topping out ceremony. 


Those in attendance, among them public health officials, the Public Works project team and community leaders, signed the final steel beam with permanent markers before watching it get hoisted into place. As is custom, an American flag was affixed to the beam.

Participants signed their names and inscribed their well-wishes on the final beam at the topping out ceremony.

The project, which broke ground in spring 2020, is expected to be complete next summer. The new 22,000-square-foot health center will be fully equipped with 21 new patient rooms, 16 examination rooms, expanded laboratory space, new offices and more. It is being built at the corner of Bancroft Avenue and Keith Street, next to the existing clinic that was built in the 1970s and renovated in 2008. The $30 million project is funded by the voter-supported 2016 Public Health and Safety Bond.

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Architectural renderings of the new Southeast Health Center.

Public Works is providing design and construction management services.


The Southeast Health Center is a primary care clinic that primarily serves the Bayview-Hunters Point community. The clinic sees approximately 4,200 patients annually and provides routine check-ups, prenatal care, women’s health services, dental care, behavioral health services, short-term counseling; access to resources for food, shelter, clothing and transportation; nutrition education; and other services. The health center also recently started administering COVID-19 tests and vaccinations for San Francisco residents. 


The Public Works team involved in the health center project.

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Contours of the Transbay Terminal enhance the view down this beautifully redesigned Natoma Street alleyway.

Safer, Dandier and More Resilient: A New Second Street Comes to Life

This month we celebrated the completion of the transformative Second Street Improvements Project, which increases safety for people who walk and bike, improves Muni efficiency, replaces aging infrastructure, and offers a more welcoming environment along a busy South of Market corridor that connects major transit hubs and downtown.

Second Street stretches eight blocks from Market to King streets, connecting the South of Market neighborhood with historic Market Street and the Financial District to the north. It is an important connecting corridor for people who live in the area, as well as people commuting to offices and attending events at the Giants’ waterfront ballpark. 


Construction on the Second Street Improvements Project began in November 2017 and continued uninterrupted during San Francisco’s Stay at Home Order, which allowed work to continue on essential infrastructure. This project supported more than 120 construction and electrical trade jobs at a time when putting people to work was crucial. 

Take a look at some of the new enhancements and amenities for the Second Street project.

The City held a ribbon-cutting event to celebrate the new streetscape improvements.

Public Works oversaw planning, design and construction management for the project. Key partners included the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, San Francisco Planning and the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. M Squared Construction, Inc. served as the prime contractor.


The City began a comprehensive public engagement process in 2012 with a community-driven approach to planning and held more than 50 meetings with residents, merchants and community groups to develop a plan for a safer Second Street. The process resulted in numerous design elements to enhance pedestrian safety, including high-visibility and raised crosswalks; restricted parking near intersections, known as “daylighting,” to make it easier for drivers and pedestrians to see one another; sidewalk extensions to shorten the crossing distance; and improved signal timing to prioritize people who walk and use wheelchairs. The project also funded the construction of 102 new ADA-compliant curb ramps.


Some of the Public Works staff who worked on the streetscape project.

New bus stop bulb-outs for picking up and dropping off Muni passengers were added to make it easier for buses to navigate Second Street. The design also includes new protected bike lanes in each direction along Second Street, the primary north-south route for people biking in the area. The corridor is part of a network of protected bike lanes in the South of Market neighborhood.


The $26 million project is funded in part by One Bay Area Grants and the Federal Highway Administration, SoMa Development Impact fees, and local Proposition K sales tax revenue.


In addition to the transportation safety upgrades, infrastructure improvements were made below the street, including replacing 150-year-old sewer pipes, repairing water service connections and undergrounding overhead wires from Stillman to Townsend Streets. New street trees and landscaped median islands, as well as new trash receptacles, bicycle racks and benches also were installed. Crews paved the entire stretch of Second Street from curb to curb.


Additional project information is available at

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Our Bureau of Urban Forestry crews took selfies with some of their favorite trees.

Arbor Day 2021:

A Tribute with Trees

For Arbor Day this year, our team, led by the Urban Forestry crew, planted a small grove of buckeye and coast live oak trees, plus a patch of wildflowers, on vacant land off of San Bruno Avenue in the Portola neighborhood.

We created this greening project in tribute of the more than 460 San Franciscans who died from COVID-19.


Before the pandemic hit, we marked Arbor Day with a community workday that brought together scores of volunteers to plants dozens, and some years hundreds, of street trees to expand our urban forest. But, like last year, with stay-at-home restrictions still in place, we scaled back our tree-planting efforts on Arbor Day 2021, relying on the labor of our own workforce without volunteer assistance. In addition to planting trees in the Portola, our arborist crews were out pruning trees, adjusting supportive stakes on young trees and replenishing tree basins. The work took place on March 13.

Let’s hope that next year’s Arbor Day will be one where we can join together again as a community to plant trees – our crews working alongside residents and merchants to expand our urban forest. You can learn more about our work with trees in San Francisco by clicking here.

Urban Forestry Superintendent Carla Short, aka The Queen of Trees, wishes you a happy Arbor Day!

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COVID-19 Gave Us a Year We Will Never Forget

One year ago this month, San Francisco’s unprecedented Stay-at-Home Order took effect, dramatically changing the way we work, socialize and go about our daily lives.

Public Works employees, as designated disaster service workers, were pressed into action to help the City meet new challenges brought on by the global pandemic. We are proud of our contributions, saddened by the losses so many have suffered and hopeful that the advent of COVID-19 vaccines and the continued science-driven diligence of mask-wearing and smart social distancing will continue the recent progress San Francisco has made in beating back the virus.

To say this has been a tough year would be an understatement. However, to say that we have seen what we can accomplish by working together would be a truth-telling testament to the resiliency of the people of San Francisco. 

Join us for a presentation about our department’s work responding to the global pandemic

in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of San Francisco's Stay-at-Home Order.

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Wooden You Know It, Our Carpenters Come Through Again

San Francisco’s Safe Sleeping Sites, where unhoused residents can pitch a tent in a secure, designated location with access to bathrooms, water and power, were developed as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Works staff has been key in getting them up and running – scouting locations, designing the sites to promote social distancing and building them out.

Some are tucked in former parking lots; the largest is located along a closed-off stretch of Fulton Street between the Asian Art Museum and the Main Library. The idea is to move encampments off the sidewalks and into safer places.

This month, our carpentry crews built 150 wood platforms for use by the folks living at the Safe Sleeping Sites so they can keep their tents and belongings off the cold and sometimes rain-soaked ground. Made out of Douglas fir, they’re 10 feet by 10 feet wide, 6 inches tall and very sturdy.


The carpenters measured and cut the pieces in their shop at our Operations Yard in the Bayview, and then assembled them on site at locations in the Haight, Tenderloin, Hayes Valley and Civic Center areas. 

The platform project is just one of many that Public Works staff has delivered to help San Francisco meet the challenges of helping our residents during the public health crisis.

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One person’s weed is another person’s wildflower. But no matter your position, the bright yellow blooms of Oxalis tell us that #spring is here!

These colorful, butterfly-friendly wildflowers planted by our gardeners get us in the mood! The seeds scattered outside neighborhood @SFPD stations, other City buildings & at the @sfmta_muni bus stop at Sunset & Taraval have burst into bloom.



Spring officially started on March 20, a day marked on the calendar and by nature with the bountiful emergence of colorful wildflowers.

Our gardeners scattered wildflower seeds on City-owned land all over the City – next to a bus stop in the Sunset and outside police stations in the Western Addition and the Richmond, to name just a few of the spots. The results of their efforts have burst into bloom. 

Wildflowers attract bees, birds and butterflies, bring beauty to the neighborhoods and remind us that spring is a season of renewal and hope. 

Wild for Wildflowers

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Parent volunteers from the school helped move the new wooden seats through campus.

Tree-cycling Project Gets an A+

When a towering pine on Sunset Boulevard reached the end of its natural life this month, our Urban Forestry crews cut it down to keep the public safe. Today, the wood from the tree serves a new purpose: outdoor seating at Miraloma Elementary School.


The towering pine on Sunset Blvd. at the heart of this story.

The project came just at the right time as kindergartners and students in first and second grade are scheduled to return to campus April 19 after the lengthy COVID-driven shutdown.​

Our arborist crews cut the trunk horizontally into rounds about two-feet high, fashioning natural seats for kids. They delivered the wood to campus and parents and school staff then rolled the pieces through the school yard and set them in place.

Miraloma Principal Noah Ingber said the addition of the tree chairs are welcome, as students now will eat lunch alfresco-style when weather permits. “With COVID, it’s clear that we want to maximize the use of our outdoor space,” he said.

Our Urban Forestry crews delivered the freshly cut tree to Miraloma Elementary School.

The Miraloma project isn’t the first time we’ve used wood from our street trees that have fallen or had to be removed because they were diseased, dying or structurally unsafe. Some get chipped into mulch for City landscape projects, and some are cut into rounds to line pathways or create seating. We’re also exploring how we can use them for art projects and building material. 

“But,” noted Bureau of Urban Forestry Superintendent Carla Short, “not all wood is created equal. Some species are great for making seating rounds, like pine or Cypress.  But some others, like corymbia, ooze a sticky substance if they get cut, which makes them poor choices for these types of reuse.”

At the very least, we make sure the unused wood gets composted so it can benefit other trees and plants that are still growing.


Left: The wood from the tree found a new purpose as outdoor seating at Miraloma School Miraloma Elementary School.

Right: Miraloma Principal Noah Ingber tries out one of the new wooden seats on his campus

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Rebirth of a Mission Neighborhood Park

When visitors return to Garfield Square in the Mission District, they will see a transformed community hub with a renovated indoor pool, new clubhouse and a welcoming courtyard that knits the two together.

“The design creates this wonderful indoor-outdoor experience for the neighborhood to enjoy,” said Lizzy Hirsch, the lead landscape architect on the project.

Prior to the makeover, the clubhouse and pool building were at different elevations, creating a disjointed feel to the place. Now, the two, light-filled buildings sporting a new pool, locker rooms and clubhouse, are at the same level. 

In between the buildings is a multi-purpose courtyard where kids can play in a splash zone and families can enjoy a picnic or movie night. The protected courtyard, while open to the sky, can be closed off overnight when park staff is gone for the day. 

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The project also includes a new outdoor basketball court and landscaping around the exterior of the buildings; the existing soccer field and playground remain the same.

The park, which returned from construction under the new name Garfield Center, is bounded by Harrison, Treat, 25th and 26th streets in a dense, largely residential neighborhood.

The project team included San Francisco Public Works Landscape Architecture and TEF Design/Paulett Taggart Architects Joint Venture. Public Works provided construction management and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, which owns the facility, served as project manager. 

The $19.7 million project is funded by the voter-approved 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks General Obligation Bond and development impact fees. Construction, which began in fall 2019, wrapped up this month. The pool and clubhouse will reopen when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

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Gets Results


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Mayor London Breed and new City Administrator Carmen Chu got a first-hand look at our CleanCorridorsSF crews in action as they deep cleaned the Fillmore district with power washing, graffiti removal, roadway flushing, weeding and litter pickup.

“I’m liking what I see,” Breed said at the March 11 operation. “This kind of work is making a difference.”

The pilot CleanCorridorsSF program targets a different neighborhood commercial area every Thursday with a contingent of some 20 street cleaners. This month our crews focused on the Fillmore and Richmond neighborhoods. 

Next month we’ll be in the Excelsior and West Portal. Among the other neighborhoods we’ve visited are the Castro, Mission, Bayview, Tenderloin, SoMa, North Beach, Hayes Valley, Marina and Visitacion Valley.

Outer Sunset

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