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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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February 2021

In less than a century, Treasure Island will have been transformed from an artificial island built for the Golden Gate International Exposition during the Great Depression into a bustling, technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable new 21st-century neighborhood housing more than 20,000 San Franciscans. 


Treasure Island: Raising a New Neighborhood

Learn about the ambitious vision to create a new neighborhood within the City – in the middle of San Francisco Bay.

Chinatown Shines for the Lunar New Year

Public Works crews captured the spirit of the Year of the Ox by getting San Francisco’s historic Chinatown neighborhood spruced up for the Lunar New Year.

On the Move

It’s not every day that you can watch a big house make its way down the streets of San Francisco.


Black History Month

Though we could not meet in person this year due to the pandemic, we had a month-long variety of dynamic Black History Month events.

Illegal Dumping Cleanup Operation Ramps Up

This month, crews began targeting abandoned waste in the Bayview neighborhood’s known hotspots four days a week.


with Pride

Armed with brushes, rollers and dozens of gallons of paint, our pros painted the lobby, stairwells and exterior of Muni's Forest Hill Station.

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In less than a century, Treasure Island will have been transformed from an artificial island built for the Golden Gate International Exposition during the Great Depression into a bustling, technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable new 21st-century neighborhood housing more than 20,000 San Franciscans. 

How is such an extreme transformation even possible? With imagination, ingenuity and will power. 



This ambitious vision will create a new San Francisco neighborhood – in the middle of San Francisco Bay. There’ll be new housing, hotels, shops and restaurants, offices, a combined police and fire station, a new school, 300 acres of parks and open space and supporting infrastructure. 

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The proposed development went through nearly two decades of planning and legislative wrangling before securing San Francisco Board of Supervisors approval in 2011. Construction broke ground in 2016 and today there are plenty of signs that the new development is taking shape.


Treasure Island Community Development, a private partnership encompassing Stockbridge Capital Group/Wilson Meany and Lennar Corp., is the master developer for Treasure Island. The project is overseen by the nonprofit Treasure Island Development Authority (TIDA), a public benefit agency whose governing board is appointed by San Francisco’s mayor. 

San Francisco Public Works has a major role in the project: Reviewing and approving the developer’s proposed mapping and project phasing; issuing infrastructure permits; and providing construction management services for the infrastructure and parks improvements. Our team also reviews the developer’s proposed designs for compliance to applicable codes, guidelines and local standards.


As is the case with all construction projects in San Francisco, ensuring seismic safety has been a top priority for the Treasure Island development team. Earthquake safety for the development is especially important considering that Treasure Island is human-made and tucked between the San Andreas and Hayward faults.

Treasure Island was constructed at the site of the Yerba Buena Shoals, a shallow water area directly north of Yerba Buena Island, a natural island. The bay floor areas surrounding the shoals were underlain by soft mud. To fully build the island, a rock dike – an artificial ridge constructed with rocks   – was established first, and sand fill was pumped or deposited in place until the elevation reached the surface. Then, another rock dike was placed on top of the first and filling continued. This process was repeated until the island was formed. 

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Aerial View of Treasure Island dredging operations, 1935

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Yerba Buena Shoals Rock Wall July 9, 1936 Time 12 Noon; NARA-296375; Image of rock dike placement at the west side of the island at the causeway.

For the new development, geotechnical engineers crafted a strategy to make the island perimeter seismically stable, strengthen the causeway that connects Treasure Island to Yerba Buena Island, densify the sandy fill to minimize seismic settlement and compress the soft bay sediments prior to infrastructure improvements and building construction. 

The geotechnical plan relied on an array of techniques to achieve the desired stability needed to support the new development.   

The techniques included making the sand fill throughout the development and the shoreline denser by preloading the development area with surcharge and wicks; strengthening the causeway and the shoreline close to the development area with cement deep soil mixing; and vibrocompaction.

Settlement of the soft bay sediment can be accelerated by use of surcharging, allowing much of the future settlement to occur prior to construction. Surcharging involves adding excess fill, for a limited time, above the intended final site grades. Prefabricated vertical drains, also known as wick drains, can be used to significantly decrease the time the fill is needed to weigh down the soft bay sediments by forcing water to be squeezed out faster. This can cut the settlement period considerably – to months instead of years. 


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Deep soil mixing is used to strengthen the weak soil along parts of the shoreline and the causeway. Deep soil mixing is a ground improvement technique that enhances the characteristics of the soil by mechanically mixing them with a cement slurry, causing the soil to become more like soft rock. In total, about 150,000 cubic yards of deep cement soil mixing was performed in the first development phase. 


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The vibrocompaction technique, widely used in Japan, combines tamping and direct power compaction and densifies loose sandy soils by vibration and compaction. The equipment to perform this work includes a hydraulically driven vibratory hammer suspended from a vibration isolation mount, which in turn is suspended from the main cable of a 270-ton crawler crane.

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The hammer is attached to four probes through a holder. The probes are H-beams modified with steel flaps hinged to the web at the base of the beam. As the beam penetrates the ground, the flaps are deployed to provide more area for compaction. During the extraction of the beams, the flaps retract to reduce resistance. At the ground surface, a guide system is used to keep the beams from separating.

After completing the deep power compaction, tamping is employed to compact the top 10 feet of sandy soil. The tamper is a vibratory hammer attached to a 10-foot-by-10-foot square steel plate. The tamper plate is placed directly on the ground and the vibro-hammer is activated to compact the soil. The process is repeated until all the densification area is tamped.

In total, the planned development area is about one square mile, making it the largest addition to the City and County of San Francisco since Golden Gate Park opened 150 years ago. It also increased the developed land mass by roughly 2 percent. Located less than 5 miles from the San Francisco mainland, the centerpiece of this expansive mid-Bay project is its plans for 8,000 new housing units. About 2,200 of these planned units will be below market rate.

Aside from its location and scope, a striking aspect of the new Treasure Island development is its orientation toward public transit, cyclists and pedestrians, rather than cars. Turning conventional city planning on its head, the project calls for an abundance of car-free livable streets and shared public ways that will allocate space solely for people who bike and walk. Spaces typically reserved for parking and driving in traditional neighborhoods instead will be occupied by street trees, public stoops and seating areas. The planned transit improvements include new ferry service between Treasure Island and the San Francisco mainland and expanded bus service.

There also will be plenty of options for those looking for a break from the usual frenetic speed of life in a dense urban neighborhood. In total, more than 300 acres on Treasure Island and neighboring Yerba Buena island will be devoted to parklands, wetlands, recreational sites, trails and native habitat.


These grand plans might make you think that we’re working with a blank slate, but Treasure Island has a long, intriguing history.


Treasure Island was a federal Works Progress Administration project built in 1936 atop a sandy shoal just off the shore of Yerba Buena Island.

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It was built to be the site of the Golden Gate International Exposition, a two-year celebration marking completion of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. 

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After the exposition closed in September 1940, the City had plans to build an airport on the island to augment services at San Francisco International Airport, but these plans were foiled when the federal government seized ownership of the island in 1942 during World War II and began repurposing it for use as a naval station.

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When the station first opened, more than 12,000 service members a day were processed on the island for assignments throughout the Pacific. The island also served as an auxiliary air facility to house and support a variety of Navy helicopters, airplanes and sea planes. After the war ended, the station served as the home of the Navy’s Technical Training Center, as well as an electronics school serving both the Navy and Marine Corps. In 1991, during a time of downsizing for the U.S. military, the station was identified by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission as unnecessary and was shuttered by 1997. That same year, the California Legislature voted to establish the Treasure Island Development Authority to facilitate future development on the island.

Today, Treasure Island is home to about 2,000 residents and plays host to a small number of restaurants, wineries and recreational organizations. 


To ensure that the island remains safe for both current and future residents, and to continue this storied history into the 21st century and beyond, San Francisco Public Works, TIDA and other partners are carrying out extensive plans to accommodate for future sea level rise.

As is the case with all new development along San Francisco’s waterfront, Treasure Island is only a few feet above sea level, making it exposed to future sea level rise. To accommodate for this, TIDA has developed a multi-faceted planning and design approach for its planned development projects. 

In addition to raising the height of the development area about 2 feet from its previous level, plans call for large setbacks of about 100 to 150 feet between the development and shoreline to act as a natural buffer. The island’s perimeter, where it is most susceptible to the perils of sea level rise, will consist of parks and open space, including the Northern Shoreline Park and Wilds, a wild adaptive habitat area on the island’s northern end.

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The shoreline edge will be raised an average of 14 to 16 inches above the current water level to protect the development from tides, storm surges and waves. Based on current projections, this will limit the need for any future shoreline height adjustments over the next 40 to 50 years. Should these protective measures prove inadequate, TIDA has a long-term funding strategy for enhanced safeguards, as needed. 

While keeping water off the island is a primary goal in the long run, efforts are underway to get another kind of water onto the island. 

Before Treasure and Yerba Buena islands can welcome new residents, major improvements to its water delivery and wastewater treatment systems were warranted to support the new development. Three new water storage reservoirs recently were installed on the west side of Yerba Buena Island. These partially submerged reservoirs have a total capacity of 4.2 million gallons, which should be plenty to serve both commercial and residential tenants and provide adequate fire protection.

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Like the rest of San Francisco, the water for Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island is supplied by the City’s Hetch Hetchy system, which travels 160 miles via gravity from Yosemite in the Sierras, through the Peninsula and into San Francisco. 


The final leg of the journey takes the water through a pipe, 12 inches in diameter, that runs along the underside of the Bay Bridge, through a pumping station and into the Yerba Buena Island reservoirs. As a part of this development project, an upgraded water distribution system with all new pipes and valves will be installed to serve the new development. To round things out, there also are plans for a wastewater treatment plant on Treasure Island’s northeast side. Led by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, this project will include a water reclamation facility with capability to produce recycled water to be used for irrigation and other non-potable uses.

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Although they are each large and complex projects themselves, the geotechnical engineering, sea level rise adaptations and water delivery and wastewater systems are just a small fraction of the overall work that is planned to make this radically new vision of Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands come to life. 

Given the importance of this new development in the ongoing transformation of San Francisco, be sure to keep an eye out for more coverage of Treasure Island stories in future editions of our In the Works digital journal.

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 Tommy Lam, one of our pro power washers, scours Jack Kerouac Alley leading up to the Lunar New Year.

Chinatown Shines for the Lunar New Year

Public Works crews captured the spirit of the Year of the Ox with demonstrated diligence, dependability and determination in getting San Francisco’s historic Chinatown neighborhood spruced up for the Lunar New Year.

Leading up to the Feb. 12 holiday, our street cleaners power washed alleyways, sidewalks and public trash cans; swept up litter; wiped out graffiti tags from the City’s street fixtures and storefront rollup doors; and scrubbed the Broadway Tunnel. 


The department’s paint shop team touched up the colorful dragon lamp posts along Grant Avenue between Bush and Broadway streets, as well as the iconic Dragon Gate at Chinatown’s main southern entrance at Grant and Bush streets. In addition, street repair crews put focused attention on filling potholes to provide smooth and safe rides for people who walk, bike and drive in Chinatown and street inspectors were on hand to ensure the paths of travel remained unobstructed and safe for pedestrians during the busy holiday season. 


Dwaine Tyson, a master with the paint brush, touches up the dragon light poles in Chinatown.

Public Works conducts the special Chinatown spruce-up every year to usher in the Lunar New Year.

San Francisco’s Chinatown is the oldest Chinatown in North America and also the largest of its kind outside of Asia. And it is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in the United States. Keeping the vibrant neighborhood looking good takes extra effort. 

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Madalyn Farquhar, an inspector with our Bureau of Urban Forestry, keeps a close eye on the rolling house to make sure it doesn’t damage the street trees. 

On the Move

It’s not every day that you can watch a big house make its way down the streets of San Francisco. But that’s exactly what happened on Feb. 21, as a 139-year-old Victorian was moved from 807 Franklin St. to its new home at 635 Fulton St., about six blocks away in Hayes Valley.

On hand for the unusual event was Madalyn Farquhar, a tree inspector with the Public Works’ Bureau of Urban Forestry. Her job: Keep a close watch to make sure no street trees were damaged along the route as the historic structure inched along at 1 mph on giant dollies pulled by a truck as hundreds of onlookers lined the route.

Our role didn’t start there. It actually began weeks before the move when our arborists met with The Davey Tree Expert Co., a tree-care firm hired by the house’s owner to make sure there was proper clearance both at the straightaways and tight turns. We consulted with them on what trees needed to be pruned, and by how much, to minimize the risk of the rolling house hitting them. At its longest point, the building, known as the Englander House, is 80 feet long.


But even with the pre-planning and advance pruning, the unexpected sound of small branches cracking at some locations during the move alerted Farquhar that the house needed more room, so trees were pruned by Davey crews on the spot to allow it to squeeze by. As we always say, it’s better to have a tree pruned for clearance rather than its limb torn off by a traveling house. (OK, maybe we don’t say that all the time, given that it’s been nearly a half-century since the last time a Victorian was relocated in San Francisco.)

Several City departments, including Public Works, were involved in the move funded fully by the owner. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency took the lead, organizing and permitting the necessary street closures.

We’re happy to report that the Englander House, built with lumber from 800-year-old trees, made it safely to its new location where it will be converted into seven residential units, while the Franklin Street site that it left will sport a new eight-story apartment building with dozens of units.  

As for our treasured street trees? Despite a couple of hold-your-breath close calls, they suffered no serious damage during the extraordinary move that gave new life to a piece of San Francisco history.


 Contractor crews prune trees along the six-block moving route to keep the historic Victorian from hitting them.

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Shopkeepers and café owners along Haight Street join our Doo the Right Thing public awareness campaign. Find our posters in their windows that remind dog owners to pick up after their canine companions.

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Doo the Right Thing

San Francisco is a welcoming city for dogs, and word has it that a lot more people have been adopting canine companions since the COVID-19 shelter-in-place restrictions went into effect nearly a year ago. And with that, apparently, has come more dog droppings on the sidewalk. Picking up your dog’s waste not only is the neighborly thing to do, it’s also the law. 

Back in 1978, pioneering gay rights icon Harvey Milk sponsored San Francisco’s first pooper scooper law requiring dog owners to clean up after their pets. 

This past month, our Outreach and Enforcement (OnE) Team, has been working with businesses in the Lower Haight and Haight Ashbury neighborhoods to help remind people to pick up their dog’s poop and dispose of it properly. You’ll see our “Doo the Right Thing” posters in many store windows along Haight Street. Previously, we’ve brought the public awareness campaign to the Tenderloin and South of Market and plan to expand it to more neighborhoods in coming months.

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In celebration of Valentine's Day, we shared a presentation on our efforts to keep our City safe, clean and beautiful. Presentation topics included information about the CleanCorridorsSF program and benefits of mechanical street sweeping.

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Back in early 2016, Jumoke Akin-Taylor, a project manager in our Building Design and Construction Division, sent out a simple email to a few colleagues: “We cannot let another year go by without commemorating the great contributions of Blacks to architecture and engineering!” This email set in motion what is now, in February 2021, the 6th annual Public Works Black History Month celebration.

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, an American historian and son of enslaved parents, created Negro History Week during the second week of February – coinciding with Abraham Lincoln’s and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. The purpose of the week was to bring recognition and importance to the rich history and contributions of African Americans. In 1976, President Gerald Ford declared a national Black History Month. Most recently, Black History Month also has been called Black Futures Month to underscore that we not only need to look back at, but also think forward about the society in which we want to live.

Though we could not meet in person this year due to the pandemic, we had a month-long variety of dynamic Black History Month events that were co-led by Akin-Taylor, Althea O’Brien and Alisha Willis.

There were daily “Did You Know?” emails to staff highlighting a history of oppression and resilience and healing and discussion circles grounded in short films about American history. These events were complemented by video messages by Acting Public Works Director Alaric Degrafinried, Deputy Director for Operations DiJaida Durden and interviews with Shakirah Simley, director of the City’s Office of Racial Equity, Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton and former supervisors Sophie Maxwell and Malia Cohen, who now serve on City commissions. 

At the same time this year’s Black History Month activities were being planned, Public Works submitted its Racial Equity Action Plan. Required by all departments through legislation passed in 2019, the Action Plan seeks “to enact institutional and structural change to achieve Racial Equity.” 

The hope of the Public Works’ Black History Month Committee is that by having this annual series of events that highlight Black excellence – despite the reality of 400-plus years of structural racism – enough information and experiences will have been shared for all of us to make the connection and recognize the vital need for developing and actualizing the Racial Equity Action Plan. 

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The illegal dumping strike team, made up of Public Works street cleaners and a Recology driver, tackles a big mess on Hawes Street, a known hot spot for abandoned waste.

Illegal Dumping Cleanup Operation Ramps Up

This month, crews began targeting abandoned waste in the Bayview neighborhood’s known hotspots four days a week, Tuesday through Friday, up from the previous two-day-a-week undertaking.

The change comes as the City moves to step up enforcement against culprits who shamelessly trash our neighborhoods. 

Last year, the Board of Supervisors approved, and Mayor London Breed signed into law, Supervisor Shamann Walton’s legislation to raise the fine for illegal dumping to $1,000 for each offense. The law also gives Public Works greater enforcement authority and expands the definition of illegal dumping.

Public Works street cleaning staff has teamed up with Recology, the private refuse hauler in San Francisco that provides the large packer truck for the operation, to pick up the rubbish left behind on sidewalks, roadways and vacant public land.

While the industrial areas are favored by the offenders, the trash also is found in residential areas and along retail corridors. Among the types of illegally dumped materials: construction debris, broken furniture, worn tires, old electronics, ratty mattresses and bags of household trash.

In addition to the four-day-a-week special cleanup runs, Public Works and Recology respond to several hundred requests that come through the City’s 311 customer service center every week to remove illegal dumping from the Bayview and other District 10 neighborhoods.

Crews haul away tons of abandoned materials every year from the Bayview’s streets and sidewalls, from broken appliances and ratty mattresses to broken concrete and old shoes.

Crews haul away tens of thousands of pounds of unwanted items annually, costing millions of dollars a year. But money isn’t the only downside. Abandoned waste blights neighborhoods, attracts rats, causes environmental risks, creates fire hazards and puts pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers at risk when the unwanted goods block the street and sidewalk. Public Works is committed to deploying new strategies to tackle the problem.

Illegal dumping is not a San Francisco phenomenon. Cities and states across the nation, and countries around the world, grapple with abandoned waste. And the thing is, it can be prevented. There are plenty of ways to jettison junk without hurting our neighborhoods.

How can you get rid of unwanted items? Recology offers free bulky item curbside pickups for its residential customers. And booking a Bulky Item Recycling pickup is easy for San Francisco residents: Go to, use the Recology app or call 415-330-1300. More details can be found here. Another option is to take unwanted items to the dump. For goods in usable condition, you can recycle, sell or donate them. The San Francisco Department of Environment's Recycle Where online tool is a great resource to find out how to discard just about anything. 

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Making a Difference

Visitacion Valley


Valencia Street, Leland Avenue, Hayes Street and Ocean Avenue received a special deep cleaning this month as part of our CleanCorridorsSF operation. Every Thursday morning, we deploy a big crew to a different neighborhood in San Francisco for a major scrub-down.

The Public Works team, some 20 staffers strong, power washes and sweeps the sidewalks, digs out weeds, flushes down the roadway and removes graffiti tags. We also have graffiti inspectors on hand to work with private property owners to abate tags on their buildings.

We have more CleanCorridorsSF operations coming up in the Fillmore, the Outer Sunset and Excelsior. Find out more about the program here.



Hayes Valley

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Painter Steve Thumas touches up the station-name lettering at Forest Hill Station, formerly known as Laguna Honda Station.


Muni’s Forest Hill Station, the oldest subway station west of Chicago, has been empty of passengers since the COVID-19 health crisis forced the closure of the City’s subway for most of the past year.

During the shutdown, our Paint Shop crews have been hard at work repainting the historic landmark.


Armed with brushes, rollers and dozens of gallons of paint, our pros painted the lobby and stairwells leading down to the platforms, and now are wrapping up work on the building’s exterior. Attempting to match the existing colors as closely as possible, they’ve used such colors as “frost,” “charcoal slate,” “Sheffield gold,” “brilliant white,” “Navajo white,” “Grant beige,” and “Terrytown green.”


The massive job has involved a lot of detail work, from the ornate molding, to the station-name lettering on the facade, to the soaring wooden window frames.


“This is a special project,” said Dale Berger, a painter for the past 39 years. “There’s a lot of history here.”


Painter Dale Berger, left, poses in front of a decorative doorway element he painted. Jose Marquez, right, uses a light touch for detail work in the station’s lobby.

Forest Hill Station, originally named Laguna Honda Station, opened in 1918 as part of the Twin Peaks Tunnel. It was designed in the Classical Revival style of architecture and was designated a San Francisco landmark in 2004. 

Prior to the public health crisis, an average of 3,900 passengers boarded trains in the station every weekday. When service returns, Muni passengers will be treated to an old station looking like new.

Thanks for reading!

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