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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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February 2022

San Francisco Public Works deploys a dozen steadfast and determined street cleaners to stay hyper-focused on six challenging blocks in the Tenderloin. Their efforts are starting to make a difference.

FEATURE STORIES

Quest to Improve the Tenderloin

One block at a time. That’s the work plan for our newest operation to get the Tenderloin clean and keep it that way.

Street Tree Nursery Taking Root Near Freeway Ramps

A hardscrabble patch of land tucked between freeway ramps in San Francisco’s South of Market will be transformed into a patch of living green where young street trees will be grown to replenish our urban forest.

Volunteer to Love Our City!

Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day is Public Works’ new flagship program where volunteers pitch in to create greener and cleaner public spaces and champion community pride.

Pool Renovation a Splash Hit with Swimmers

Angelo J. Rossi Pool, an aquatic draw in the Inner Richmond for generations, reopened this month after a complete $15 million makeover.

 

This Happens After the Parade

The Chinese New Year Parade roared back to life this year. Following close behind the undulating dragon, energetic lion dancers, marching bands, martial arts demonstrations and colorfully lit floats was a well-choreographed team of Public Works street cleaners.

TLC for Bayview Gateway

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.

A Cut Above

Two glorious new murals painted on the base of the Richland Avenue Bridge bring to life the history of the Bernal Cut and showcase the good that can happen when residents, nonprofits and the government work together on neighborhood improvements.

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Corridor worker Felix Lopez cleans a Jones Street sidewalk.

Quest to Improve the Tenderloin

One block at a time.

That’s the work plan for our newest operation to get the Tenderloin clean and keep it that way. It’s still too soon to declare mission accomplished, but we are taking bold action and seeing results.

“I clean the block and sometimes 
the garbage comes right back. 

It’s getting better.” 

– Renato Bamba, a Public Works corridor worker
assigned to clean a one-block stretch of Hyde Street, between Turk and Ellis streets.

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David Alaimalo picks up a soiled shirt left behind on the sidewalk.

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Renato Bamba removes cigarette butts and bottle caps from a tree well.

“I clean the block and sometimes the garbage comes
right back. It’s getting better,” said Renato Bamba,
a Public Works corridor worker assigned to clean a one-block stretch of Hyde Street, between Turk and Ellis streets.

He’s on the job from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. While he’s responsible for one side of the street, his teammate, corridor worker David Alaimalo, tackles the other side.

 “Some people are real knuckleheads 
and throw trash down right in front of us. 
Other people are very respectful, 
and ask for bags to help out, 
and thank us for what we’re doing.” 

— David Alaimalo

"Some people are real knuckleheads and throw trash down right in front of us," said Alaimalo, "Other people are very respectful, and ask for bags to help out, and thank us for what we're doing,"

 

They are two of a dozen street cleaners deployed to stay hyper-focused on six blocks in the Tenderloin where the surge of trash keeps coming – beer bottles, soda cans, takeout food containers, plastic bags, old clothes, cardboard, used needles, empty cigarette packs, used toothbrushes, candy wrappers, spent batteries, broken tools and the ubiquitous cigarette butts.

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Jonathan Vaing supervises the Tenderloin corridor workers

“Within 5 or 10 minutes, before our guys even finish cleaning a block, you turn around and it’s bad again,” said Jonathan Vaing, an assistant superintendent of operations who oversees the specialized team.

"
 Imagine
what it would
look like
if we weren’t
out here.


"

— Jonathan Vaing

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A broom and dustpan are the go-to tools for removing litter.

Soon after he said that a woman eating a sandwich and potato chips could be seen walking about 50 feet behind one of the corridor workers as he swept up litter heading down Eddy Street. First, she tossed her sandwich wrapper on the ground, then the chip bag, leaving a mess on the sidewalk that had been cleared of litter just seconds before.

“I like the challenge of
keeping the neighborhood clean.
It’s not easy but I’m not giving up.
I was born and raised here

and take pride in my city.”

— Felix Lopez

“Right now we’re seeing who’s going to win,” said Felix Lopez, who spends his workday around Jones and Ellis streets. “The people out here on the street are starting to understand that we’re here to clean, we’re here to help.”

The hope is that the good soon will overshadow the bad. The intensive cleaning targets the same blocks where a lot of people are hanging out – some just talking with friends and neighbors in front of their residential hotels; some appear unhoused, tucked away in tents or asleep in a doorway; others can be seen openly shooting up drugs or selling stolen items, like one man who pulled from his coat pocket more than a dozen Ray-Ban sunglasses with the price tags still on and tried to sell them for $5 each to people walking by.

 

The block sweepers are part of a bigger Public Works street cleaning operation that takes place throughout the central city neighborhood around the clock. Other crews remove illegal dumping, sweep sidewalks, flush down the roads, power wash sidewalks and remove graffiti.

 

Public Works’ efforts are just one component of Mayor London Breed’s Tenderloin Emergency Initiative to address health, safety and cleanliness problems that long have plagued the Tenderloin. In addition to stepped up street cleaning, there are teams of outreach workers on the ground trying to steer people into shelter and services. There’s also a bigger police presence to crack down on drug dealing and accompanying violence.

The services component is buoyed by the City’s new Tenderloin Linkage Center at 1172 Market St. on the southern edge of the Tenderloin where people challenged by addiction and behavioral health problems can get help. Thousands of people have accessed care since it opened in mid-December. The hope is that the multi-pronged approach will improve conditions in the Tenderloin, which is home to families with young children, immigrants, workers and seniors who want and deserve a safe and clean neighborhood.

“I like the challenge of keeping the neighborhood clean,” said Lopez, one of the corridor workers. “It’s not easy but I’m not giving up. I was born and raised here and take pride in my city.

“I live in the Tenderloin.
I feel sad to see the garbage.
It’s good we’re out here.”

— Frederick Galindez

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Street Tree Nursery
Taking Root
Near Freeway Ramps

 

A hardscrabble patch of land tucked between freeway ramps in San Francisco’s South of Market will be transformed into a patch of living green where young street trees will be grown to replenish our urban forest.

The San Francisco Public Works Bureau of Urban Forestry nursery will house up to 1,000 trees at a time and bring much-needed green space and beauty to the surrounding neighborhood, which lacks trees and is burdened by the freeway’s air pollution. The trees will be cycled out when they’re mature enough and planted in neighborhoods around the City that suffer from especially low tree canopy cover.

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The nursery also will create green jobs by providing workforce training in landscape maintenance and urban forestry to those facing barriers to employment.

A robust volunteer engagement program is envisioned for the nursery that will involve the local community to assist with nursery operations while learning about urban forestry, climate protection and environmental justice.

The nursery sits adjacent to the busy freeway ramps near Fifth and Bryant streets that serve Interstate 80. Caltrans awarded a $2.4 million Clean California grant to develop the nursery.

 

The grant program aims to improve unsightly land adjacent to the state’s highways that all too often are blemished with trash and graffiti. The area around the ramps long has been a neighborhood eyesore.

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Bird's-eye view rendering of the future tree nursery site. 

In addition to state funding, the City is pumping in an additional $500,000 to get the tree nursery up and running.

The Public Works Bureau of Landscape Architecture created the conceptual design for the 14,000-square-foot parcel, which includes the tree nursery and a community garden.

Construction is set to begin this spring and wrap up in fall 2023.

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A landscape architecture rendering of the planned tree nursery.

Envision the current site transformed by a tree nursery.

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Planting trees will be the focus of the March volunteer event in celebration of Arbor Day.

Volunteer to
#LoveOurCity!

Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day is Public Works’ new flagship program where volunteers pitch in to create greener and cleaner public spaces and champion community pride.

Each month, residents, businesses, community groups, faith-based organizations and schools team up with Public Works employees to spruce up neighborhoods across the City.

Our season kickoff is on Saturday morning, March 12, at Heron’s Head Park.
To sign up to volunteer, get details and view the entire season schedule, visit www.sfpublicworks.org/loveourcity

Conceptual drawing shows new bikes lanes and safer pedestrian crossings on Sixth Street.

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The timing of the launch comes as San Francisco emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic that forced a two-year pause on large-scale group activities. 

Through this volunteer program, Public Works is addressing the pressing need to rebuild and strengthen community partnerships while affirming its commitment to the improvement and maintenance of the magical city that we call home.

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Public Works volunteer events are a great family activity.

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The word is out: Pitching in to care for our neighborhoods gets people to smile.

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The newly renovated Rossi Pool draws water fans of all ages. (Photos by James Watkins/Rec and Park.)

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Pool Renovation a Splash Hit
with Swimmers

Angelo J. Rossi Pool, an aquatic draw in the Inner Richmond for generations, reopened this month after a complete $15 million makeover.

The overhaul included a redo of the existing six-lane, 100-foot-long public pool from the ground up, replete with a new shell, deck and resurfacing. Other upgrades included remodeled locker rooms and lobby, a new roof, new windows, fresh paint, updated plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems and improved air quality and heating. The redo makes the pool accessible for people with disabilities and safer in the event of an earthquake.

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Rossi Pool, designed in the Modernist style with Art Deco elements.

The Public Works Bureau of Architecture served as design lead and retained the facility’s modernist architectural style and Art Deco elements.

Rossi Pool, built in 1956 and named after San Francisco’s 31st mayor, was designed by H.C. Baumann, an Oakland-born, San Francisco-based architect.

In addition to our architects, Public Works structural, mechanical, hydraulic and electrical engineers also worked on the project.

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Never too young to splish-splash.

The Public Works Bureau of Landscape Architecture designed the outdoor space, which includes planted landscaping and improved access paths. The upgrades also include new irrigation, resurfaced tennis courts and a renewed baseball diamond backstop.

 

The Rossi Pool project, funded through the voter-approved 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond and the City’s Open Space Fund, broke ground in September 2019. Swimmers were welcomed back this month. 

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A Rec and Park lifeguard talks with a begoggled swimmer.

Located at Arguello and Anza streets, Rossi Pool is part of the Recreation and Park Department’s portfolio of more than 220 parks, playgrounds and open spaces in San Francisco. Public Works architects, landscape architects, engineers and construction managers are involved in many of the system’s capital improvements.

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A squad of corridor workers sweeps up debris after the parade.

After the Parade,
the Street Cleaners Get to Work

The Chinese New Year Parade roared back to life in the Year of the Tiger, drawing tens of thousands of spectators.

The annual San Francisco parade, which took a one-year hiatus in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, came back in full force on Feb. 19, with the pop-pop-pop sound of firecrackers filling the air. The 1.3-mile route started at Market and Second streets in the South of Market, wound around Union Square and ended at Kearny Street and Columbus Avenue in Chinatown. A 268-foot long golden dragon led the way. 

 

Following close behind the undulating dragon, energetic lion dancers, marching bands, martial arts demonstrations, dance performances and colorfully lit floats was a well-choreographed team of Public Works street cleaners.

 

The 60-person cleanup operation began as soon as the last float took off. Our crews spent four solid hours on the ground using blowers, brooms, power washers, rakes and shovels cleaning up the litter and firecracker debris left behind by revelers. Their work was capped off by mechanical sweepers and flusher trucks.

The entire parade route was cleaned and reopened to traffic a little after midnight. It was hard to tell that earlier in the night the streets were filled with festive, cheering crowds celebrating the Chinese New Year.

 

The Year of the Tiger symbolizes strength, energy and health – all traits exhibited by our crews whose skill and dedication helped make the Feb. 19 Chinese New Year Parade a rousing success. Public Works is a proud partner of this community celebration that captures the spirit of San Francisco.

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When there’s lots of trash, rakes come in handy.

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It takes each of us to #LoveOurCity!

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The Bayview Gateway flourishes with wildflowers and greenery.

Bayview Gateway
Gets Some TLC

Last summer, the community celebrated the installation of seven giant mosaic-covered letters that spell out “BAYVIEW” on a patch of land at Third Street and Meade Avenue, providing a colorful neighborhood gateway at the southeastern edge of San Francisco. In the ensuing months, fast-growing weeds and wildflowers took over and needed to be tamed.

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Public Works landscape crews spruce up the Bayview Gateway garden.

Under crisp blue skies on Feb. 19, Public Works’ Bureau of Urban Forestry landscape crews teamed up with community volunteers for a workday to spruce up the site. The spirited group spent the morning weeding, mulching and planting, creating space for the native oaks and plants to thrive.

 

The Bayview Gateway, which we marked with a ribbon-cutting celebration in August 2021, was a collaborative effort involving the Public Works Infrastructure Division’s construction management team, Public Glass, the HOK design firm and the Bayview Hills Neighborhood Association.

 

Our landscape and community engagement teams will continue to work with neighbors on periodic cleanup and gardening activities to ensure this space remains a neighborhood gem.

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The mural comes to life beneath the Richland Avenue Bridge.

A CUT ABOVE

Every day, thousands of drivers travel through the Bernal Cut – the southern stretch of San Jose Avenue leading to and from the I-280 freeway – and pass beneath the Richland Avenue Bridge, a nearly century-old span owned by San Francisco Public Works that connects the Glen Park and College Hill neighborhoods.

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Today, those drivers, as well as pedestrians and cyclists passing by, can catch a glimpse of the area’s rich history thanks to the addition of two beautiful murals painted on the bridge’s pillars on both sides of San Jose Avenue. The murals depict the Southern Pacific Railway that once ran through the Bernal Cut and native plants and wildlife that once thrived there in abundance and now are being reintroduced.

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Native plants are showcased in the murals.

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The mural on the east side of the bridge depicts a monarch butterfly.

The Bernal Cut land is the ancestral home of the Ramaytush Ohlone.

On Saturday, February 26, Public Works had the honor of participating in a neighborhood celebration to mark completion of the murals and to laud the ongoing community stewardship of the neighborhoods bordering the Bernal Cut.

Neighbor Sophie Constantinou has been leading volunteer greening, cleaning and beautification efforts to improve the area, working in partnership with Public Works, District 8  Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Friends of the Urban Forest, TogetherSF and a band of dedicated community members. The murals are just one component of the work being done to bring positive change. Planting trees, building sidewalk gardens, removing graffiti and picking up litter are included in the mix of the ongoing Bernal Cut beautification initiative.

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Collaborations involving residents, government agencies, elected officials and nonprofit organizations are key to the successful stewardship of San Francisco neighborhoods, said Constantinou,
who lives on the east side of the Richland Avenue Bridge.

“They need us as much as we need them.”

- Sophie Constantinou

Muralists Andre Jones, Rachel Wolfe-Goldsmith and Derrick "Rtystk" Shavers of the Bay Area Mural Program, painted the murals, titled “Bridging the Bernal Cut.” The murals were funded with a City Community Challenge Grant; the College Hill Neighborhood Association signed on to maintain them.

The mural project followed our recent restoration work on the Richland Avenue Bridge that included demolishing the deteriorating old concrete guard rails and building new ones, performing spot repairs on the piers and adding new streetlights.

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The Bernal Cut land is the ancestral home of the Ramaytush Ohlone.

On Saturday, February 26, Public Works had the honor of participating in a neighborhood celebration to mark completion of the murals and to laud the ongoing community stewardship of the neighborhoods bordering the Bernal Cut.

Neighbor Sophie Constantinou has been leading volunteer greening, cleaning and beautification efforts to improve the area, working in partnership with Public Works, District 8  Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, Friends of the Urban Forest, TogetherSF and a band of dedicated community members. The murals are just one component of the work being done to bring positive change. Planting trees, building sidewalk gardens, removing graffiti and picking up litter are included in the mix of the ongoing Bernal Cut beautification initiative.

City Engineer Albert Ko thanks Bernal Cut neighbor Sophie Constantinou
at the mural celebration for her vision and hard work to improve her community.

This sign affixed to the mural tells the story behind the community-led project.

The Richland Avenue Bridge recently underwent infrastructure upgrades.

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