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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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January 2021

San Francisco’s seventh Navigation Center opened this month in the Bayview, providing a safe, healthy and welcoming shelter for people who had been living in encampments. See story inside.

STORIES

Building Hope

San Francisco’s seventh Navigation Center opened this month in the Bayview, providing a safe, healthy and welcoming shelter for people who had been living in encampments.

Investment in Roadway Improvements Pays Off

The City’s roadway condition score hit its 10-year goal, demonstrating the benefits of a systematically planned and executed public infrastructure investment strategy to improve the City's streets.

A Little Extra TLC

Makes a Big Difference

Four more neighborhoods got the deep-cleaning treatment this month as part of our CleanCorridorsSF operation. 

Tackling a Mess

from Above and Below

One of the trickier areas in San Francisco to clean up is the Grand View Avenue hillside on the edge of Noe Valley, which often gets littered with trash from above and below. 

The Plain Truth About London Plane Trees

In order to maintain the lush, seasonal canopies of London planes on California Street, our Bureau of Urban Forestry team used a special pruning technique.

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Our cases are declining and we are starting to reopen outdoor eating and personal services. Please continue to be vigilant: mask up, don't gather and practice good hygiene. Learn about what to expect when you go shopping, get services, or visit public places here.

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BuildinG

Hope

San Francisco’s seventh Navigation Center opened this month in the Bayview, providing a safe, healthy and welcoming shelter for people who had been living in encampments.

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The pre-engineered sheet metal structure – a first in the Navigation Center roster – was delivered in pieces and assembled on site. The 45,000-square-foot parcel, owned by the state Department of Transportation, is being leased by the City to shelter the unhoused.  The land last served as a parking lot.

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Located at 1925 Evans Ave., the new Navigation Center includes four dormitories, an inviting landscaped courtyard with colorful furniture and strings of overhead lights...

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...indoor dining areas, community rooms and restrooms with showers.

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The beds are elevated so people can tuck their belongings underneath, and higher dividers between beds are in place to give people more privacy – two added improvements based on feedback from guests in some of the first Navigation Centers that came online.

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The shelter opened Jan. 25 with a limited capacity of 116 beds but will accommodate up to 203 beds once COVID-19 safety and social distancing restrictions are eased. Post-pandemic, one of the dorms will be reserved for families.

There also is a designated pet relief area for the guests’ canine companions and storage containers for extra possessions that people brought along with them. The idea behind the design and amenities is to provide a hospitable place where people want to be as they navigate off the streets and into a more stable living situation.

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San Francisco Public Works was instrumental in getting the project built. Our architects, landscape architects and engineers developed the conceptual design and we provided both project and construction management services. Our permits, site remediation and regulatory affairs teams worked on the project. Our operations crews also pitched in, cleaning up a mess on the neighboring property that was impacting the project.

Construction began in June 2020 and wrapped up this month, a remarkable feat given the complexity of the job and the added challenges working during a public health crisis. But comprehensive pre-planning, strong partnering between the City and the general contractor, Pankow, and the use of 3-D modeling and construction robots in collaboration with local trades unions contributed to the speedy delivery. 
 

Several local companies worked on the project. They performed painting work, janitorial services, traffic control and more. A job-readiness training program to expose people to careers in construction also was set up for interested residents in the Bayview and surrounding neighborhoods. 


The City’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing oversees the City’s network of Navigation Centers, the first of which opened nearly six years ago in the Mission District. At the newest Bayview location, the nonprofit service provider, Bayview Hunters Point Foundation for Community Improvement, is on board to help operate the facility. Guests can access on-site case management, social services, health wellness checks and exit planning, with the aim of moving people into more permanent supportive housing. Groups activities also will be offered, including those specially designed for children and families.

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San Francisco’s Investment in Roadway Improvements Pays Off

The City’s regionally tracked roadway condition score hit its 10-year goal, demonstrating the benefits of a systematically planned and executed public infrastructure investment strategy to improve the streets of San Francisco.

The Pavement Condition Index, or PCI, is tracked by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional transportation planning and funding agency that monitors the condition of Bay Area roads. San Francisco’s PCI score for 2020 hit 75 out of 100, exceeding the region-wide average of 67. A PCI score of 75 puts the roads collectively in “good” condition, requiring mostly preventative maintenance. A score of 100 is assigned to a newly paved road.

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In 2011, after years of deferred maintenance of San Francisco’s street infrastructure due to declining funding, voters approved the $248 million Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond – jumpstarting a 10-year investment strategy to increase the PCI from 64 to 75. Additional support for road resurfacing has come from the City’s General Fund, the vehicle registration fee and the half-cent transportation sales tax to build on the progress. The City spent approximately $650 million over the past 10 years, delivering the promised street improvements on time and on budget.


Last fall, San Francisco voters approved the Health and Recovery General Obligation Bond, which will bring an additional $31.5 million to help augment the Public Works Street Resurfacing Program budget.

Public Works maintains more than 900 miles of streets comprising some 12,900 blocks. Well-maintained streets provide safe mobility for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians and make possible the movement of goods and services. Since 2011, 600 blocks have been resurfaced on average each year.


San Francisco’s streets are critical infrastructure, used by just about everybody, every day. A decade ago, we set a PCI target of 75 to get the roads in good condition, and we reached that goal through sound planning, design and delivery. The 10-year investment paid off and now we must keep the momentum going.
The PCI assessment is based on visual surveys performed by specially trained and certified staff. Each segment is evaluated based on ride quality, cracking and signs that the roadway may be breaking up in places.


The Street Resurfacing Program, run out of our Infrastructure Design and Construction Division, is guided by a geographical equity lens. That ensures street improvements occur in all of San Francisco’s neighborhoods. Public Works evaluates the impacts of wear, erosion and aging of each street, and assesses street deterioration with a rating for each of the City’s blocks. Currently, nearly two-thirds of San Francisco blocks have a rating of good or excellent. For more information, refer to our Street Resurfacing Program.


Public Works’ pavement strategy adheres to best industry practices by preserving streets in good condition instead of letting them deteriorate. This approach is the most cost-efficient and effective.  


We rely both on Public Works’ Bureau of Street and Sewer Repair crews and contractors to repave the City’s roads. Typically, we choose from three street resurfacing methods. For streets that only need minor, preventative maintenance, we apply microsurfacing treatment directly to the existing asphalt surface. This treatment, which is a solution made of liquid-oil and crushed rock, protects the surface from weather damage and natural aging, while sealing the surface off from moisture. These benefits can last up to seven years before microsurfacing treatment needs to be re-applied.  


For roads with more significant damage, we use the grind-and-pave treatment. This is when we grind down the top two inches of the existing, damaged asphalt, keeping the concrete base below intact, and replace it with two inches of new asphalt. In the most serious cases, where both the road’s surface and its base are in immediate need of repair, we perform a full street reconstruction. 
Extending the life of a block in San Francisco that is in good condition costs approximately $50,000. By comparison, the cost to completely reconstruct a block in very poor condition can run as high as $500,000. Our ultimate goal is to maximize the number of streets that we can improve each year given budgetary constraints.


All our paving projects, from microsurfacing to complete reconstructions, include the installation of ADA-compliant curb ramps to make our streets safer and accessible for everyone.

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Map of San Francisco with streets colored by PCI score (December 2020).

Green = good, yellow = average and red = needs improvement.

A Little Extra TLC Makes

a Big Difference

Four more neighborhoods got the deep-cleaning treatment this month as part of our CleanCorridorsSF operation. The coterie of street cleaners targets a

different stretch of San Francisco every Thursday morning to power wash and sweep the sidewalks, dig out weeds, flush down the roadway and remove graffiti tags – making a noticeable difference in the cleanliness of the area.


The work regularly draws nods of appreciation from passing shopkeepers and residents, happy to see the coordinated detail work that relies on the deployment of extra crews to get the job done.


This month, we were on Clement Street from Fourth to Ninth avenues; Geneva Avenue from Mission to Edinburg streets; Folsom Street from Sixth to 10th streets; and Valencia Street from 16th to 21st streets. 


Find out more about CleanCorridorsSF here.

Click on the gallery!

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Our street cleaning crews were on the job hauling out debris from an old encampment on the Grand View hillside.

Tackling a Mess from Above and Below

One of the trickier areas in San Francisco to clean up is the Grand View Avenue hillside on the edge of Noe Valley.

Tucked beneath the Market Street roadway, the slope gets littered with trash from above and below. On Jan. 7, Public Works crews removed a huge amount of debris from the open space.

 

Public Works’ arborists, fastened by rope to a railing, climbed down the steep slope from Market Street and placed the garbage into a cargo net, which a crane then hoisted up.

 

As they worked above, our street cleaning crews also were on the job hauling out debris from an old encampment on the Grand View hillside below.

 

In all, our workers pulled out 4,580 pounds of rubbish during the operation.

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Left: Crews go deeper into some tight spots to pull out debris on the Grand View hillside.

Right: Arborists, fastened by rope to a railing, climbed down the steep slope and placed the garbage into a cargo net, which a crane then hoisted up.

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The Plain Truth About London Plane Trees

Anyone who walks along California Street will notice the rows of majestic Platanus x hispanica, more commonly known as London plane trees.

Approximately 580 London planes line California Street from Stockton Street in Chinatown to 32nd Avenue in the Richmond. In order to maintain their lush, seasonal canopies, this tree species got some needed maintenance this month from our Bureau of Urban Forestry team.

 

London plane trees are deciduous broad-leafed trees with some of the most aesthetically pleasing canopies in San Francisco. For decades, the London planes on California Street have been maintained by a specialized type of tree pruning known as pollarding. Pollarding is a pruning technique that involves cutting branches back to remove all sprouts down to the main stem or trunk, resulting in branch ends that resemble “knuckles” or “knobs.” This type of pruning looks drastic, as if the trees have been over-pruned. But the trees will sprout robustly after pruning to bring on a new thick crown of growth soon after.

 

Pollarding only can be performed on certain species of trees that will create the necessary knuckles to help prevent decay from forming in the tree. This specialized pruning must be started when the trees are young to establish the knuckles, and then performed regularly every few years to prevent the sprouts from breaking off the tree.

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Unlike the more traditional and straight-forward maintenance needs of other street trees, additional thought and planning go into pollarding to get it right.

 

During this current pollarding cycle, Public Works Bureau Urban Forestry Inspector Sara Stacy first evaluated all the London plane trees on California Street. She organized each tree in an appropriate tier of pruning based on the optimal pruning cuts required to best manage the size of the trees as they regrow healthily and vigorously into the spring and summer. The amount and location of branch pruning vary depending on the needs of each tree. For example, some trees received a second round of pruning, which will form a second set of knuckles to give the tree more canopy and airflow as it regrows.

 

Next, we brought aboard a contractor, West Coast Arborist, to complete most of the work. Public Works Bureau of Urban Forestry Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Crawford and Urban Forestry Inspector Madalyn Farquhar joined the contractor on the first day of the operation to review the pruning plan. Our own Public Works crews, led by Jason Thurm, the tree crew supervisor, will finish the job by pruning the most challenging of these trees to establish the best possible structure and make future pruning easier and the tree canopies healthier.

 

Pollarding only should be performed during the fall-winter dormant season when the tree loses all of its foliage. Then the tree can re-sprout in the spring to produce the energy it needs to thrive. So, while the recent rains may have made the job a little more challenging, they didn’t stop the crews from getting to work.

 

The pollarding of California Street’s 580 trees takes three to four weeks to complete, and the same work will happen every two to three years to manage the growth of these treasured trees – part of our vital urban forest with more than 125,000 street trees. You can learn more about our StreetTreeSF tree-care program here.

Thanks for reading!