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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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July 2022

The prototype “Salt & Pepper” public trash can on The Embarcadero is one of three commissioned designs, along with a trio of off-the-shelf models, being tested now in San Francisco. Which works best to help keep litter off the streets and sidewalks? Check them out and let us know what you think. Your input and real-life testing will help us pick the winner.


Yes We Can!

This summer, San Francisco Public Works is placing prototypes of our next-generation public trash cans on the street for real-life testing. We want your feedback!   


A Community Vision Comes to Life with New Southeast Family Health Center

San Francisco’s new state-of-the-art public health center in Bayview-Hunters Point brings expanded patient services to the historically under-resourced neighborhood through a lens of holistic care.


Students and New Grads Show Intern-est in Public Works Careers

Students and new graduates are learning firsthand from our engineers, architects, landscape architects, street inspectors, construction managers, IT staff and other experienced Public Works employees.


Love Our City

Dozens of volunteers joined with Public Works crews this month to spiff up District 2 neighborhoods for July’s Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day.


Organizational Updates Involving Public Works: New Commissions and a New Ballot Measure

The new Public Works Commission and Sanitation and Streets Commission convened this month for the first time, with a joint session held on July 28 in City Hall. 

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Trash Can Pilot

A Salt & Pepper trash can is ready for testing at The Embarcadero.

Yes We Can!

This summer, San Francisco Public Works is placing prototypes of our next-generation public trash cans on the street for real-life testing. We want your feedback!

During the approximately 60-day test period, custom and off-the-shelf models have been placed in neighborhoods around the City. Crews from our sheet metal, carpentry and tile shops and the Bureau of Street Environmental Services handled installation of the pilot project cans.


Public Works crews install the test cans in neighborhoods around the City.

 Every test can has a QR code affixed to its exterior. The QR code connects people to the online survey.


Public Works will compile these online comments, as well as feedback gathered at neighborhood meetings and events, such as farmers’ markets, street fairs and Sunday Streets. On July 23, we conducted outreach at a Chinatown community fair


and three days later we were in the Mission talking trash cans at a forum hosted by Manny’s.


Public Works then will review and assess this information and land on a final design for the new City can. After the design is set, a Request for Proposals will be developed to select the manufacturer or supplier for San Francisco’s new 3,000-plus public trash cans.

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In July, we launched a website with detailed information about the trash can design process and criteria, photos and videos of the cans, a map of prototype locations and a survey. The website and survey are in five languages.

Our ultimate goal is to roll out new trash cans that are durable, functional, cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing to help keep our sidewalks clean.


Three custom designs and three off-the-shelf models will be part of the prototype testing. There are three to five cans of each design, for a total of 26 cans. These 26 are dispersed across the City in a variety of places, including commercial corridors, intersections with a lot of foot traffic and bus stops. The newly installed cans will stay in the first wave of locations for 30 days, then be moved to 26 new sites for an additional 30 days of testing. 

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“Before we invest in more than 3,000 public trash cans, which we hope to last for years to come, we need to be sure they fit our specific San Francisco needs,” interim Public Works Director Carla Short said. “That’s why soliciting public feedback is key in our design process. We are thrilled to be able to street-test these six models to understand their functionality and durability more deeply through the eyes of our community, our Public Works staff maintaining the cans and our waste collectors servicing the cans.”

Community members have the opportunity to evaluate the cans and give input into the final selection. You can take the survey six times – one for each model test can.

The trash can pilot program is a partnership among San Francisco Public Works, the Institute for Creative Integration (ICI), an industrial design firm, and APROE, a design and fabrication outfit. Both ICI and APROE are Bay Area companies with deep knowledge in industrial design and local conditions.

Public Works contracted with ICI to research successful trash can models in terms of functionality, materiality, cost and form. With that foundation, they developed several conceptual designs from which Public Works landed on three models – Salt & Pepper, Slim Silhouette and Soft Square. 


After approval from the San Francisco Arts Commission, APROE was engaged to develop construction drawings and then fabricate the trash can concepts.

The public trash cans on City sidewalks and in public plazas serve a vital role in combatting litter. Unfortunately, many have become easy targets of scavengers, who rummage through them and leave behind a mess. The current cans were designed more than 20 years ago when street conditions were different, and our population and number of visitors were considerably lower.  

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San Francisco’s current stock of public trash cans are prone to vandalism and rummaging,

at times making it harder to keep our sidewalks clean.

Finding the right public trash can to serve our needs and address our challenges at a reasonable cost has driven this design process. Though San Francisco is not unique in our desire for a high-quality and durable public trash can, we do have specific criteria for this next generation can. All three custom cans meet the following design requirements: 


  • Rummage-resistant: The design must discourage tampering to keep the contents inside the can. 


  • Durable and easy to maintain: All aspects of the can must be made of sturdy materials that are difficult to damage or degrade. The can must be easy to clean and have graffiti-resistant coating. 


  • Tamper-proof: Locks and hinges need to be strong to keep people from breaking into the can to get the contents. 


  • Easy to service: Each can must hold a 32-gallon rolling insert that can be used seamlessly with the Recology trucks for dumping trash. 


  • Built-in capacity alerts: Each can must be outfitted with an electronic sensor that sends alerts when nearing trash capacity so it can be emptied before overflowing. 


  • Accommodate a recycling exchange: The design must include a compartment for a recycling exchange for glass bottles and cans. 


  • Aesthetically pleasing: The design must be a visual asset on the street and complement the design of the new JCDecaux public toilets (now in production), the BART canopies on Market Street and other new public amenities, like the café on Civic Center Plaza.


  • Cost effective: The target cost of the final mass-produced trash can is $2,000 - $3,000 apiece. 


Salt & Pepper
Salt & Pepper’s unique profile stands out from afar, easily distinguishable for someone looking to discard items. The silhouette denotes two separate refuse areas, with cans and bottles for redemption exchange above and regular trash below. Steel fins welded to ribs give Salt & Pepper a durable frame as well as providing visibility for security and deterrence to graffiti. The bold form also communicates the city’s efforts to usher in a new, cleaner era on the streets of San Francisco.

Slim Silhouette
Slim Silhouette’s slim side profile allows more space on the sidewalks for people to move about freely while clearly presenting discard options on the front face for trash and recycling exchange. The single-sided access and the chute-shaped trash opening make rummaging more difficult. The trash and recycling openings have a generously rounded bevel. The stainless-steel pipe construction ensures longer lasting beauty with easier cleanability and less flat surface for graffiti. 

Soft Square
Soft Square keeps an identifiable trash can silhouette while bringing the aesthetic into the 21st century. Designed as a kit of parts, Soft Square is comprised of four curved panels, an adjustable base and a domed top. Intentional gap separations between the panels allow for an elegant integration of components including the handle, foot pedal and hinge. Openings for the trash and bottles/cans are behind the front hopper door giving the design a clean appearance. The hopper design also makes it extremely difficult for over filling and rummaging. The stainless-steel construction can be customized through different perforation patterns.

The off-the-shelf models were chosen by Public Works with consideration to the design criteria, past experience on San Francisco streets and cost. The off-the-shelf cans are the BearSaver, Rin Bin and Open Wire Mesh.


The BearSaver can accommodate a custom-made vinyl graphic design on its four vertical sides. A recycling receptacle can be added to the side of the can. This can is manufactured by Securr.

Ren Bin
The Ren Bin is manufactured by Victor Stanley.

Open Wire Mesh
This can is manufactured by Global Industries.

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Health Center

The new 22,000-square-foot neighborhood health center offers more space for patient care.

A Community Vision Comes to Life with New Southeast Family
Health Center

A steady, stiff breeze whistling past him and toying with the brim of his Panama hat on a sunny, cloud-less morning this month, Oscar James looked out at the jubilant crowd gathered in front of the newly completed Southeast Family Health Center, designed and built from the ground up by Public Works.

James was one of scores of Bayview-Hunters Point residents, City officials and staff gathered at the steps of the new 22,000-square-foot neighborhood clinic at the corner of Keith Street and Bancroft Avenue. 

Seated on folding chairs and spilling over into the closed-off roadway, they came to celebrate the ribbon cutting of the new state-of-the-art facility – the culmination of decades of community activism and the start of a new chapter in community-focused healthcare for the historically under-resourced neighborhood.


Community leader Oscar James, left, joins Mayor London Breed in the ceremonial ribbon cutting to mark completion of the project.

“This property is dear to us in the community,” James, a longtime champion of the Bayview-Hunters Point community, told attendees. 

Dating back to the 1960s, Bayview-Hunters Point activists rallied to participate in new federal programs, intent on improving the health and welfare of their community. Those efforts led to federal funding to develop outpatient services and eventually build the original Southeast Health Center.

The original health center – located next to the new clinic – still functions as a healthcare hub, especially for vulnerable community members, but an upgrade was needed to serve the community more holistically and keep up with demand.

With community partnership and activism as a foundation, along with funding from the voter-approved 2016 Public Health and Safety Bond, Public Works jumped into action, spearheading the design, project management and construction management of the new facility on behalf of the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Our team included architects, engineers and project and construction managers. The new health center was built to become a LEED Gold-certified building, equipped with 24 electric vehicle charging stations for staff and solar panels on the roof.


A crowd starts to gather for the grand opening event celebrating the Southeast Family Health Center.

“From the drawing board to the work on site, our design, project management and construction management teams helped make this important project come to life, creating spaces that bring people together and express a community's vision for itself,” interim Public Works Director Carla Short told the crowd at the ribbon cutting.

The $39.5 million project broke ground in June 2020 during the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. The San Francisco Department of Public Health will operate the clinic, which is expected to open its doors to patients later this month.

At two stories tall, the building includes 21 patient rooms, a laboratory, space for podiatry and optometry exams and a large multi-purpose room. Crucially, the facility also will be able to provide X-ray services to patients. With a robust offering of resources and expanded capacity, the brand-new facility will help keep Bayview-Hunters Point residents healthy, providing quality care for families and individuals and delivering services to where people live.

Click on an image to launch a slideshow showcasing some features of the new public health clinic.

“The physical spaces where we deliver care really matter – the quality of the building, the artwork on the walls, the designs and layout,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, the City’s director of health. “These all contribute to long-term health.” 

The building’s design prioritizes natural light and takes advantage of it. The clinic’s glass façade is meant to be welcoming and evoke a sense that the building is always open and available to the community. Its roof-mounted solar panels, meanwhile, help the facility achieve reduced emissions, at times even producing excess power that can be delivered back to the grid.

The clinic’s steel frame is designed per modern building codes for earthquake safety, ensuring that it is built to last and provides a high level of life safety for occupants during a major earthquake.

More than 40 contractors collaborated on the project and much of the labor came from local residents. The main contractor on the project was CLW Builders Inc., a certified Local Business Enterprise.

A trio of San Francisco artists enriched the interior with artwork that celebrates the African American community’s historic role in establishing the original Southeast Health Center. 


Artist Ramekon O’Arwisters’ tapestry sculpture adorns the lobby.

The new center features a tapestry sculpture in the first-floor lobby by Ramekon O’Arwisters. It highlights the important role of folk art weaving traditions within African American culture and the power of art to heal, support and unite the community in times of need and adversity.

The second-floor waiting room features acid-etched glass with a printed interlayer of medicinal and decorative plants from Africa by Ron Moultrie Saunders, a longtime resident of Bayview-Hunters Point.


History of Bayview-Hunters Point community activism is told through artistic quilts.

Finally, four community history quilts by artist William Rhodes line the first-floor corridor and entry into the community/multi-purpose room. The handmade quilts highlight the powerful legacy of community organizing and activism in Bayview-Hunters Point.

“We know that community is so important,” Mayor London Breed told those assembled. “And this new health facility is really about community.”

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A group of interns tours Treasure Island, site of a major development project in the middle of the Bay.

Students and New Grads Show Intern-est in Public Works Careers

Jon Gausman, who grew up in San Francisco, found himself building water wells during a service trip to Haiti a decade ago – an experience that prompted him to study hydraulic engineering in college and eventually pursue a career in the field. 

Today, the recent Cal Poly grad is one of 72 participants in this year’s summer internship program at Public Works where he gets to work alongside seasoned pros on projects to improve the City’s water and sewage infrastructure.

The students and new graduates are learning firsthand from our engineers, architects, landscape architects, street inspectors, construction managers, IT staff and other experienced Public Works employees. The internships are far different from listening to lectures in a classroom or reading a textbook; Public Works strives to provide all its interns the opportunity to perform work that provides real, professional-level experience and builds industry-specific skills. 

Being entrusted with such tasks as analyzing permit applications, assisting in the design of  public buildings and infrastructure and managing large construction projects not only helps interns feel more engaged with their work but also prepares them for a future in public service. 

Another Public Works intern is Johanna Roth, who was raised in both Germany and Seattle and is currently a graduate student at UC Berkeley studying city planning and public health.

Although she has lived in some of the “greenest” cities in the United States and Europe, she feels as though there’s a lot more that can be done to promote environmental sustainability, which is why she sought out an internship with our Bureau of Urban Forestry.


The trainees check out the Public Works Materials Testing Lab.

This summer, Roth has been working on the street tree nursery project, which will transform a barren, underutilized plot of land on Fifth Street, sandwiched between two freeway ramps, into a vibrant, 1,000-tree nursery where Public Works will grow future generations of the City’s street trees. 

Roth is excited to help deliver a project that will provide a much-needed pop of green to the South of Market neighborhood, which has among the lowest street tree canopy coverage of any neighborhood in the City.

In just a few short months with Public Works, Roth has become deeply involved in this project, taking part in the planning of its workforce development and public art elements. She attributes the ease of this transition both to her passion for the work she’s performing as well as her managers’ willingness to assign her complex and meaningful projects from the get-go.

After two years of predominantly hosting interns remotely due to the COVID-19 restrictions, Public Works’ internship program is back in full swing this summer. The reboot would not be possible without the efforts of Public Works’ Internship Coordinator Nosakhare Ikponmwonba and our human resources team. They work year-round to attract hundreds of students from around the country to apply for a Public Works internship. 

To reach as many students as possible in a world of hybrid schedules and Zoom meetings, Ikponmwonba has gotten creative in his recruitment approach, sending out email blasts, tapping into his extensive contact list and holding informational sessions with student groups and honors societies from dozens of universities.


Part of the intern experience is to tour projects under construction to learn what it takes to get them built.  

As part of Public Works’ mission to cultivate a diverse and inclusive workforce, we conduct additional outreach to students from demographic groups that are under-represented in their fields by connecting with groups like the National Association of Minority Architects and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.

These efforts certainly have paid off this year, as we’ve attracted a large and diverse cohort of bright and passionate young people, all united by their interest in serving the people of San Francisco. It’s no surprise, then, that we attract a fair number of interns who are San Francisco and Bay Area natives. 

Take Kendy Mejia Oyuela, an intern with our Bureau of Architecture, for instance. Her upbringing in San Francisco has inspired her to pursue a career in which she can help design buildings and infrastructure that provide housing, resources and other types of care for the City’s disadvantaged communities. 

Moises Vertiz, who hails from Tracy but has lived in the Bay Area for a few years while studying at Las Positas College and San Jose State University, feels a slightly different but still compelling connection to San Francisco. He grew up loving and regularly visiting San Francisco with his family, but he has gotten to know the City on a much deeper level through his internship with the Public Works construction management team. 


Interns and Public Works professionals collaborate on project

development at our 49 South Van Ness Ave. offices.

Similar to his new colleague Oyuela, Vertiz is most interested in projects where he can help improve the lives and surroundings of lower-income residents. This summer, he has the opportunity to do just that, helping manage construction on the Potrero HOPE Phase 2 project, which will replace an old and outdated building of 619 affordable units with 1,700 new residences, of which 819 will be sold below-market rate.


But it’s not just people with deep local ties who are drawn to Public Works. We also have folks like Linh Dan Do, a South Florida native who is a rising senior at Stanford University and is working with the Bureau of Street-use and Mapping this summer. Do’s role at Public Works includes processing, analyzing and responding to permit applications for outdoor dining structures as a part of the City’s Shared Spaces program that allows businesses to operate in outdoor spaces, such as sidewalks and curb lanes. She enjoys and finds a lot of value in this work because of the positive impacts the program has had, keeping small businesses afloat and bringing new life to neighborhoods hit hard by the pandemic.

Each permit application poses a unique challenge for Do and her colleagues, however, as San Francisco’s density and topography make no two situations the same. This summer, Do has enjoyed and even welcomed this challenge, as it has helped her become better acquainted with the City’s many quirks and has improved her analytical skills in the process.

We are very excited to be hosting this very talented and driven group of interns this summer, and we hope to see many of them back working for the City once they’ve completed their educational journeys. With their inquisitive nature, desire to provide top-tier services to the people of San Francisco and the professional skills they’re learning as interns, they’ve got a great head start if they choose to go into public service.

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Love Our City

Volunteers and Public Works crews at work weeding and pruning the Lombard Street median.

Love Our City: Pitch In to Improve Our Neighborhoods

Dozens of volunteers joined with Public Works crews this month to spiff up the Marina District, Laurel Heights and other District 2 neighborhoods by weeding and mulching overgrown medians, putting fresh coats of paint on scruffy street furniture, wiping out graffiti tags and picking up litter for July’s Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day.

The July 9 event kicked off at Galileo Academy of Science & Technology with a brief speaking program before volunteers and our crews headed to different project sites.


Neighborhood Beautification Day participants are all smiles – even behind their masks – at the end of their shift.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, our monthly volunteer workday heads to the Haight, Western Addition, Japantown, Hayes Valley and adjoining neighborhoods in District 5. We welcome folks young, old and ages in between to join in the upkeep and beautification of our neighborhoods. The work is always rewarding and more often than not also is fun.


The grounds around Galileo Academy of Science & Technology get a fresh layer of woodchips.

The 9 a.m. kickoff will be held at Rosa Parks Elementary School (find us on the school blacktop on the Buchanan Street side of the campus, north of Eddy Street). Registration starts a half hour earlier. Click on this link to sign up, or visit

We hope to see you there!

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Commissioners for Public Works and the new Sanitation and Streets department convene for their inaugural meeting.

Organizational Updates
Involving Public Works: 
New Commissions and
a New Ballot Measure

The new Public Works Commission and Sanitation and Streets Commission convened this month for the first time, with a joint session held on July 28 in City Hall. 

The Public Works Commission is the oversight body for San Francisco Public Works. Created by Proposition B on the November 2020 ballot, the commission sets policy directives and is responsible for overseeing department performance, approving contracts, reviewing contract performance and assessing the department’s performance when it comes to designating and filling staff positions. Commission meetings are also a forum for the public to hear about and comment on the department’s business. 


Left - The first commission agenda hangs outside the meeting room. Right - Public Works Commission Secretary Robert Fuller leads the commission meeting remotely.

The Sanitation and Streets Commission is the oversight body for the new Department of Sanitation and Streets, a spinoff that encompasses the operations side of Public Works, which includes street cleaning, urban forestry and street and building repair. The new department is set to launch on Oct. 1. Among the commission’s duties: review and evaluate data regarding street and sidewalk conditions; set baselines for services; and establish minimum standards of cleanliness for the public right of way.

The commissions’ initial meetings are informational in nature, aimed to inform commissioners of their roles and responsibilities and provide them with broad overviews of the departments. Commissioners will go on site visits and tour projects to get a fuller understanding of the vast portfolio of each department.

For each commission, the Mayor appoints two members, the Board of Supervisors appoints two members and the City Controller appoints one. Serving on the Sanitation and Streets Commission are Thomas Harrison, Kimberlee Hartwig-Schulman, Ike Kwon, Maryo Mogannam and Chris Simi. Serving on the Public Works Commission are Lauren Post, Lynne Newhouse Segal, Paul Woolford and Fady Zoubi, with one seat now vacant.

More information on the commissions can be found at

Meanwhile, the Board of Supervisors, on an 8-3 vote July 19, approved a proposed charter amendment for the November ballot that involves Public Works. If the ballot measure is adopted by voters, it would amend parts of Proposition B and fold the two departments back into one. 

The new ballot measure would eliminate the Department of Sanitation and Streets on Jan. 1, 2023, and transfer its functions back to Public Works.

However, like under Proposition B, Public Works would continue to be governed by two commissions. Should voters approve the new charter amendment, the commission members now serving can continue to serve their current terms. 

The Public Works Commission would have oversight over the entire department, approve contracts, review staffing and make recommendations to the mayor regarding the appointment or removal of the department head. The Sanitation and Streets Commission would have authority to set policy pertaining to sanitation standards and protocols and maintenance of the public right of way. It also would establish minimum standards of street cleanliness. 

Until voters weigh in, the director of Public Works will oversee both departments.

More detailed information on the proposed charter amendment is linked here


Proposition B Project Director and commission meeting facilitator Rachel Alonso bangs the gavel to end the meeting.

Thanks for reading!

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