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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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June 2023

The 2023 American Institute of Architects Conference on Architecture came to San Francisco, shining a spotlight on our team of public architects and showcasing their consequential projects with tours, panel talks, lectures and more. Tour the highlights in this month’s issue.


Public Works Architects
Get a Moment in the Spotlight 

The 2023 AIA Conference on Architecture gave our architects at Public Works a chance to share their work with their peers from around the world.


Trees of Life

Our Neighborhood Beautification Day took on special meaning this month as San Francisco Public Works welcomed the Black Forest Project as a collaborator – forging the devastating blow of the COVID-19 pandemic into common purpose.


Elevating Safer Streets

In its bid to make City streets safer for people who walk and bike, San Francisco is raising the bar – debuting an innovative and visually compelling roadway design to slow down traffic.


Bursting with Pride

Pride 2023 festivities in San Francisco brought out hundreds of thousands of revelers, capping with the high-spirited annual parade along Market Street and our street cleaners’ blockbuster operation that followed.


Beach Brigade

Public Works crews carried out the annual Ocean Beach sand relocation operation this month with the aim to reduce the likelihood of sand buildup on the adjacent Great Highway during windy weather. 


1 Year. 500 Blocks:
Paving Goal Set

Public Works is on track to resurface an additional 500 blocks over the next year, a proactive operation to build on our work improving the condition of the City’s roads.

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AIA Conference

Jennifer Dameron, architectural associate for the Animal Care & Control center, introduced the facility's courtyard dog run

 to a tour group during the American Institute of Architects Conference on Architecture.

Public Works
Get a Moment
in the Spotlight 

If there is an equivalent to the Super Bowl for architects — an event that draws the field’s professionals from as far as Portugal, Norway and the Cayman Islands, a gathering significant enough to have former President Barack Obama headline in 2022 and former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for this year’s keynote address — it is the annual American Institute of Architects Conference on Architecture.


To have your city host the conference is an even bigger deal, and this year’s AIA conference, or A’23, took place in San Francisco June 7-10 with hundreds of workshops, tours, mixers, panels and lectures for more than 14,000 architects – from early-career newcomers to seasoned professionals.


Attendees from all over the world converged at the Moscone Center to attend opening-day events of A’23.

There were the kind of events you might expect – seminars on building for climate change or walking tours of iconic San Francisco neighborhoods – but there were also some surprises, such as a course on sustainable building with straw bale and a lecture about the legacy of architect John Marsh Davis’ beautiful wooden designs. 

This was a special week for San Francisco Public Works architects and project managers to be in the spotlight and revel in a much-anticipated opportunity to show off their remarkable civic projects and talk about the unique experiences and challenges of designing and building for the public sector. 


“The conference is a great opportunity for civic architects – whether they work for the government or private sector, locally, regionally or nationally – to get to know each other, share our work, express our visions and network with colleagues from across the country,” said Julia Laue, principal architect and bureau manager for the Bureau of Architecture. 

Public Works architects and project managers served on panels and hosted tours. Our department, home to the City Architect, has strong ties to San Francisco’s civic architecture that date back more than a century. Our team’s creations can be found across San Francisco. We design and manage City projects, big and small, from fire stations and recreation centers to neighborhood libraries and hospitals, plus the occasional restoration of historic buildings, like our majestic City Hall. 

The A’23 conference featured many projects we have had a hand in, but there were a few tours and a symposium, guided and hosted by our staff, that we wanted to highlight: 


Julia Laue, manager of the Bureau of Architecture, begins the Public Architects Symposium with a historical overview of Public Works and the Bureau of Architecture.

Public Architects Symposium

About 90 architects (and one electrical engineer) were in the audience for The Climate of Public Architecture - Expanding Equitability for Community Resilience, a symposium that examined the relationships between public facilities and the communities they are built to serve. Our architects were there to explore how issues of equity, justice and community influence design. 


Laue kicked off the symposium with the now-famous video of a cameraperson traveling down Market Street in April 1906 – just four days before the Great Earthquake and Fire – before delving into the disaster’s impact on how we think about infrastructure in San Francisco today. 

“An event so significant that it not only shaped our city for years to come but could be considered the impetus for the birth of the Bureau of Architecture,” she said. 

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The first evidence of the existence and establishment of the Bureau of Architecture can be found in the pages of our annual report from Fiscal Year 1907-08. 

The Bureau of Architecture is our full-service, in-house design firm – the only one of its kind in the United States at this level – with 69 full-time architects who provide design, construction support and site and master planning services.  


“We’re b O a, not b OF a – not to be confused with Bank of America,” Laue joked. 

The bureau’s architects work closely with client City departments and community groups to create architecture within the urban context that reflects the uniqueness of San Francisco’s neighborhoods and those who live, work and play in them. 

We also have hundreds of landscape architects, project managers and engineers who work closely with the architects on a regular basis and are crucial to bringing the City’s buildings and infrastructure to life. 


Laue spoke highly of them: “They work so hard and they’re passionate about what they do. That’s absolutely a commonality among all our staff at Public Works, whether they be engineers, architects or construction managers.” 


She took us briefly through the history of the Bureau of Architecture – which was established in 1907 – and shared some fun facts about the City’s infrastructure. Did you know that after the earthquake destroyed City Hall in 1906, Hotel Whitcomb on Market Street served as a substitute between 1912 and 1915 while a new one was being built? 


The lecture continued with a look at some of our flagship projects for the community, bolstered by beautiful architectural photos and short documentaries. Among the projects that were highlighted were the Public Safety Building, the Southeast Community Center and the City’s navigation centers that provide shelter for the unhoused. 


Laue highlighted some of our flagship projects, including the Public Safety Building, and their relationships to the communities they are meant to serve.

Currently, the bureau is working on more than 250 active projects and is responsible for a portfolio that includes projects ranging from the early 20th century, such as City Hall and the adjacent War Memorial buildings, to the more modern renovations of San Francisco’s libraries, recreation centers and police stations. 

“You only get one chance to build these buildings because they are for the public,” Laue said. “They have to last 50, 75 – sometimes 100 years.” 


After a few more presentations from other agencies and architecture firms, the day ended with a panel on our racial equity efforts. Project Manager Jumoke Akin-Taylor, Landscape Architect Julie An, Architect Matt Jasmin and Section Manager and Senior Architect Patty Solis gave the audience an overview of the department’s racial equity initiative, which began in 2019.  


Landscape Architect Julie An explains the “hammer” graphic, a visual representation of the five organizational pillars to achieve racial equity.

This initiative launched with the intention of identifying equity issues and developing an implementation plan to address them within our department and improve on how our projects and programs are delivered.  


The panel then summarized our Racial Equity Action Plan, released in January 2021, which is a synthesis of feedback gathered from our staff, through a rigorous outreach process, about their experiences and ideas on how race and racism affect them individually and our department as a whole. The plan transforms these responses into actionable items that our organization can weave into our work and policies. 

We also updated the audience on our racial equity efforts to date and gave a brief demonstration of Inspecting Our Foundation, an online, dynamic journey through our impacts, both positive and negative, on the City’s communities of color. 


Home Sweet Home - 49 South Van Ness

The first of several Public Works-led tours for A’23 took place at 49 South Van Ness Ave., the home for 10 City departments, including Public Works’ Director’s Office, building and infrastructure divisions, finance office, surveyor team and permitting bureau. The relatively new, 564,000-square-foot, 16-story building –designed by SOM and project-managed by Public Works – opened to the public in December 2021. 

It is also San Francisco's new permit center, a one-stop shop where residents and businesses can apply for construction, special events and business permits. 

Public Works managed the construction of the civic office building. 


The façade of 49 South Van Ness Ave. (photo by Jason O’Rear and SOM)

The Tour:


Project Manager Samuel Chui met the AIA tour group in the lobby where they were immediately introduced to one of the building’s most compelling artworks: a sculpture by the artist Sarah Sze that gracefully floats through the area’s open atrium.


Chui guided the tour group through the building’s 11th floor – the location of the Bureau of Architecture.


SOM Director and Design Principal Mark Schwettmann talked about the design inspiration for the building’s seam, an area of the building where all the collaborative spaces rise through the structure and evoke a feeling of connection amid the City’s inner workings.


Senior Architect and Technical Manager Vito Vanoni highlighted some of the projects in the Public Works portfolio.


Animal Care and Control Center

Attendees of the second Public Works-led tour of the week had the opportunity to explore the San Francisco Animal Care & Control center, located at 1419 Bryant St. The facility opened in March 2021, during the height of the pandemic, with an online celebration.

The 65,000-square-foot shelter was designed to allow staff and volunteers to carry out more programs and services than what the previous shelter permitted.


Additionally, in the event of an earthquake or other disaster, the new facility can remain functional and operate off the grid with water and power for at least 72 hours.


Our architects, landscape architects and engineers provided the design services, and our project management and construction management teams from the Building Design and Construction division ushered it through to completion.


An aerial view of the Animal Care & Control facility. (photo by Scott Lee)

The Tour:


One of the primary objectives for the design of the facility was to restore and preserve the building’s brick façade. The building, which once housed the Market Street Railway powerhouse, has stood since 1893 and is a registered historical landmark. 


The project’s lead architect, Patty Solis, recounted some of the decision-making behind the design of the center’s lobby, which serves prospective adopters and people coming through to volunteer, take a training class or pick up a dog license.


Jennifer Dameron, architectural associate for the project, introduced the courtyard dog run at ground level to the tour group. This space, sporting artificial turf, provides plenty of room for the shelter’s canine residents to stretch their legs, get some sun and play a game of fetch with staff and volunteers.  


Attendees were warned that the tour could take longer than scheduled – it’s difficult to get groups moving when there are cute animals to interact with! The first floor is dedicated solely to dogs because their kennels typically require the most cleaning. Another important objective for the new center was to modernize the facility to meet current animal health and welfare requirements. 


On the second floor, where felines and small animals are kept, are vibrant, colorful pieces of art by local artist Fabiana Rodriguez that depict a wide variety of species cared for at the shelter.


Members of the tour climbed the specialized dog stairs along one wall of the courtyard, which connects the facility’s three levels. Each step is only four inches high and stretches two feet deep in order to accommodate dogs of all sizes and ages.  


The group visited the roof where two more smaller animal runs are located, one for dogs and the other for smaller critters, such as guinea pigs and rabbits. The vantage point offers an aerial view of the courtyard.


Southeast Community Center

Along Evans Avenue, two full tour buses pulled up to the front entrance of the new Southeast Community Center, treating the attendees to a marvelous first impression of the building’s façade and lush gardens.

The tour group saw the 45,000-square-foot center in full use: a family enjoying pastries at the in-house café, a mother playfully chasing her baby daughter through the garden and a busy third-floor office area where several nonprofits were conducting meetings in conference rooms. The voices of children playing at the facility’s daycare center could be heard.

A team of Public Works architects, landscape architects, engineers and construction managers led the design, construction and greenspace creation of the new facility, built from the ground up for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. It opened in October 2022. 


Public Works architects and landscape architects designed the stunning Southeast Community Center.

The Tour:


“It really feels like the City built it for us,” said Southeast Community Center Executive Director Emily Rogers-Pharr. She and Deputy Executive Director Larry Berry recounted the journey the project took to become a reality. The tour group sat in a terraced area beneath a three-dimensional photo-collage mural that commemorates the community activists who fought for the original Southeast Community Center. 


“We really tried to create a sense of welcome,” said Greta Jones (right), lead architectural designer on the project, referring to a slatted canopy that shades the center’s frontside. Rogers-Pharr (left) emphasized how crucial the community was to this project.


Bureau of Landscape Architecture Manager Jennifer Cooper took the (makeshift) stage to describe the innovative rain gardens surrounding the Southeast Community Center, which were put to the test earlier this year by historic rainfall.


Tour attendees took in the powerful mural inside the 5,000-square-foot Alex Pitcher pavilion – the spacious community room named in honor of the longtime civil rights activist. Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle’s artwork, Navigating the Historical Present: Bayview-Hunters Point, was born out of a yearlong collaboration with multiple generations of Bayview–Hunters Point residents to use communal visual storytelling to reflect the community.


The center features many works from Bay Area artists, including these paintings by Ivan Lopez – among Berry’s favorites.


“I come in here to check out how the traffic is going into the East Bay sometimes,” said Berry. This third-floor conference room offers a panoramic view of the Bay and the Bayview neighborhood’s rich topography. A concrete mixing plant stands in the background. 


To cap off the tour, Rogers-Pharr and an attendee descended gleefully down a slide located on the edge of the garden.


San Francisco City Hall broke ground in 1913 and opened two years later, with a dome that is taller than that of the U.S. Capitol.

Thank you for joining us on our tours!

Learn more about our projects by checking out our portfolio

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Black Forest

Community volunteers help our Bureau of Urban Forestry crews plant trees.

Trees of Life

Our Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day took on special meaning this month as San Francisco Public Works welcomed the Black Forest Project as a collaborator – forging the devastating blow of the COVID-19 pandemic into common purpose.

Black Forest’s mission, according to its founder, Ekene Ijeoma, an artist and assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is to honor and remember Black life, using trees as the medium.


“It’s the relationship between COVID, which takes away breath, and trees, which give away breath,” he said. “Now we’re breathing new life into these communities with the trees.”


Fresh dirt goes in around the base of the newly planted tree.

The national, hands-on project set out to plant trees as a living monument and story archive for Black Americans who died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers also aim to increase stewardship for trees and raise awareness of their health and environmental benefits, among them producing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide and other harmful pollutants. 


The focus of Black Forest is on communities of color across the country, such as the Bayview and Hunters Point neighborhoods in San Francisco, which historically have had a disproportionately small number of trees. 


It was in those two neighborhoods where we partnered with Black Forest to hold our June 10 Love Our City: Neighborhood Beautification Day tree-planting event with volunteers.


Placing sturdy stakes around young trees helps keep them upright during their early years of growth.

DiJaida Durden, the Public Works deputy director for operations, kicked off the workday, telling those gathered about the late Mama Tessie Henry, a tireless fighter for improving residents’ health. Poignantly, Henry was the fourth San Franciscan known to have died of COVID, which exacted an oversized toll on the City’s Black seniors.


Nationwide, throughout much of the pandemic, COVID disproportionately infected and killed Black people, who were twice as likely to die from the virus than white people.


“As some of you remember, one of our dear fighters for environmental justice was Mama Tessie, a longtime organizer who was determined to remove the pollution-producing power plant down the road from us on Evans Avenue,” Durden said. “As a result of her success, we now breathe cleaner air. She also ensured that Black people in the community were equally treated and got jobs and resources – and some of the programs people are in today are because of Tessie.”

Last winter, Black Forest reached out to Public Works to explore bringing the project to San Francisco. In the ensuing months, our Bureau of Urban Forestry and a nonprofit partner, Friends of the Urban Forest, worked with our Community Engagement team to plan for the June 10 tree planting. The culmination was a meaningful day of community service and of bonding with residents in one of San Francisco’s districts with the smallest tree canopies.


Bayview resident Pamela Anderson holds up a photo of her niece, RN LaRoysha Jackson, who died of COVID on March 10, 2021. Anderson dedicated a newly planted young magnolia tree on Evans Avenue to Jackson.


(left to right) The Bureau of Urban Forestry’s Nicholas Crawford, Theo Haggins and Ekene Ijeoma, from the Black Forest Project, and Jon Swae, from the Bureau of Urban Forestry, tour the site of the future Public Works Street Tree Nursery near Bryant and Fifth streets.

Neighborhoods with a majority of people of color have an average of 33% less tree coverage than those that are majority white. Mirroring that trend locally, tree canopy in the Bayview, while improving, lags other more affluent neighborhoods.
By day’s end, volunteers working with Public Works landscape crews planted 28 new magnolia and Brisbane box trees – accompanied by testimonials from Black residents who lost family and friends to COVID.

The volunteers were guided by Bureau of Urban Forestry landscape crew members, including Markeisha Law, William Johnson and Vanessa Lima, who walked them through how to determine the proper tree planting depth, loosen the root ball before planting and stake, cross-brace and strap the trees for protection once they’re in the ground. 


Black Forest founder Ekene Ijeome, right, readies a site for a young tree.

“This tree represents my husband Reginald Jones who passed of COVID and cancer during the pandemic,” said Maika Pinkston, founder of the nonprofit organization From the Heart. Its mission is to provide food security, community beautification and tenant advocacy in Bayview-Hunters Point and throughout San Francisco.
She gestured to young volunteers in front of her hammering tree cross braces to stakes that will protect the young trees from strong winds and keep them upright while establishing their roots. She then placed a Black Forest sticker with a QR code on the tree’s watering bag.
People walking by the new trees planted in the Bayview will be able to scan the QR code with their smart phone cameras and be linked to the stories of African Americans who died of COVID.


Maika Pinkston prepares to place informational Black Forest stickers on tree braces. 

“All of these youth are a part of his life,” Pinkston said of her late husband Reginald. “He was a community leader in the Bayview and Hunters Point and a mentor. This means a lot to these young people and to me. This tree symbolizes life. We’re going to make sure these trees are well taken care of in our community.”
After all the shovels, brooms and hammers were packed up on Public Works trucks, Ijeoma, the founder of Black Forest, paused to reflect on the day’s accomplishments.
“We just planted 28 trees with over 60 volunteers,” he said. "It was great to see everyone coming together and seeing new trees planted. People sharing different experiences about what the trees meant to them.”


Damien Posey, (far left) founder and executive director of the nonprofit Us4UsBayArea, joins youth from his organization who attended the tree-planting event.

San Francisco was the third U.S. city to host Black Forest, following Detroit and Baltimore. Ijeoma said he plans to take the project nationwide and hopes to return to San Francisco for another planting later this year.
“To see we can come back and trace how these trees grow over time and remember our efforts, remember this day. … This will be a way that many people will be connected over time,” he said.
Durden said she hoped the June 10 tree planting was the beginning of a long, fruitful connection to Black Forest’s mission to uplift Black life through planting trees and connecting families with trees in our communities of color.
“We all deserve relief from extreme heat brought on by climate change, better air quality, peace and tranquility – and the many other benefits trees bring to San Francisco,” she said. “Month by month, with help from volunteers, we provide some of this at our Love Our City cleanup and greening events.”

Next month, the Love Our City team will be in Noe Valley, Glen Park, the Castro and other District 8 neighborhoods. You can sign up to volunteer at the July 15 event here.

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Page Street

The newly installed raised intersection at Page and Buchanan streets, the first of its kind on a San Francisco street, aims to calm traffic and elevate safety.

Safer Streets

In its bid to make City streets safer for people who walk and bike, San Francisco is raising the bar – debuting an innovative and visually compelling roadway design to slow down traffic.

As part of the Page Street Neighborway Project, Public Works – in partnership with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency – this month put the finishing touches on the City’s first decorative raised intersection on a public street.


The embossed, decorative pavement uses different colors and patterns to help slow down drivers.

Located at Page and Buchanan streets, the raised intersection is part of a slew of improvements – from bio-retention planters, also known as rain gardens, to bulb outs and sewer upgrades – along Page Street, from Buchanan to Gough streets in the Lower Haight.

Public Works designed the project and was responsible for project and construction management. The undertaking is part of the City’s broader push to eliminate traffic deaths in San Francisco, a citywide effort known as Vision Zero SF.

Page Street – a major east-west corridor, especially for bicyclists – was folded into the ongoing Slow Streets Program.

The No. 1 reason for the project was to slow down drivers along the corridor, said Arun Bhatia who managed the project for Public Works.

Though raised intersections exist in cities across the country, this project – where a roughly 7-inch elevation and a decorative pavement inlay work together to slow down motorists, keeping pedestrians and bicyclists safe – marks a first for San Francisco.

“The intersection itself has a high point in the center,” said Bhatia. “It's like a square-shaped raised platform. So basically cars, as they enter the intersection, go up and then come back down. Visually it slows people down because of different color elements, but also it has slowing features with the elevation change.”


The embossed, colored asphalt pattern that graces the intersection was custom designed. To install the decorative pattern, crews heat up the asphalt’s surface and drop wire form panels onto the warmed-up asphalt. Then they use a roller to impress a pattern into the surface.

The crews combine that technology with a colored thermoplastic layer, basically fusing a surface layer into an embossed or imprinted roadway surface “that’s very durable, lasts a long time and holds its color,” said Koa Pickering, a Public Works landscape architect who worked on the project.

The tactile nature of the embossed pattern, combined with the maroon coloring, gives drivers the perception that “there’s something different here about this intersection because the patterning on the roadway extends away from the central sort of circular design of the intersection itself, maybe 150 feet in each direction,” Pickering said.

“So the patterning is evident as one is driving, coming into the intersection, before you even really get there to the stop signs at each of the corners,” he added.

The benefits of raised intersections aren’t lost on federal transportation officials either.

“The purpose of a raised intersection is to slow vehicle traffic through the intersection and to improve safety for pedestrians,” according to the Federal Highway Administration. “It has the advantage of calming two streets at once.”

The SFMTA project is funded with developer impact fees, Prop. A vehicle registration fee funds, proceeds from the sale of Central Freeway parcels and other SFMTA revenues.

In addition to the raised intersection, another major feature of the project is its three bio-retention planters, intended to reduce the burden on the area’s combined sewer system by holding and slowing down a portion of the stormwater runoff, and decreasing the chance of localized flooding. Funding from the SFPUC, which operates the City’s sewer and water systems, is supporting the project’s green infrastructure components.


The infrastructure improvement project features bio-retention planters to manage stormwater and minimize flooding.

The planters “are designed specifically to handle the first three quarters of an inch of a rainstorm,” said Pickering. Any volume of stormwater over and above that will be handled by the existing catch basins in the roadway.

With the John Muir Elementary School nearby, the bio-retention planters could also double as an educational opportunity for kids and as a canvass for community art projects. The planter in front of Koshland Community Park at Page and Buchanan streets was designed with an inset area where ceramic tiles could be installed into the wall, Pickering said.

The bio-retention planters largely are planted with native, central coastal California plants, which are chosen specifically to be able to tolerate the periodic inundation from stormwater, as well as dry-season conditions.

“So the plants that are in the basins can handle both very wet conditions as well as drier, typical conditions that we have,” Pickering said.

Because of the roadway’s slope, the planters had to be designed into multiple sections. “You can’t just create one big planter,” Pickering said.

The planters are subdivided into segments separated by specialized walls, creating a terraced feature with water being able to enter the planter at the uphill side, directly from the gutter line at the curb.

To Bhatia the decorative raised intersection was a special project to work on.

“I've been on streetscape projects for a long time, but that's definitely the most unique thing I've ever seen being constructed,” he said.

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Pride Parade

Public Works staff, friends and family joined our contingent in the June 25 Pride Parade down Market Street.

with Pride

Pride 2023 festivities in San Francisco brought out hundreds of thousands of revelers, capping with the high-spirited annual parade along Market Street and our street cleaners’ blockbuster operation that followed.

We had more than 50 workers on the ground for the June 25 parade, cleaning each block after the floats and marchers passed by. 


After the parade, our crews use blowers to move litter off the sidewalk and into the gutter for our mechanical sweeper trucks to vacuum up.

Using brooms, rakes, pickers, blowers and steamers, they worked as a well-choregraphed team that moved the debris – from confetti and feathers to plastic bottles and strands of colorful beads – into the gutter where our mechanical sweeper trucks could vacuum it up. Our flusher trucks then came through to wash down the roadway. By dawn Monday, their work was complete.

A street cleaner wrangles colorful graffiti and other trash left behind after the parade.

The Pride Parade cleanup, which takes place on the last Sunday of June, is among the biggest one-day street cleaning operations of the year – on par with the Chinese New Year Parade, Bay to Breakers and, when all the stars align, championship parades for the Giants or Warriors. 


The team staffing the Department Operations Center for the Pride Parade, left, provides behind-the-scenes support for the massive cleanup operation; while Public Works employees gather before joining the last contingent in the parade.

And not only did Public Works clean up after the Pride Parade, but we also had a contingent in the parade, with a few of our street cleaning trucks festooned in Pride décor and our staffers, families and friends marching – and often dancing – alongside.

Team Public Works gets into the spirit of the Pride celebration, guided by the tenet, love is love.


First, we join the parade, then we clean up after it.

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Sand Relocation

Heavy machinery moves piles of sand toward the water at Ocean Beach.

Beach Brigade

Public Works crews carried out the annual Ocean Beach sand relocation operation this month with the aim to reduce the likelihood of sand buildup on the adjacent Great Highway during windy weather. 

The team used front-end loaders, backhoes and other heavy machinery to reduce the height and width of the sand dunes and move sand away from the roadway and toward the ocean – efforts that have been shown in past years to delay the natural progression of sand incursion onto the Great Highway. 

Approximately 43,000 cubic yards of sand were moved during the 2 ½-week operation that started June 14.

The sand relocation operation aims to minimize sand buildup on the adjacent Great Highway during windy weather.

Our Bureau of Building and Street Repair crews removed sand at the seawall between Noriega and Santiago streets and addressed the excessive accumulation of sand at Judah Street and other hard-hit areas. 

Sporadic closures of the Great Highway, due to the buildup of windblown sand on the roadway, normally occur every year during the winter and spring months. In recent years, however, sand buildup has significantly worsened due to climate change, drought and sustained high winds, leading to a Sisyphean battle with Mother Nature.

Our crews reposition sand only when the endangered Western Snowy Plover birds leave the beach.

Public Works has a small window to perform the annual sand redistribution work; it must be timed to make sure crews do not disturb the Western Snowy Plover, a small shorebird that is protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The plovers can be found at Ocean Beach about 10 months out of the year but take off in the spring or early summer to nest in other coastal areas and inland salt flats. Monitors with the federal Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) had confirmed that the plovers had left Ocean Beach and that it was safe to begin relocating the sand.

The work was done in coordination with the GGNRA and under a special-use permit for activities that occur on federal parklands.

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Street Resurfacing

 A Public Works inspector is on hand to make sure the roadway paving work gets done according to spec.

1 Year. 500 Blocks:
Paving Goal Set

Public Works is on track to resurface an additional 500 blocks over the next year to make the roads safer and smoother for people who drive, bike, walk and take transit.

The target number of blocks is part of the City’s successful strategy to steadily improve the condition of our streets. Over the past decade, Public Works in-house and contractor crews have resurfaced more than 7,700 blocks – or about 60% – of the City’s nearly 13,000 blocks. The effort has paid off.

San Francisco’s Pavement Condition Index score, which is tracked by the independent Metropolitan Transportation Commission, rates roads from 0 to 100, with 0 being the worst and 100 the best. In 2009, the City’s cumulative score was 63; today, it’s 74, which is considered “good.” 

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This map of San Francisco shows which blocks we plan to pave over the next year.

San Francisco’s rating is the best among large Bay Area cities and exceeds the regional score of 67, considered “fair.” Scores in the 80-89 range are considered very good. Above that is “excellent.”

The Public Works Street Resurfacing Program budget for the new fiscal year that starts July 1 totals $77.3 million and is funded with local and state money.


Among the streets eyed for paving in the coming year are Golden Gate Avenue, Junipero Serra Boulevard, Mariposa Street, Bryant Street, Shafter Avenue and Vallejo Street. The goal is to resurface 500 blocks.

When selecting the blocks, the Street Resurfacing Program Team considers a number of factors: roadway condition, use – streets with public transit and bike lanes, for example, are prioritized – and whether the paving project can be combined with other infrastructure projects, such as sewer upgrades. We also look at geographic equity to make sure the street improvements benefit all neighborhoods.

It’s no secret that San Francisco, like communities across the West, was hit hard by potholes this past winter with the incessant rains – keeping our pothole repair crews working extra shifts, seven days a week, to catch up. Roads that are in good shape to begin with reduce the chance of potholes forming, amplifying the importance of our proactive paving initiative.

Learn more about our Street Resurfacing Program by clicking here.

Thanks for reading!

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