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A Digital Journal - San Francisco Public Works

In the Works

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September 2021

A well-choregraphed crew of skilled Public Works street cleaners perform a deep–cleaning blitz in a different commercial corridor every week to improve the look and feel of the neighborhood and boost civic pride. Find out how it's done.

FEATURE STORIES

A Street Cleaning
Blockbuster

The CleanCorridorsSF team scours sidewalks, power washes trash cans, flushes down the roadway, removes weeds, sweeps up litter and leaves and wipes out graffiti, with a laser-focused mission to improve our diverse neighborhood commercial corridors.

The Juri is In:
This Reimagined Park Rocks!

A time-worn ribbon of a park created along an old railroad right of way has been transformed into a welcoming public space for kids, grownups and dogs to enjoy.

Snapshots LIVE!
Designing Better Streets

 

Earlier this month, as part of our Snapshots LIVE! webinar series, we invited three panelists to speak about the streetscape projects they’ve worked on.

Joint Effort to Fix Failing Joints

The Public Works structural engineering and building trades teams collaborated this month to make emergency repairs to the deteriorating façade of the historic Market Street Railway substation in the Fillmore District.

Jerry Garcia Amphitheater 
Keeps on Truckin'

One of San Francisco’s amazing green spaces, McLaren Park, is home to a cozy outdoor concert space – the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. 

Grab a Broom and a Picker
and #LoveOurCity 

 

The Coastal Cleanup Day and College Hill cleanup events were just two of more than 200 that our Community Engagement Team has been involved in since the start of the year.

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A Street Cleaning Blockbuster

CleanCorridorsSF began as a pilot project last year, allowing Public Works to deploy a coordinated squadron of 15-20 workers to a different commercial corridor every week to perform a deep clean — scouring sidewalks, power washing trash cans, flushing down the roadway, removing weeds, sweeping up litter and leaves and wiping out graffiti — a well-choreographed street cleaning blitz that improves the look and feel of San Francisco neighborhoods. 

When the proactive program first began, crews spent four hours on Thursday mornings focused on a five-block stretch. Today, thanks to an infusion of funding from Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors, crews spend eight hours every Thursday tackling 10 blocks – double the initial reach.


The targeted neighborhoods rotate among San Francisco’s 11 supervisors’ districts to ensure geographic equity in our diverse city. Take a look at the full schedule.


Public Works has a workforce of approximately 400 street cleaners responding to roughly 15,000 service requests every month that filter through the 311 customer service center. But CleanCorridorsSF allows our cleaning pros to go above and beyond the routine of our 24/7 operation and give our neighborhood commercial areas extra attention.

 Darryl Dilworth, an assistant superintendent of the Public Works Bureau of Street Environmental Services, says CleanCorridorsSF improves San Francisco neighborhoods and lets people see “Public Works at its best and their tax dollars at work." Hear what else he has to say by clicking on the video.

The Sweepers

Ask any street sweeper in San Francisco and they’ll tell you that the most difficult type of litter to remove from the City’s sidewalks is a cigarette butt. While many can be swept up by a broom, there are lots more stubborn ones that get caught in the cross lines separating the sidewalk squares. 

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Corridor worker Felipe Preciado.

"Treat your neighborhood like your house. You wouldn't throw the garbage on your floor, right? So, treat it like your house. It's just common courtesy." – Felipe Preciado

They have to be picked up one by one, either by a picker tool or by hand — a labor-intensive endeavor that could be avoided if people who smoke took more care and properly disposed of the environmentally harmful butts in the first place. Other common types of litter include fast-food containers and wrappers, pages from newspapers and, more recently, disposable masks. Fallen leaves from the City’s deciduous street trees need to be swept up, as well.

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Felipe Preciado spends most of his workday picking up litter, like here at a bus stop at Mission Street and Geneva Avenue.

While property owners and ground-floor businesses are responsible for the upkeep of their fronting sidewalk, which includes removing litter and leaves, Public Works has some 130 people on staff whose primary job is to manually sweep blocks in business districts with heavy foot traffic. About a half-dozen of those workers are specially deployed each week to help out with the CleanCorridorsSF operation.

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Corridor worker Damien Mouton.

"I love San Francisco. I was born and raised here and now I feel like I'm really giving back."

–  Damien Mouton

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Damien Mouton sweeps up dirt dumped on a Mission Street sidewalk.

We also run mechanical sweeper trucks that remove leaves and rubbish from the curb lane as part of CleanCorridorsSF. The trucks, equipped with rotating brooms and vacuums, are an important component of our street cleaning efforts year-round. Collectively, they cover more than 150,000 curb miles annually, removing 25,000 tons of debris from City streets. That helps keep storm drains free of debris, minimizing localized flooding when it rains.

The Washers

Trucks

Public Works operates four flusher trucks that are used to wash down the roadway. Each holds about 3,600 gallons of water — much of it recycled — that is sprayed across the asphalt at ground level. Some high-use streets, such as Market and Mission, get flushed with water every night; others on an as-needed basis. However, the flushers always are utilized for CleanCorridorsSF.

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Sherman Hill drives a flusher truck that sprays water on the roadway to clean from curb to curb.

Mission Street gets a wash down.

Power Washers

Power washing and steam cleaning are two different methods we use to scour away grime. Power washing, usually used in combination with detergent, delivers a concentrated stream of high-velocity water, applying force and moisture to loosen and remove the most persistent dirt. Steam cleaning machines heat water past the boiling point, allowing the operator to focus a jet of steam on whatever surface needs to be cleaned. Steam is an incredibly effective sanitizer, with the extreme heat killing nearly all organic waste and bacteria left behind by humans, dogs, pigeons and other critters. The CleanCorridorsSF team will power wash or steam sidewalks throughout the work zone, but concentrate their focus on curb ramps, trash cans and bus stops. 

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Guo Shen Tan uses H2O to scour dirty sidewalks.

A Paint in the Butt

Whether left on purpose or spilled by accident, our cleaning crews regularly come across substances on the streets and sidewalks that are unsanitary, ugly or both. And sometimes it takes a variety of cleaning techniques to clean up the mess. For example, during a recent CleanCorridorsSF event on Mission Street in the Excelsior, a gallon or two of white paint hardened on the sidewalk. A worker first used his might to chip away at it with a shovel. That was followed by sweeping and power washing. The result? A sidewalk that looked almost new again. 

The Graffiti Busters

Armed with paint, brushes, rollers, solvents and scrapers, our graffiti abatement team has no shortage of work. Vandals tag parking meters, trash cans, public benches, parking signs, retaining walls, boulders, granite curbs, utility boxes, buildings and even street trees — any surface, really, that can be marred by paint, stickers, markers and etching tools. 

The Painters

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Yizheng Yu wipes out tags on a utility pole. Next up? The traffic sign. Both are favorite targets of graffiti vandals.

It’s a multi-million-dollar problem in San Francisco. During the last fiscal year, our graffiti busters removed 49,000-plus tags in the public right of way — 13,000 more than the year before. Property owners largely are responsible for removing graffiti from private property, but we provide courtesy abatement in hard-hit areas. For instance, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when many businesses were shuttered, the amount of tagging mushroomed. We conducted specialized early-morning operations in Chinatown, the Mission, the Tenderloin and the Haight to paint over graffiti on the rollup doors protecting storefronts from break-ins. We also remove small tags on storefronts as part of CleanCorridorsSF.

A Hero

Working on the streets of San Francisco provides a never-ending opportunity for the unexpected. One minute you can be dealing with graffiti tags during a CleanCorridorsSF operation, the next you can be saving a life. Both have the same foundation: responsiveness — one of our core values at Public Works. Kevin Funes, a supervisor with our graffiti abatement team embodies that spirit.

In the Weeds

Normally, our hard-working street cleaners don’t have the bandwidth for detail work, such as digging out weeds from the sidewalks and tree basins. But the CleanCorridorsSF program affords them the time. They use handheld hoes and shovels to scrape away the weeds and give the neighborhood a sharper look. 

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Public Works employees use shovels and sharpened hoes to remove weeds, detail work that CleanCorridorsSF promotes.

The Outreach Workers

Keeping San Francisco clean and beautiful requires everyone to pitch in. CleanCorridorsSF involves our Outreach and Enforcement (OnE) Team. Prior to the weekly operations and on the days of, OnE Team members go door to door to speak with business proprietors about their roles and responsibilities — sweeping their sidewalk, removing graffiti and the like. We let folks know what we expect of them under city and state code, how we can help them and what they can expect from us. At Public Works, we value collaborative partnerships with residents, businesses, schools and nonprofits to improve our already wonderful city.

Benjamin Ibarra of the Public Works Outreach and Enforcement (OnE) Team says keeping our neighborhoods looking good requires a team effort. Hear more from him by clicking on the video.

What the Merchants Have to Say

CleanCorridorsSF was born out of a desire to make a meaningful difference in San Francisco by supporting our vibrant neighborhood commercial corridors for the enjoyment of residents, shopkeepers and visitors. The initiative has been met with an overwhelming positive response. 

Paula Tejeda, owner of Chile Lindo deli and coffee shop in the Mission, extols the benefits of the deep cleaning operation. 

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Gina Guaiumi and Izzy, her miniature dachshund, check out the new dog play area at Juri Commons Park. 

The Juri Is In:
This Reimagined Park Rocks!

A time-worn ribbon of a park created along an old railroad right of way has been transformed into a welcoming public space for kids, grownups and dogs to enjoy.

The renovated Juri Commons Park, tucked between Guerrero Street, San Jose Avenue and 25th and 26th streets, borders the Mission and Noe Valley. It now sports a nature area with logs, stumps and boulders for young explorers and represents the latest in a network of natural play spaces developed by the San Francisco Children and Nature Collaborative that works to ensure equitable access to nature.


The reimagined park gives visitors an opportunity to commune with nature in the heart of an urban neighborhood. 


The remake of the quarter-acre park also includes an adult exercise area with fitness equipment, a tot lot with a slide, swing and monkey bars, and lawn areas for people and their canine companions. A new accessible pathway runs through the park.

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Mark Sullivan visits the redone park with his son, Trevor.

Mayor London Breed led a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Juri Commons Park on Sept. 13.


San Francisco Public Works provided landscape architecture and constructure management services, on behalf of the Recreation and Park Department. A neighborhood group, Juri Commoners, provided key community support and drove the design.


“I set out to redesign the park with nature as a main feature of the renovation,” said Public Works landscape architect Jasmine Kaw, the project’s lead designer. “Nature play is an evolution of this design goal – to give access to a nature area that is strategically placed adjacent to and integrated with a more structured playground.” 

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There are plenty of fun activities and places for young visitors to explore at Juri Commons Park.

Pictured directly above is the Public Works project team, from left to right:

Robert Mau, Laura Tanigawa, Jennifer Cooper, Jasmine Kaw and Soe Thu.

The Juri Commons Park parcel is left over from the now-defunct San Francisco-San Jose Railway, an intercity train route with roots stretching back to 1864.


The $1.9 million project was funded through the voter-backed 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, Eastern Neighborhoods Developer Impact Fees, a Community Opportunity Fund grant procured by the Juri Commoners in 2016 and Let’sPlaySF!, a partnership between the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and SF Parks Alliance.

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Designing
Better Streets

San Francisco policies encourage the design and development of better streets that work for all users, including people who drive, walk, bike and take public transit. 

As such, Public Works’ streetscape program, in collaboration with our street resurfacing program, bureau of landscape architecture, partnering City agencies and Community Benefit Districts, work to ensure that busy streets and commercial corridors throughout the City are safe, accessible, beautifully landscaped and allow for efficient travel.

 
When designing a new streetscape, our project teams must consider pedestrian and bicyclist safety enhancements, lighting improvements, landscaping and stormwater management, cultural identification and public art elements, underground utility improvements, street paving and resurfacing and transit, parking and traffic modifications. Together, these provide not only a safer corridor, but make San Francisco’s neighborhoods more inviting and unique. 


Some of the most recognizable streetscape elements in San Francisco include the rainbow crosswalks in the Castro, the redesigned public seating and transit bulb-outs in the Inner Sunset and the vibrant alleyways and improved bike lanes along Polk Street. Some of our most recent streetscape projects include the Upper Haight Transit Improvement and Pedestrian Realm project, the Second Street Improvements project in the South of Market and the Jefferson Street Streetscape project in Fisherman’s Wharf, which is set to be complete later this fall. 


Earlier this month, as part of our Snapshots LIVE! webinar series, we invited three panelists to speak about the streetscape projects they’ve worked on. Carol Huang, a project manager with our streetscapes program; Paul Barradas, a project manager with our street resurfacing program; and Mike Rieger, the deputy director for The East Cut Community Benefit District, shared their knowledge about streetscapes and how they work to see a project through completion.


Watch the webinar and learn more about what goes into delivering our streetscape projects.

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The old railway powerhouse at Turk and Fillmore streets.

Joint Effort
to Fix
Failing Joints

The Public Works structural engineering and building trades teams collaborated this month to make emergency repairs to the deteriorating façade of the historic Market Street Railway substation in the Fillmore District.

Working 3½ stories above the sidewalk at the corner of Turk and Fillmore streets, our crews had to repair cracking along the mortar joints of the unreinforced masonry structure to prevent chunks from falling onto the busy sidewalk and street below.


Our structural engineers designed the repair, and our sheet metal workers modified off-the-shelf steel plates, bending them to a 90-degree angle to form corner braces. Our carpenters drilled into the building and epoxied threaded rod to secure the braces, strengthening the structure where it was cracked. 

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A thin strip of metal (top left photo) aims to keep birds off the ledge;  serious cracking (photo on the right) poses hazards to passersby below; steel plates (bottom left photo) help brace the concrete.

The project necessitated closure of the sidewalk while work was underway above; our carpenters crafted ramps and temporary pathways for pedestrians to navigate safely through the area.


The old powerhouse, now unoccupied, was built shortly after the 1906 Great Earthquake and Fire. The building at 1150 Fillmore St. is now owned by the City’s Real Estate Division, which asked us to make the emergency repairs. The project showcases the benefits of our diverse portfolio at Public Works, with our professional trades’ workers working closely with engineering staff to quickly craft a plan and execute a fix for a safer San Francisco.

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Working 3½ stories above the street, our crews make the needed fixes to shore up the building.

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Audience members attend an open-air performance of Shakespeare’s “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheatre.

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Jerry Garcia Amphitheater
Keeps on Truckin'

One of San Francisco’s amazing green spaces, McLaren Park, is home to a cozy outdoor concert space – the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. 

This month we celebrated the completion of a small, $1.45 million renovation to the venue to make it more welcoming for performers and audience members.


The upgrades included paving and expanding the area adjacent to the parking lot to allow better access for food trucks and portable toilets; upgrading ADA features, such as handrails and benches; installing bike racks; replacing the drinking fountain and adding a water bowl for dogs; and increasing room for storage.

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A new, smoother pathway improves accessibility at the amphitheater.

Public Works landscape architects worked on the overall design and provided construction support; a structural engineer on our team provided the structural design; our accessibility coordinator helped on ADA review and inspection guidance; and our Materials Testing Lab staff performed soil, compaction and concrete testing.  


The improvements, part of the community-driven 2018 McLaren Park Vision Plan, were funded through the voter-approved Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond. Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Ahsha Safai, representatives from participating City departments and community members gathered on Sept. 18 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.


The Recreation and Park Department amphitheater, which opened in 1971, hosts plays and musical events. It was named after Grateful Dead lead guitarist and vocalist Jerry Garcia, a native son of the Excelsior neighborhood where the park is located.

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Project renderings for improvements at the amphitheater site. 

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College Hill neighbors, with pickers in hand, spruce up their neighborhood.

Grab a Broom
and a Picker
and #LoveOurCity

This year’s Coastal Cleanup Day drew nearly 100 volunteers to Ocean Beach, where they scoured the beach and adjacent pathways for cigarette butts, candy wrappers, disposable masks and other trash that sullies the environment. Their haul was impressive, filling dozens of garbage bags with detritus that should have been disposed of properly in the first place.

The Public Works Community Engagement and Street Environmental Services teams provided backbone support – supplying tools to volunteers and hauling away the filled-up trash bags. Among those who came out to help at the Sept. 18 beach cleanup were neighbors, the California Physical Therapy Association, the local branch of Surfrider Foundation, Ocean Beach Café and TogetherSF.


The next day, we worked with College Hill neighbors on their monthly cleanup involving volunteers of all ages.


The Coastal Cleanup Day and College Hill events were just two of more than 200 that our Community Engagement Team has been involved in since the start of the year. We work closely with individuals, neighborhood associations, businesses, schools and others. One of our most active partners has been RefuseRefuseSF, which organizes regular neighborhood cleanups.

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This year’s Coastal Cleanup Day brought nearly 100 volunteers out to Ocean Beach.

Stepping up to help care for our city has both short-term and long-lasting benefits. In the short term, removing trash from the sidewalk or planting a tree improves the look and feel of a neighborhood. Then there’s the relationship-building that comes from working alongside other residents and shopkeepers, knitting together a community where people have each other’s backs and work jointly to create a nicer place to live, work and visit. 


While Public Works has street cleaners on the job around the clock, we know we can’t get the job done alone. It takes a team. That’s the overarching message of the Shine On SF campaign, a collaborative initiative that Mayor London Breed kicked off over the summer.


If you’re not volunteering already, we hope you’ll consider stepping up. Learn more about the opportunities we offer at Public Works

Thanks for reading!