Litter, trash trending on San Francisco streets


San Francisco’s litter is piling up, and not just on sunny weekends in Dolores Park.

Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer held a hearing on Wednesday at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee calling on San Francisco Public Works, SF 311, the Department of Environment, the Controller’s Office and Recology, to report on current strategies in dealing with litter in The City.

Public Works Deputy Director for Operations Larry Stringer, reported that crews cleaned up more than 24,000 tons in 2016:

“I expect this to increase as The City becomes more and more dense.”

Public Works is also tasked to cleanup homeless encampments in The City, and has “hot spot crews” devoted to clean the encampments, said Stringer.

In keeping the streets clean, Public Works spends $29 million a year on manual cleaning on streets and $11.1 million using street cleaning vehicles such as sweeper trucks.

The department also has a “Corridors Program” where San Francisco residents, who are a part of the JobsNow program through the Human Services Agency, help Public Works crews clean the sidewalks, curbs, tree basins and graffiti in major corridors in The City, said Stringer.

A late-night crew is also working to keep streets clean before the morning and to handle night time calls.

Fewer’s legislative aide, Chelsea Boilard, spoke on her behalf, citing concerns from residents in the District 1 neighborhood on the cleanliness of the streets.

Last October, the Controller’s Office released its annual “Street & Sidewalk Maintenance Standards” report, which grades The City on how clean the streets are from trash, illegal dumping, human waste and needles.

The report said District 1 saw the largest increase of illegal dumping calls into SF 311, up from 122 reports in the 2014-2015 fiscal year to 199 reports in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Most of the reports of illegal dumping were near Golden Gate Park and Land’s End.

Paul Giusti, community and government affairs manager for Recology, said a program developed with SF 311 and Public Works, which has helped Recology track illegal dumping requests made into SF 311:

“Calls into 311 are routed directly to our collection vehicles and they respond to those requests for illegal dumping.”

Giusti said Recology is on track to make 110,000 stops this year on requests to clean abandoned items on city streets, and collect about 4,400 tons of items.

Recology also offers its popular curbside pickup service for bulky items, said Giusti. Residents can make an appointment for Recology to pick up items that do not fit in the normal sized trash and recycling bins.

Public Works has been encouraging residents in The City to help make the city streets clean with the creation of the Giant Sweep program, where schools, communities and businesses, can adopt a city block and keep it clean.

Julie Bryant with the Department of Environment, said the department hold assemblies at public and private schools to teach students about littering, and held poster contests with students where the winning posters are placed inside storefronts.

Public Works last month installed an additional 38 trash cans on Mission between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets as part of a six-moth pilot program called “Yes We Can!” in the Mission District with Supervisor Hillary Ronen. The goal of pilot is to reduce litter in the Mission Street corridor.

A decade ago, The City had removed more than 1,000 trash to avoid people from rummaging through the garbage and causing a mess on sidewalks. Officials were also worried that the trash cans would attract people to illegally dump items near the cans.

During the pilot, Public Works will keep track of data from SF 311 service requests in the pilot area and crews will make on-site evaluations to see if there is less litter.

The program may expand to other neighborhoods if successful, according to Public Works.

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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