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San Francisco voters show wide support for new street cleaning department proposition

San Francisco voters are backing a measure to create a new department focused on keeping sidewalks and streets clean.

The latest update provided by election officials Friday afternoon has Proposition B passing with 238,071 votes, or 60.94 percent. The legislation will split the street cleaning duties from the Department of Public Works to a newly formed Department of Sanitation and Streets. The measure also creates two separate commissions to provide oversight of both the old and new departments.

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney introduced the measure in response to street cleaning neglect, especially in neighborhoods he represents, such as the Tenderloin and South of Market. The Board of Supervisors moved to include the measure on the Nov. 3 ballot with a 7-4 vote.

On Tuesday night, Haney lamented that despite his persistence, DPW has so far failed to clean up the streets:

“I’ve been working on this issue since I came into office, and I can tell you that San Franciscans are both embarrassed by the state of our streets, and worried about their families’ health. Streets overflowing with trash and smeared with human waste are a health hazard even when we aren’t in the middle of a highly contagious pandemic.”

Haney proposed the creation of a separate street cleaning department before former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru faced federal corruption charges.

In addition to keeping streets clean, the new department will be tasked with maintaining public restrooms, clearing sidewalk trash bins and removing graffiti and illegally dumped waste. They will also be responsible for maintaining trees along streets.

The Controller’s Office estimates the annual cost to operate the new department will range between $2 million to $6 million. The cost factor drew criticism due to The City’s budgetary issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Haney responded to concerns by delaying implementation of the new department until July 1, 2022 and further reduced the financial impact by folding in The City Administrator’s Office and DPW staff to assist with necessary administrative functions.

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