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SF supervisor promises more bathrooms, trash cans, needle boxes for SoMa and Tenderloin

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Matt Haney says filthy streets are product of poor infrastructure

A green toilet kiosk in SF. Photo by Mrkibble

District Six Supervisor Matt Haney—whose constituency includes both SoMa and the Tenderloin, two neighborhoods under constant scrutiny over SF’s crisis keeping its streets clean—says the city is to blame for the conditions on public sidewalks. The lawmaker released a ten-point plan Monday for making said streets cleaner and safer.

“No one anywhere, let alone in a city as wealthy as San Francisco, should live in these conditions, and yet it is getting worse,” wrote Haney in a 5,000-plus word Medium blog laying out his proposal.

Haney noted that, among other issues, 311 complaints have surged across the city but particularly in his district. The supervisor also wrote, “In 2018, the number of reports of human waste spiked to an all-time high at 28,084,” which is not entirely accurate but does still reflect a growing problem and public discontent.

The supervisor says that the city is partly to blame for the situation for not providing enough basic necessities that he now wants to add, including:

  • 24-hour public bathrooms: “We don’t have a single public bathroom open in San Francisco past 10 p.m., and we only have three in District 6 that are open to 8 p.m.,” according to Haney, who dubs the problem “a crisis on our streets.” He proposes new toilets with 24-hour access and attendants on staff through the night. This will be expensive, but so too is the cost of cleaning up after the inevitable results of a lack of access, he argues.
  • More trash cans: “There isn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason to where trash cans have been located,” says Haney, calling the number of public bins in SF “grossly inadequate” and noting that the busiest and neediest streets and blocks—again, mostly in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and SoMa—seem to have the fewest receptacles.
  • More needle receptacles: “When there is a needle disposal box in an area, people are noticing that there are less needles left on the ground,” notes Haney. But there are only 15 such boxes across the city right now, not enough to deal with the thousands of discarded needles found on SF streets every year. Haney proposes adding 30 more.
  • Deep cleaning sidewalks: “The city pressure washes the streets with deep steam cleaning, but does not do it on the sidewalks,” says the lawmaker, adding that, in fact, the city doesn’t clean most sidewalks at all, instead requiring that businesses do it. Haney suggests “regular deep cleaning and pressure washing multiple times a week.”

Haney’s other plans include measures to get people to clean up after their dogs, cleaning teams that “spot focus” on blocks and streets in particular need, and a more responsive 311 system.

Right now, according to SF 311, response time for reports of “human/animals waste” and medical waste is 12 to 24 hours,

On the other hand, the estimated response time for discarded furniture, mattresses, and electronics on streets or sidewalks is four hours; for issues like spilled oil and paint, it’s eight hours; and for overflowing garbage cans, two hours.

For the fiscal year covering 2017, the SF Department of Public Works estimates that “street environmental services” accounted for 19 percent of its yearly budget—about $60.1 million—but about 70 percent of public works-related expenses from the city’s general fund, amounting to an extra $49.3 million.

In 2018, SF lawmakers and multiple mayors all pledged more money and focus on cleaning up the streets.

Haney has asked that the city prepare a budget report estimating the full expense of his plan. He’ll kick things off by introducing the bathroom measure.