More than clean - Page 2

Newsom's aggressive "quality of life" push draws a backlash in the Mission District and elsewhere

Many offered numerous suggestions for how to better clean the streets: have more trash cans and volunteers, employ the homeless, coordinate with other city services, educate the merchants, bring back people with brooms and dustpans — but don't just run trucks through the streets.

One Alabama Street resident said she's committed to using public transportation to get to her job in Richmond, but like many others at the meeting, she pointed out that if cars need to be moved five days a week for street cleaning, why not move them all the way to work?

"It's a disincentive for people to use public transit," she said.

And if they don't get moved, does the city really mind?

"Is it really trash, or is it revenue?" Shotwell Street resident Eric Noble asked, citing the added opportunities for writing parking tickets. "If revenue enhancement is behind this project, you're going to see it all over the city."

DPW spokesperson Christine Falvey denied money was the motive and said parking fine revenue goes to the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which has recently revealed an $11 million budget shortfall. Falvey also said changes in street cleaning schedules are usually prompted by complaints from residents, but in this case the proposal was sparked by recommendations from city staff who work in the area.

Street cleaning trucks have been in use since 1976 and currently clean about 90 percent of city streets, but according to Falvey, the DPW has never done an analysis of their efficiency and effectiveness. A consultant was recently hired to make that determination.

"Every time some city agency comes up with an improvement, it does more to inconvenience," David Jayne, a Potrero Avenue resident, told us. "I'm really worried this is another one-size-fits-all cure."

But Newsom has made clean streets a top priority for his reelection year.

"How do we dare to dream big — while not forgetting to fill potholes, clean our streets and parks, and address the small problems of urban life that make such a big difference to our quality of life?" Newsom asked in his State of the City speech.

And how do we do it without pissing off the neighbors?

"You're not going to find anyone who says, 'Yeah, I think the neighborhood should be dirtier,' " Florida Street resident Scott Adams told us. "Things should be done to improve the hygiene of the streets."

But he and others who live on these streets and have watched them for years said they were prepared to push brooms and pick up trash if the city were willing to work on other qualities of life such as rising violence, slipping public schools, and the truly ill transportation system.

The DPW's stated mission is "improving the quality of life in San Francisco." And that's been a popular pastime of recent mayors. Frank Jordan had One Neat City Week and the Litter Strike Force. Willie Brown promoted his Spring Cleanings and Great Sweeps. Gavin Newsom touts a goal to make this the "cleanest and greenest city in the country."

So his proposed 2006–7 budget for the DPW's Street Environmental Services hovers around $33 million, an 11 percent boost over last year. That's more than the 7 percent increase the patrol unit of the San Francisco Police Department received, the 4 percent Muni Services and Operations received, the 1 percent that went to Child Support Services, and almost two times more than the rise for the housing and homeless budget line in the Human Services Agency.

Street Environmental Services is a fancy-pants term for picking up trash, spraying off pee, and painting over graffiti. The mayor's most recent plan to achieve this is called Clean Corridors and was unveiled in November 2006 with a $1.67 million allocation from Newsom for targeting the filthy faces of 100 specific blocks throughout the city.