By Bay City News
San Francisco took a big step this week to clean up its streets.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved the new Sanitation and Streets Department to begin July 1. The department was created as a result of Proposition B, approved in November 2020 by more than 60% of San Francisco voters.
The department will take over several duties that currently are handled by the Department of Public Works, such as street sweeping, cleaning sidewalks, removing graffiti, disposing of illegally dumped items and maintaining sidewalk trash cans, street trees, city buildings and public restrooms.
Additionally, a five-member Sanitation and Streets Commission will be formed to oversee the department and its policies.
“For the first time, we’ll have a department, like many other major cities, with the sole responsibility to clean up our filthy, unhealthy streets and sidewalks,” Supervisor Matt Haney said in a statement. “Anyone who has walked outside in San Francisco knows that this is necessary, and that’s why the proposition establishing the department passed by an overwhelming margin.”
Haney’s district includes the Tenderloin and South of Market — some of the neighborhoods with the worst reputations on cleanliness. While in office, Haney has spearheaded several projects to improve the conditions in those neighborhoods, including increasing 24-hour bathroom access and acquiring new trash cans.
Haney called for the department to break up the large Department of Public Works, which is tasked with not only maintaining The City’s streets, sidewalks and buildings, but also with building and infrastructure projects. In addition, Haney argued that because there are no city laws that explicitly mandate sidewalk, trash can, and restroom maintenance, sidewalks have gone neglected.
The Sanitation and Streets Department will be explicitly responsible in The City charter for cleaning sidewalks and bathrooms.
“San Franciscans want clean streets and projects delivered on time and on budget,” Haney said. “This charter amendment is designed to ensure both. The voters passed a charter amendment to create a department laser focused on cleaning the streets, with new levels of responsibility, staffing, accountability and oversight.”
In addition to creating the department and oversight commission for it, the voter-approved measure also created a separate oversight commission for Public Works.
According to Haney, the Public Works commission is needed to ensure accountability within the department after former Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru was arrested by federal agents in January 2020. Nuru has been accused by federal prosecutors of accepting bribes from contractors seeking to do business with The City.