Program looks to rid The City of eyesores

One hundred of The City’s dirtiest blocks will be cleaned up under a $1.8 million pilot program created to keep streets free of graffiti, broken curbs and general eyesores.

The Community Corridor program began on Irving Street earlier this month and has now shifted over to the Haight, Western Addition and the Fillmore. The 100 blocks are concentrated along commercial corridors in The City’s 11 districts, according to Mohammed Nuru, deputy of operations with the Department of Public Works.

“It’s an opportunity for us to pay more attention to particular areas,” he said. “In the long run, we have healthier and cleaner corridors [and the] opportunity for planting flowers and putting more chairs on the sidewalks.”

The City is hoping the program will push these corridors into creating community benefit districts, where building owners agree to pay an additional fee on their annual property taxes to pay for maintaining streets. A recent study by the University of Washington showed that business districts that take care of their area by adding trees, for example, see an increase in sales by 12 percent.

The program works by hiring a “block sweeper” for each corridor, who identifies items on the street that need fixing and monitors resident complaints.

Nuru said the program is modeled after others in cities such as Hong Kong and Paris, which have up to 17,000 block sweepers.

The program has received mixed reviews from residents and business owners. The Haight Street neighborhood was introduced to the program last week at a Haight Ashbury Improvement Association meeting, according to Cheryl Brodie of the joint resident and merchants association. She said some business owners are concerned about the pilot program being turned into a community benefit district. She plans to conduct a formal poll.

“Whatever the end result, I think of that as a secondary issue,” Brodie said. “The fact of the matter is we are very, very pleased that there is a focus on Haight Street.”

sfarooq@examiner.com

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