Replacing blight with beauty

The short stretch of 17th Street at the edge of Potrero Hill has long been known for its homeless encampments, illegal dumping, hypodermic needles and petty crimes.

The street is one of many right of ways in San Francisco that is not formally “accepted” by The City, meaning officials have no obligation to take care of it with street cleaning, sidewalk repairs and everyday maintenance.

Yet, one neighbor is working to clean up the street — one grant at a time.

Annie Shaw, who lives on 17th Street, initiated the Seventeenth and Pennsylvania Urban Renewal project, a plan to give her street a complete makeover.

She is using $45,000 from the Community Challenge Grant program, which provides matching grants to local residents, businesses, nonprofits and other community groups to make neighborhood improvements such as litter abatement, landscaping and adding public artwork.

“Nobody looks after it, so it’s a disaster,” Shaw said of her street. “Nobody had any intent to take care of it.”

Shaw is one of 28 community members who are receiving a piece of a $577,000 grant to embark improvements, which include rain gardens at San Francisco State University and community art at the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.

Companies give 1 percent of their business taxes annually to the grant fund.

Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to announce the recipients today.

“Clean and green neighborhoods are essential to the quality of life of all San Franciscans, and these innovative community projects help to beautify our neighborhoods and get communities working together,” Newsom said.

Shaw’s project started more than a year ago with a small garden she planted at the off ramp at Mariposa Street. She caught the attention of Caltrans, which owns the land, along with her neighbors, who appreciated the small touch of beauty in the neighborhood.

With the grant money, Shaw plans to start work on building new sidewalks this spring with the help of some professionals. She will plant trees and “spiky” plants that will both be beautiful and create an uncomfortable spot for transients to sleep, Shaw said.

Once the street is brought up to code with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant sidewalks and acceptable pavement conditions, The City will officially take over maintenance, said Christine Falvey, spokeswoman for the Public Works Department.

In the past six months, The City has accepted more than 200 streets that were not officially maintained by San Francisco.

esherbert@sfexaminer.com

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