District 10, which includes the Bayview, accounts for 12 percent of all 311 reports about illegal dumping. (Courtesy photo)

City could take a more aggressive approach to illegal dumping

Illegal dumping costs San Francisco $10 million a year, and nowhere is it worse than in the Bayview.

Public Works estimates that The City and Recology respond to an average of 6,800 monthly requests to clean up illegal dumping. District 10, which includes the Bayview, accounts for about 12 percent of 311 reports for illegal dumping.

“Illegal dumping is huge problem in San Francisco,” Larry Stringer, the Public Works’ Deputy Director for Operations, said at a hearing this week on illegal dumping. “It is probably at its worst in the Bayview.”

While for years The City has experimented with different strategies to combat the problem, Supervisor Shamann Walton, who was sworn in as District 10’s representative in January, is pushing for a more aggressive approach.

“We need to work hard to make sure that we stop this completely and catch the people who continue to illegally dump on our streets,” Walton said during the hearing before the Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, which he requested.

Officials say the illegal dumping problem is caused by three main things: construction debris, insufficient garbage service and move outs.

Walton said he is working on legislation that could increase fines and strip business licenses from construction contractors caught illegally dumping. The current fine for illegal dumping is $1,000, according to Public Works.

Stringer, the Public Works’ Deputy Director for Operations, said that what “we struggle with drastically” is the construction debris dumped by contractors, who don’t want to pay the fees to properly dispose of their materials.

Stringer said Public Works is exploring ideas to address the challenge, including having contractors provide verification of disposal receipts to Department of Building Inspection as a condition of the work permits.

“That way we can verify that it actually made it to where it’s supposed to do go,” Stringer said.

He also said he plans to visit with Los Angeles officials next month to learn about a law there that allows them to confiscate vehicles used to illegally dump. Walton is also interested in this provision.

According to the 2004 law passed by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisor the vehicle is seized and sold with the revenue going to the city.

While not discussed at the hearing, a strategy not in use in San Francisco but another California city, Oakland, provides a cash reward for someone who reports illegal dumping that results in fines. They receive $100 or half of the civil penalties, whichever is greater.

Stringer said that they have also convinced about 15 businesses and residents to install cameras in illegal dumping areas. The City is working on securing funding to install them.

There’s a chance that sting operations may also be in the works.

Paul Giusti, Recology’s regional government and community affairs manager, said that they asked a private investigator firm to do some surveillance in “some spots in District 10 that get hammered all the time.”

Giusti said the operation was literally a van with blacked out windows staking out ‘a couple of locations in the Bayview.”

‘They didn’t have to wait long to catch folks coming and dumping, and then to exacerbate the problem is individuals and homeless individuals know that this is going to happen so they congregate around that area, and when people dump the materials then they are on it, digging through and spreading it around to see if there is something that they could use to help them in their situation,” Giusti said. He said the information from the surveillance was shared with Public Works.

Giusti said they had no plans to continue with the stings, but Walton expressed interest in seeing if they could continue.

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