The San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors narrowly passed a measure to spend $1.1 million to provide additional street and sidewalk cleaning across the city.
The money, left over from last year’s budget, would be used to pay for additional street sweepers, cleaning equipment, and community grants to fund nonprofit organizations focused on cleaning San Francisco.
“It’s just not okay to have to step over human feces – or dumping of litter on the ground, when we know that with additional resources and with additional manual street sweepers we can address this problem, today” said Supervisor Jane Kim, who authored the plan. “[Cleaning crews] will be deployed citywide, based on the needs of our Public Works Department.”
The proposal passed in a 6-5 vote. Supervisors Kim, London Breed, Sandra Lee Fewer, Aaron Peskin, Hilary Ronen and Norman Yee voted in support. Supervisors Malia Cohen, Catherine Stefani, Ahsha Safai, Jeff Sheehy, and Katy Tang voted against the measure.
The proposal fell two votes short of receiving enough support to remain “veto-proof.” Unless Kim can convince two additional supervisors to back the proposal when it comes up for a second vote at next week’s board meeting, Mayor Mark Farrell tells the Investigative Unit he will veto the measure and promised to unveil his own “much more comprehensive” proposal in the coming weeks as part of next year’s budget.
“I don’t see why we can’t wait for, literally, a month or two,” said Supervisor Katy Tang, who voiced opposition to Kim’s proposal since it aims to bypass the normal budget approval process that is scheduled to get underway over the next two months.
Such a move would “circumvent the budget process,” said Supervisor Malia Cohen, chair of the board’s budget committee. “That’s kind of a haphazard, piecemeal approach to how we are dealing with our budget process."
While Cohen and other opponents conceded the levels of trash, feces, and used needles scattered across the city’s streets and sidewalks have reached potentially dangerous levels, they argued that such a spending plan should go through the standard budget hearing process in hopes of developing a "more comprehensive approach” rather than just a “temporary fix.”
Cohen said bypassing the standard budget hearing process should only be reserved “to address emergency problems, immediately.” Cohen voiced similar criticism during the board’s budget committee hearing last month, which voted to toss out Kim’s proposal.
Kim, however, argued the issue is a “public health crisis” and, thus, requires immediate action. In a rare move, Kim sidestepped the committee and had her proposal heard before the full board Tuesday by obtaining the support of three other supervisors: Peskin, Ronen and Fewer.
“[Residents] understand there’s a budget process, but they don’t want to wait months for these services,” Kim said during Tuesday’s hearing. “They want to see that funding today – as quickly as we can provide it."
The spending plan comes on the heels of an NBC Bay Area investigation that exposed a potentially dangerous mix of trash, feces, and used needles scattered throughout the streets and sidewalks of downtown San Francisco.
The report went viral and the city's dirty streets are now a main issue in the race for San Francisco's next mayor.
During the board meeting, Ronen also defended Kim’s plan and the urgent need. “You could not get started soon enough,” she said. “It’s something our constituents are demanding - and rightfully so.”
The proposal originally called for $2.5 million in additional street cleaning through the end of the fiscal year; however, Kim reduced that amount to $1.1 million on Tuesday since less than three months remain before the start of the next fiscal year and corresponding budget cycle.
Here’s how the $1.1 Million would be used:
- New staff: 19 new street sweeping jobs would be created through June 30, the end of the fiscal year
- Two new street sweeping machines at $280,000 each.
- $230,000 to fund TL Clean, a community group that picks up trash in the Tenderloin. The extra money would allow the group to ramp up operations from 5 days a week to 7.
- $100,000 for cleaning materials and supplies: brooms, shovels, pickers, bags, uniforms and protective equipment.
Late Tuesday, following the board vote, Farrell vowed to nix the proposal, saying it comes “in the middle” of the budget cycle.
“I will veto it when it crosses my desk,” Farrell said in a statement provided to the Investigative Unit. “Street cleaning will be a top priority for me in the upcoming budget and my proposal will be much more comprehensive and geared to meet the needs of every neighborhood in San Francisco.”