Though the recent rain storms have been a blessing due to the extreme drought our state has been experiencing, it has also highlighted some of our city’s vulnerabilities in public infrastructure. Across the country, municipalities are dealing with aging public infrastructure and are grappling with how to make improvements to keep their communities safe and functioning properly. Thankfully, San Francisco has been at the forefront in terms of planning for the future to ensure that our infrastructure, including our sewer system and city roads, are adequately prepared to meet the demands of our growing city.
Street safety bond
In 2011, city voters overwhelmingly supported a $248 million Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond to ensure much-needed capital improvements are made to provide safe, accessible, and well-maintained city streets. So the construction you see and feel in your neighborhood is by design, but much needed. The bond funds that became available in 2012 are now allowing the city to make long-overdue repairs to our city streets to ensure a safer driving, walking, and biking experience for all of our residents. The bond also goes to fund much more than just the repaving of our city streets, though the majority of bond dollars ($149 million) is dedicated to that effort.
Fifty million of the bond dollars are also dedicated to streetscape projects, such as sidewalk widening, landscape improvements, and safety improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. The remaining approximately $50 million of the bond dollars are dedicated to curb ramps to help our residents with disabilities easily navigate our streets, street structures — such as stairways, retaining walls, and tunnels — as well of the installation of new traffic signals to help the city better manage congestion and improve the overall reliability of our transportation system. For a full, detailed rundown of the streets bond, please visit: streetsbondsf.org.
Sewer System Improvement Program
The Department of Public Works and its implementation of the streets bond is not the only city department working to actively upgrade badly needed improvements to our public infrastructure; the Public Utilities Commission is busy at work as well. Officially titled the Sewer System Improvement Program, the PUC is moving forward on implementing the multibillion dollar citywide investment that is upgrading our 100-year-old sewer system to make it more reliable and seismically safe now and into the future for our residents. The PUC garnered eight years of community feedback and input, as well as expert third-party analysis, before ultimately crafting the program that is now in its implementation stages.
The day-to-day, routine repairs are simply not enough to keep up with the aging sewer system. Situations like the sink hole that recently happened on Lake Street at Sixth Avenue were in part created and exacerbated by our aging infrastructure. The PUC confirmed that it had no record of problems reported in that specific area, but the improvements it is making with the SSIP will go a long way to ensuring that a situation like that never happens again.
From a public policy perspective it is absolutely common sense to make the upfront investments needed to improve our sewer system, because the costs to doing so would be much higher if we were to take a piecemeal approach rather than the systematic, comprehensive approach being taken from the PUC. For more detailed information on the SSIP roll-out and projects happening in your neighborhood, please visit sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=116.
Managing construction impacts in our neighborhoods
With the high amount of construction — both public and private — happening in our neighborhoods, I am actively working with each respective city department to make sure that as projects roll out, neighbors are adequately notified and that the projects are implemented in the most efficient way possible. I have heard from many of our constituents about the impacts they face in their neighborhoods due to the construction. I am working on legislative proposals that I will introduce in the new year to minimize construction impacts and provide better notification to our city residents, so that as we move forward with much needed public infrastructure improvements, there is as little disruption to our daily lives as possible.
While other cities across the country have struggled to find the resources for necessary public infrastructure upgrades, I am proud that as a city we have always looked toward the future and prioritized resources for infrastructure improvements that will improve our quality of life and make the city safer for everyone. I want to ensure that situations like the sink hole that happened on Lake Street never happen again, and the improvements underway are part of the systematic solution to ensuring our world-class city has world-class public infrastructure.