San Francisco, California, the City by the Bay where thousands of gallons of drinking water are poured onto the streets and you totally can't tell.
“We have to use potable water for steam cleaning because of the vapor,” Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon tells the Chronicle. “It could impact the worker’s health. We consider cleaning the streets a health and safety issue, particularly when it comes to human waste. The state law was clear that we wouldn’t be restricted on our water use for health and safety issues.” Hard to argue with that.
The department cites reduced potable water consumption in other circumstances, such as a 59 percent drop last year by limiting its use for irrigation. They also invoke the Pit Stop program, which puts staffed public toilets in neighborhoods like SoMa and the Tenderloin to eliminate human waste on the streets.
The paper raked some of the muck earlier this month, with writer Debra Saunders politely remarking that "Downtown San Francisco feels like a large public toilet without enough janitors."
“The streets are pretty rough,” Public Works supervisor David Johnwell tells the Chronicle. “There is more trash and homeless people and encampments everywhere you go. We clean up, and within hours it’s all back. Our department never truly closes.”
Six zone crews sanitize and then power-wash the Tenderloin's downtrodden streets each morning while two encampment crews including Johnwell's take on the city’s filthiest alleyways. “We’re doing the best we can,” one crew member said. “If you go back to where we started, it’s like we have never even been there. The ground is dirty again and smells like urine. And we haven’t even been gone for an hour. It’s bothersome and frustrating and never-ending.”
The proposed city budget, once approved, could provide relief with nearly $3 million for a new, improved residential cleaning program. That would hire 18 new workers to labor over 80 alleyway blocks in SoMa, Chinatown, the Mission and the lower Polk Street are near Civic Center where “Currently, there is no schedule” according to Public Works directo Mohammed Nuru,
“Those neighborhoods have been a challenge and have diverted a number of resources away from our day-to-day operations. Having a routine schedule will allow a lot of workers to go back to other parts of the city where they should normally be working. It will make everything cleaner.”