Measure to create new SF sanitation and streets department passes

FILE - Tolerant San Francisco fed up with dirty and smelly streets.

Preliminary numbers early Wednesday showed most San Francisco voters appear to have approved Proposition B, which would create a new Department of Sanitation and Streets -- separate from the city's Department of Public Works.

According to the latest results, more than 60 percent of voters approved the measure, which needed just a simple majority to pass.

Under the measure, the new department will take over several of DPW's duties, like street sweeping, cleaning sidewalks, removing graffiti and illegally dumped items, and maintaining sidewalk trash cans, street trees, city buildings and public restrooms.

Additionally, the measure also calls for the creation of a five-member Sanitation and Streets Commission to oversee the new department as well as a separate five-member Public Works Commission to oversee DPW.

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The measure was authored by Supervisor Matt Haney, whose district includes the city's Tenderloin neighborhood -- which has in the past received national news coverage for its dirty streets and sidewalks.

Haney has argued that the Department of Public Works is too large, as it's tasked with not only maintaining the city's streets, sidewalks and buildings, but also with the city's sewer system, and that's resulted in neglected sidewalks in some of the city's densest neighborhoods.

Haney has also pointed out that the city's current laws don't explicitly mandate sidewalk cleaning and trash can and restroom maintenance, which he said should be a top priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Haney has also called for the two oversight bodies, pointing to the arrest of embattled former DPW director Mohammed Nuru as evidence that oversight and accountability is needed within the department.

Back in January, federal agents arrested Nuru in connection with an unsuccessful scheme to bribe a San Francisco International Airport commissioner for help in obtaining a restaurant concession in 2018. Nuru has since been charged by federal prosecutors with honest services wire fraud and lying to the FBI, while seven others have also been charged in connection with the public corruption case.

City Controller Ben Rosenfield has estimated the cost of creating the new department as well as the two oversight bodies could be anywhere between $2.5 and $6 million annually.