Report: SF outspends other major cities on street cleanup, so how does it look?

Are the streets of San Francisco looking any cleaner to you? 

A recent budget and legislative analyst’s report shows San Francisco spent $35 million on street cleanup between 2016 and 2017, the San Francisco Chronicle reported

This year that figure jumped to $53 million and is expected to climb to $60 million next year. The Chronicle concludes that the money spent on street cleanup in San Francisco exceeds that of other major cities. 

On average San Francisco’s cleaning staff is around 300 personnel compared to about 40 in other U.S. cities. The number of cleanup requests in San Francisco is also twice that of cities like Los Angeles and four times as much as Chicago; both cities are much larger in size and population compared to San Francisco. Yet hypodermic needles and human feces remain prevalent on the streets. 

San Francisco District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani ordered the report. Her district includes the Marina and Cow Hollow. 

“I asked for the report because I wanted to see what we were spending compared to other cities. What I found was what I expected. We are spending a lot of money. Unless we deal with the root causes of what’s really causing our streets to be dirty, we’re never going to solve the problem,” Stefani said on KTVU during a Skype interview. 

Stefani said one way to address the issue is to expand the conservatorship programs by providing subacute beds, used for “medically fragile patients,” according to the California Hospital Association. 

“It’s not compassionate to let people live and die on the streets. We’re dealing with a lot of people who are suffering from mental illness, and substance abuse issues."

But tackling the issue may have gotten a bit more complicated with last week's ruling by the 9th Circuit Court that stated cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go. The ruling is directly in contrast with San Francisco's Sit Lie Ordinance, which passed in 2010 and prohibits individuals, with certain exceptions, from sitting or lying on the City’s public sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. 

With the findings of the report, Stefani said she plans on working with the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing and Mayor London Breed, who she said has a “good plan.”

She’s also open to allowing safe-injection sites, a controversial piece of legislation that awaits Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. 

“I only support them if we’re offering services on site, so that people have a way to get clean and sober," said Stefani. 

Other potential solutions Stefani mentioned include increasing the number of homeless outreach team members. 

Stefani said she didn’t know how much money is used to clear homeless tent encampments, but said she’d like to see part of the homeless population placed in navigation centers where their pets and possessions are allowed unlike traditional shelter settings. She also said there is more funding available for San Francisco’s navigation centers. 

“We have to spend our money wisely. We have to know where our money is going,” she said. 

The Coalition on Homelessness posted a tweet the day the Chronicle published their article. They pushed for the 'Our City, Our Home' or Proposition C on November's ballot to offer real solutions. 

"Yes, we need to get at the root cause. The conservatorship thing is nonsense because what we need are acutal resources," Kelley Cutler from the Coalition said in a message to KTVU on Tuesday. She said the differentiation of the shelters versus navigation centers is a "selling point." 

"The whole shelter system needs to be revamped if folks have to give up their possessions, can't bring their pet and are separated from their partners," Cutler said. "Navigation centers are just a shelter."

The Chronicle points out this analysis did not factor city workers’ efficiency on the job and that SF performs these services multiple times a week. 

KTVU's Andre Torrez contributed to this story