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San Francisco's Prop B would rework city's sanitation organization

San Francisco ballot measure would rework city's sanitation organization
San Francisco ballot measure would rework city's sanitation organization 02:46

SAN FRANCISCO -- A measure on this year's ballot may look familiar to many San Francisco voters. That's because it proposes changes to a department many voted in favor of just two years ago.

In 2020, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition B to establish a new department focused on street and sidewalk cleaning in the city. The new Prop B on the 2022 ballot aims to reverse the previous measure and abolish the department. 

"I love the city and it makes me really sad that it's gone in the direction it has in so many ways. So I want to be part of the solution," third-generation San Franciscan Gina told KPIX 5. 

SF street clean-up efforts
SF street clean-up efforts. CBS

She has lived in the Cow Hollow neighborhood her whole life and currently resides in the very same house she grew up in. 

"I want to try to make things better. It's clear to me the city isn't going to address the trash issue, at least not everywhere. So I figured if i want to live here and enjoy it I should be part of the responsible team that takes care of it," she said. 

Once a month, Gina gathers with neighbors to collect trash in their community through Refuse Refuse, a local organization of volunteers who host neighborhood clean ups. But she says over the last several years, the issue has grown. 

"I've noticed it more in the street, outside of the garbage cans, sometimes there will be a garbage can there and trash piling up on the outside of it," she said. 

San Francisco voters approved Prop B in 2020 that split up the SF Public Works Department and established the SF Sanitation and Streets Department. The new department is responsible for litter, trash bins, city streets and sidewalks and pests, according to their website

But this year, Prop B is again on the ballot to reverse this move and trash the new department. 

"It's some department's responsibility," she said. "I don't know if its Public Works or a new department, but someone is getting our tax dollars to do it."

The earlier Prop B also created two oversight commissions, closely watching both departments after a corruption scandal mired the public perception of the Department of Public Works. The former Director of Public Works Mohammad Nuru was sentenced to seven years in prison in late August.

If the current Prop B passes, the oversight commission would remain but the Department of Sanitation and Streets would be reabsorbed into Public Works. 

Many of the proposition's supporters also backed the first version to establish the department, but they now claim the initiative is becoming too expensive and bureaucratic. 

Opponents to the proposition -- those who want to see the Sanitation and Streets Department stay -- say it needs more time to become successful. 

"San Francisco deserves clean streets and clean government," Laborers Local 261 -- one of the most vocal opponents to the proposition -- said in a statement to KPIX 5. 

The union, which claims to represent hundreds of workers employed by Public Works and the Department of Sanitation and Streets said Prop B, "would undo the majority of reforms approved by voters and put everything back under a single department with a single department head, recreating the very situation that led to decades of corruption."

"To some extent, I think the government is out of touch with what the citizenry really wants in San Francisco," Gina continued. "They're not listening to what people want and expect as citizens of San Francisco."

Gina says that although the city needs to find a solution to the garbage issue throughout the city, she's proud of her neighborhood's effort and has no plans to stop. 

"I think it's a matter of civic pride." she said. "Keeping it clean makes you feel better and in some ways safer, just happier, more friendly and a better place to live."

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