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San Francisco's Russian Hill neighborhood wants to reverse decades-old decision on street sweeping

San Francisco residents in Russian Hill campaigning to bring back consistent street sweeping
San Francisco residents in Russian Hill campaigning to bring back consistent street sweeping 03:22

SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco residents in Russian Hill are currently trying to overturn a decision the neighborhood made decades ago.

Phoebe Douglass has lived in Russian Hill her entire life. Her mom bought the apartment she lives in now years ago, and she can't imagine living anywhere else.

"To me, it has a lot of character. It's very walkable. One way is go to Polk Street. The other's North Beach," Douglass said. "I used to walk to work downtown. So, I like that about it."

But one thing she doesn't like is that Russian Hill doesn't have street sweeping.

"Even with a broom trying to sweep here and underneath the stuff, you know, it just all accumulates," said Douglass.

Russian Hill is one of the only neighborhoods in San Francisco that doesn't get regularly scheduled street sweeping.

The reason, Rachel Gordon with San Francisco Public Works says, is because decades ago, back when the city first introduced street sweeping, people who lived in Russian Hill fought to keep it out of their neighborhood.

"Russian Hill neighbors said we don't want it because they did not want to move their cars," explained Gordon.

But in the years since that decision, Douglass said the neighborhood and the times have changed dramatically.

"Like Uber people park overnight. It's bottles of pee and people, unhoused people will leave their blankets around," said Douglass.

That's why she is leading the campaign to get street sweeping into the neighborhood.

But actually getting that done is a lot more complicated than simply asking the Department of Public Works to add a route.

"We don't have the resources right now to have a regular route, but we are actively looking at doing that, particularly in the high-need areas, perhaps the Hyde Street Corridor where there are a lot of businesses and a lot of trees that are dropping leaves," said Gordon.

Gordon said DPW also wants to make sure a majority of the people in the neighborhood actually want street sweeping before the city goes ahead and adds a permanent route.

That's why they've asked Douglass and other supporters to gather signatures from their neighbors.

But Douglass told KPIX that can be hard to do when a majority of the housing on certain blocks is apartments.

"So the petitions have been rather a joke in that I did some of them and I would pick blocks, not the dirtiest but the ones with the fewest houses, and from any point of view this is a silly way to do street sweeping," said Douglass.

 But the city is standing by that way.

 They said right now they sweep the neighborhood once a month and are looking into doing more sweeping once they have proof of neighborhood support and more resources.

In the meantime, Douglass isn't giving up.

She hosts a neighborhood street cleaning event every month and continues to gather signatures to hopefully one day get city sweepers to help the neighborhood she's loved her whole life shine a little brighter.

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