Bijan Sartipi is the director of Caltrans District 4, which covers much of the Bay Area. I'm not sure I can correctly pronounce his name, but I'm sure I'd know him if I saw him. That's because I see his mug shot so often in Chronicle Watch, the San Francisco Chronicle's daily digest of things that need to be fixed and haven't been. In fact, Sartipi has been named in the paper 132 times in the past year. Almost all (114, to be precise) of those mentions have been in Chronicle Watch. His appearances are so frequent, Caltrans has even designated one P.R. staffer to handle Chron Watch queries.
You'd think the Chronicle would have the decency to run different pictures of Sartipi — maybe an action shot of him in a cape, directing some underling to fill a pothole. But no, same old photo in shirt and tie.
Recently, Sartipi's Mona Lisa smile was on page B-1 of the Chron. The problem? Caltrans was behind on installing signs to help people find Millbrae's historic expedition camp. According to Chron Watch, 664 days had passed without Caltrans making things right.
Day 664? I'm not great at math, but I think that's close to two years.
I tried to contact Sartipi, but I never got an answer, maybe because he's busy not fixing things, or yelling at people for not fixing things. In any event, I finally connected with his spokeswoman, Lauren Wonder, and asked her whether it's fair that he is named so often in Chronicle Watch.
"It's fair from the perspective that we strive to have all of our infrastructure in good working condition," she replied via e-mail. "As public servants, we hold ourselves accountable and responsible to the taxpayer. What's not fair is when we commit to a time line to resolve an issue, fix a sign, or fill a pothole, and then the clock runs from [when] it is identified and not from when it is promised."
Now that Sartipi has become a celebrity Chron Watch regular, is he recognized in public? Wonder says yes, and that it isn't necessarily beneficial: "It affects [his] privacy while out running, shopping, etc. But the good thing is that people are appreciative of the fact that a problem is identified and it is resolved."
So what do people say when they meet him? "We do receive thanks for a job well done," she says.
In that case, there are a number of potholes on I-80 West. Thanks in advance.