‘Fix-It’ Program Goes Citywide

Graffiti, potholes, or overgrown trees: No problem is too small for S.F.'s new quality of life agency.

(Courtesy of Friends of the Urban Forest)

Broken street lights. Faded crosswalks. Potholes. Out-of-order parking meters. All of these little inconveniences may hardly be noticed on a day-to-day basis, but over time, they add up. Luckily, help is on the way: This week, a pilot effort Mayor Ed Lee’s office launched last May to fix quality-of-life issues in neighborhoods across the city was deemed a success, and an announcement over future efforts was released.

The Fix-It initiative works directly with communities, making an at-times municipal bureaucracy appear a little more manageable. By scrolling through 311 complaints and attending local meetings, the Fix-It team develops a unique plan of action to remedy the issues each neighborhood brings to its attention.

Some of these are quick and easy, such as bringing an arborist to trim an overgrown tree that blocks a sidewalk. But others require more work, like replacing bulbs in burnt-out streetlights, or requesting a construction crew to repair a broken curb. The Fix-It team is made up of more than 40 city employees from six different agencies — such as Public Works, the SFMTA, Rec and Park, the Department of Public Health — making it a sort of umbrella agency with organizational powers unavailable to ordinary citizens.

In just one year, the Fix-It team proved its worth: It led the repair of 108 streetlights, the painting of 495 crosswalks and curbs, the replacement of 150 street signs, and the improvement of cleanup processes on more than 100 blocks in Chinatown, Upper Market/Castro, Mission/Geneva, the Inner Sunset, and in Civic Center’s UN Plaza.

And for many residents and businesses in those communities, the effects are obvious.

“Fix-It has made a real difference in my neighborhood,” says Anita Rainer, owner of Jade Bazaar and Anita Jewelry in Chinatown. “Chinatown is cleaner and feels safer, but it’s more than that: Fix-It gave residents the opportunity to share our concerns and be heard, develop connections with the city, and feel more empowered to help continue to keep Chinatown clean.”

Now that the pilot program is over, the real work begins: Twenty neighborhoods are scheduled to receive Fix-It assistance in 2017, an ambitious increase over the five that got help last year.

But Fix-It Director Sandra Zuniga is optimistic. “Fix-It serves as the connection between residents who care, and the city services there to help,” she says. “As we go into 20 neighborhoods this year, we will have the chance to engage more residents, and offer targeted support and attention to areas.

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