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Monday, January 7, 2008

Dead Trees Littering SF Streets Not Created Equally - Too Many Branch Offices in SF, Not Enough Wood Chippers

Posted By on Mon, Jan 7, 2008 at 9:05 AM

click to enlarge X_mas_tree_and_branches.jpg

According to city policy, clearing up this dead Christmas tree and dead non-Christmas trees will require at least two trips ... and perhaps many more if the non-Christmas trees are privately owned. All Photos | Joe Eskenazi

You’d think the same workers could haul away discarded Christmas trees and the dead trees piled atop them after the storm – wouldn’t you?

By Joe Eskenazi

Not that there’s ever a good time to be blown under a Muni bus or have a tree fall on your pickup truck but, in at least one way, an argument could be made that the timing of last week’s über-storm was pretty good.

Observant city dwellers may have noticed that, even before San Francisco was converted into a moist wind tunnel, dead trees began piling up on our city streets – dead Christmas trees. Per the dictum from the city’s garbage services, “clean, unflocked trees” sans “tinsel or lights” were to be placed next to one’s cans on his or her normal trash day between Dec. 31 and Jan. 8.

So, with many tons of branches crashing down atop the discarded Christmas trees over the weekend, one would figure that the city is killing two birds with one stone, right? The same folks can scoop up all the plant accrual in one fell swoop, right?

Wrong. This is San Francisco. And here, we kill two birds with at least half a dozen stones (and we have to make sure those stones weren’t provided by a company doing business in Darfur).

According to Joanne Ramirez ...

a city employee at 311 (which is largely responsible for notifying the proper authorities to clean up the city’s myriad messes in the wake of the storm) San Francisco’s current policy is for workers at Sunset Scavenger, Golden Gate Disposal and the SF Recycling and Disposal Company to pull only the Christmas trees out of piles of downed flora.

click to enlarge X_mas_trees_piled_up.jpg

This looks like a job for the scavenger service...

Then, a separate trip must be made around the city by members of the Department of Public Works to pick up the downed branches that have become an omnipresent feature of our city.

Does this make sense? Wasn’t it Gertrude Stein who, in essence, said “A dead plant is a dead plant is a dead plant”?

“You know, there’s a lot of red tape,” admits Ramirez. “This is how government works. Certain departments handle certain things.”

Fair enough. It's not like the city's facing a massive deficit ... oh. It is.

click to enlarge Storm_detritus.jpg

But this is a job for the Department of Public Works.

Confusing things further, when I chased down a DPW truck (note to self: If lawyers chase ambulances, do journalists chase garbage trucks?) the two garbage men told me they were only picking up what the supervisor had told them to pick up – and that included soggy mattresses and the like but no plant matter. They were leaving that entirely. The driver told me he thought “it would make sense” if one organization picked up all the felled trees (of the Tannenbaum variety or not), but he hadn’t given it much thought.

Neither did the DPW officials I called, incidentally. When I phoned to question the organization’s policy, I was – inexplicably – transferred to the cell phone of a subcontractor who had applied for a DPW job months ago, and hadn’t yet heard back. In fact, he may have thought my call was from DPW regarding good news about his job prospects.

Sorry, pal.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" is a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly, which he has written for since 2007. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers... more


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