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mohammed nuru

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Simple steps to follow when you spot a makeshift, illegally posted sign in your neighborhood

By Mohammed Nuru (@MrCleanSF)


Homemade, handmade, and hastily posted signs posted all over the City contribute to blight, distract from the natural beauty of the neighborhoods, and are illegal. I encourage you to act now with this simple solution: rip ‘em down and recycle ‘em as you see them.

Standing at a bus stop and see a garage sale sign taped to the glass? Eye a flyer stapled to the utility pole? Rip it down

and recycle it. Easy as that.

As I travel around the City, I marvel at each of the distinctive and beautiful neighborhoods that are truly the characterand foundation of our world-renowned urban habitat. The historic public art, innovative urban designs and creative use of space sets apart San Francisco neighborhoods as hotspots for pride, personality and livability.

The perpetual plastering of stapled and taped-up postings and temporary, DIY flyers leads to chaos and a kind of lawlessness that is degradation to the community.

Yes, there are official guidelines and restrictions for posting signs on public property: where they can be posted and how. How many have taken the time to study these rules? And imagine the resources involved in monitoring each utility pole. Think of how much time it would take for a crew to seek out every flyer, dispose of it and hold the posting party in question accountable.

That’s why I ask you to join in on being a part of the solution: rip the posters down and recycle them whenever you see them. And when you observe an illegally posted sign repeatedly and if it is a chronic offender, report it to 311.

The sign-posting requirements were established to reduce litter and blight and minimize obstruction to ensure safety.


Quick guide to the rules:

  • Signs must not be larger than a standard piece of paper.
  • You can’t use tape or string.
  • The sign can’t be placed higher than 12 feet from the ground.
  • It MUST have the posting date, and
  • MUST be removed within ten days after an event or election date.

Public Works has the authority to remove prohibited signs and administer penalties of up to $500 for chronic offenders. If DPW sees the same sign over and over, then crews will seek to hold the person or company posting the signs accountable.

On top of reporting and removing signs, you can also help by promoting alternatives to the posters. Utilize other methods of getting information out to your neighbors. Quick and easy ideas include using Craigslist; neighborhood social media accounts and blogs (like Haighteration and Ocean Beach Bulletin), and even innovative Smartphone apps (like Blockboard for the Mission). Tell others how to access these tools and encourage community members to incorporate them in neighborhood communications.

If you are interested in getting a FREE scraping tool from DPW, all you need to do is sign up for Adopt-a-Street. It takes a second. Email volunteer@sfdpw.org and write “I want to pull down and scrape off illegally posted signs in my neighborhood”.

There are several groups of concerned residents who are a part of the movement to keep the City free of illegal postings. They are fed up with garage sale signs flapping in the wind, tired of carelessly posted campaigns signs and outdated event posters, and sick of the taped-up, hand-drawn flyers that are just plain unsightly to look at. These residents are leading by example: when they see ‘em, they pull ‘em down.

I invite you to do the same.

Mohammed Nuru

Interim Director, Department of Public Works


If you have any good ideas to help with this issue, send a tweet to @MrCleanSF.

The San Francisco Department of Public Works’s Deputy Director, Mohammed Nuru, was awarded the Most Empowering City Employee Award for his dedication to San Francisco’s neighborhoods and years of work in preserving and maintaining San Francisco’s urban space. “Mr. Nuru is the go-to person in the City of SF for infrastructure projects. If you need a fence, sign or bus stop fix, Mr. Nuru can help you get it done,” said SF resident Gillian Gillette. Check out the video below to catch a few words with Mohammed after the ceremony.

Mr. Clean SF, Mohammed Nuru, Deputy Director for Operations, DPW

This Sunday I want to personally invite you to join in on the exciting return of our hugely successful Mobile Free Wall Activity. Rain or shine, the San Francisco Arts Commission with support from the Department of Public Works is set to assemble a 40 foot-long temporary wall that will act as a giant canvas for artists of all skill levels to drop by and be a part of creating a beautiful community mural.

It’ll be on Sunday, October 24th during the Sunday Streets event outside of City Hall on the Civic Center plaza from 10am to 3pm.

What is the Free Wall? Our mission at DPW is to keep this City beautiful, livable, and vibrant. A large portion of my job is the prevention and eradication of graffiti vandalism. DPW responds to over 30,000 requests to clean up graffiti each year. That’s over 100 a day on public property alone. Collectively all City departments, schools, residents, and small business owners pay out over $20 million a year cleaning up tagging and vandalism.

This Free Wall is a pilot project to give urban artists, who historically claim that there is no public space to create spray-can art, a safe location to do just that.

Here are the key tenets of this venture: 

  • This is a recognition that it is important to give young artists a place to create


  • There should be an emphasis on respect for public property


  • The Free Wall project and all of the DPW collaborations with the SFAC stress that the difference between art and vandalism is permission


  • Helping to engage the artist community in new ways results in a meaningful dialogue about keeping the City beautiful.


This Free Wall is, if anything, promoting the conversation about “what is art” and “what is vandalism?” What are the most efficient strategies to eliminate the vandalism and keep the city shinning and clean?

Hundreds participated in the activity in September that resulted in a beautiful community mural being created in less than four hours. World-renowned urban artist, Chor Boogie, oversees and facilitates the Free Wall Activities, providing his know-how and tutorials on spray-can art.

The success of the Free Wall program is the result of leveraging the expertise of the Graffiti Advisory Board and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Their passion and leadership are making innovative, engaging projects like this work.

The Director of Cultural Affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission Luis R. Cancel agrees. “The Free Wall Activity provides urban and aspiring artists with an opportunity to show their talent and creativity in a safe and legal manner. This program is a way of bringing urban artists and community members together to forge lasting, positive relationships that benefit our neighborhoods.”

The Free Wall capitalizes on the positive results and feedback from other SFAC-DPW collaborations like the StreetSmARTs program, which pairs urban artists with private property owners to create vibrant murals throughout the City. The first private-property mural of this fiscal year was unveiled last week at 1354 York Street. There are plans to create more than 20 murals through this program this year.


There is a lot of work to do to keep the City clean and to prevent and abate graffiti vandalism. I invite you to be a part of it of this movement. Come out on Sunday and see what the buzz is all about.

At a minimum, please check out and sign the Zero Graffiti Pledge, a City-wide commitment to abate and report graffiti.

I would love to get your feedback about the Free Wall. Send comments to zerograffiti@sfdpw.org, or you can tweet me with any questions @MrCleanSF<http://twitter.com/mrcleansf>.


Mohammed Nuru is Deputy Director for Operations at the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW).


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NEN Director, Daniel Homsey

Over the last few years the Craigslist Foundation has produced a series of popular “boot camps” across the country. The focus of these events has been to build capacity within the non-profit community and increase its ability to achieve its missions.  Over time, the Foundation determined that, while of the highest quality, the boot camps were in some respects duplicating the work of a variety of organizations that were equally committed to helping the non-profit community.

In the last year the Foundation has shifted its focus to empowering neighborhood residents across America to take a leadership role in stewarding their community towards a sustainable future. When the NEN learned of this new focus, we reached out to the Foundation to see how we could help.

Two weeks ago, a team of NEN members met with Lynn Luckow, the new Executive Director of the Foundation, and Paige Buck, Director of Events, to learn more about each organization’s respective mission and how we could collaborate.  It turned out to be more of a reunion of old friends than a procedural “get to know.”

Out of that meeting came an immediate action plan which included the NEN becoming a community partner to the upcoming Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp to be held on Saturday, August 14th 2010, at the UC Berkeley Campus.

Specifically the NEN will be doing the following: 

Host a Panel Discussion Entitled “Building Resilient Communities through Multi-Sector Collaboration.” The panel will include City Administrator Ed Lee, Director of the Institute of Civic and Community Engagement Jerry Eisman, and Dawn Trennert of the Middle Polk Neighborhood Association (hear Dawn’s NENfm interview here). I will moderate the discussion and provide a short presentation of the NEN model.

The NEN will host a second breakout entitled “Community and Schoolyard Gardens.” The panel, also moderated by myself, will include Mohammed Nuru of the SF Department of Public Works, Barbara Wenger of Community Grows and Barbara Finnin of City Slicker Farms. The breakout will focus on the positive influences a community garden has in a neighborhood.

Leveraging Empowersf.org to Promote Boot Camp Content. The NEN’s will utilize its website to host blogs and audio interviews (see here for Lynn Luckow’s NENfm interview) of panelists and speakers in advance of the Boot Camp to raise awareness of their work and help attendees pick the right breakouts to attend.

NENtv to Provide Gavel to Gavel Coverage! Yes, it wouldn’t be an event without NENtv providing coverage in its direct and empowering way. Watch for a steady stream of content after the Summit concludes.

Hosting a Resource Fair Booth. The best events always have a resource fair and the NEN is going to be there in full force getting the word out about the amazing work being done in San Francisco.

And that’s just the beginning.

In the coming months we hope to announce new and impactful ways the NEN can partner with the Craigslist Foundation to make a difference in the lives of the residents of San Francisco and beyond.  For more information on the Boot Camp and to learn how you can attend, please visit the Craigslist Foundation Boot Camp website.

Daniel Homsey is Director of the Neighborhood Empowerment Network. He can be contacted at daniel.homsey@sfgov.org.


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