Tags Posts tagged with "neighborhoods"


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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.

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For decades, Adah Bakalinsky, author of “Stairway Walks in San Francisco” has been helping walkers discover new parts of San Francisco. NENfm talks with Adah about how she finds SF’s treasures and why she thinks exploring the city on foot is so rewarding.

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Show Information

Guest: Adah Bakalinksy, Author of Stairway Walks in San Francisco
Area: San Francisco
Host: Adam Greenfield
Additional Credits: Moontan (music)


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Daniel Homsey, Director, Neighborhood Empowerment Network

Over the last century, astrophysicists encountered a major hurdle in their efforts to understand the fundamental nature of our universe.  As they began to build more powerful mathematical models and measurement instruments, the Universe seemed to become less and less predictable. In a nutshell, the visible bodies in space were not behaving in a way that was defendable by the great minds of earth. Their behavior reflected a universe with substantially more mass than was visible to our measuring devices (i.e. visible, infrared, radio). The only explanation was that the majority of the matter of the Universe was invisible or “dark”. Once scientists embraced Dark Matter’s existence, virtually all of their formulas and projections were applicable.

The Disaster Management universe is entering such a period of discovery.

In the recent decade, there has been consistent and over whelming evidence that the sum of the traditional disaster response assets do not necessarily equal the desired impact necessary to respond to a hazard.  Hotwash after hotwash showed that all too often, although the presumably necessary assets needed to respond to a hazard were deployed, the desired outcomes (minimal loss of life and destruction of property) were not achieved.  Consistently the evidence showed that it wasn’t a lack of physical assets or individual capacity that was the problem, but rather a more intangible asset that seemed to be the underlying culprit. In the professional response world it’s called interoperability: in the neighborhoods it’s called Social Capital.

The classic definition of social capital is “The web of social networks, norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance, and trustworthiness” (Putnam & Feldstein, 2003), and like Dark Matter, social capital is almost impossible to see, and yet its impact is readily identifiable.  In the response phase of an event, the way the Fire Dept.


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The Noe Street Experience from NENtv on Vimeo.

On Noe Street, in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood, there’s plenty of places to sit, the traffic goes slowly, plants and trees are everywhere, each building is unique, and neighbors wouldn’t live anywhere else.

How did this street become one of San Francisco’s jewels and what can other neighborhoods learn from this example? NENtv visits Noe Street to find out.

[Also viewable on Youtube here.]


Mohammed Nuru, Deputy Director for Operations, SF Dept of Public Works

Every month the Department of Public Works (DPW) dives into each of the eleven Supervisorial Districts around San Francisco to rally volunteers and partners to make San Francisco residential districts, commercial districts, schools, and parks safer and cleaner through our Community Clean Team program.

Arbor Day – March 12, 2011

Created over 10 years ago, by then Public Works Director, San Francisco’s current Mayor, Ed Lee, Community Clean Team has become a mainstay in the DPW’s operations.

This year we brought the Community Clean Team in with a bang at the Ping Yuen Housing Development on February 12th where we celebrated the Clean Team kick off and Chinese New Year with fireworks and Lion Dancers; volunteers helped with landscaping projects, school improvements and even repainted the Broadway Tunnel.  In March, we celebrated Arbor Day at Washington High School in the Richmond District where we planted dozens of trees along Geary Boulevard, and in April we worked in and around the Tenderloin and South of Market cleaning up trash, and removing graffiti in honor of Earth Day.  In between those Community Clean Team events, we’ve hosted special events with volunteer partners from all around San Francisco and the greater Bay Area – our partnership with Starbucks’ Global Month of Service event helped us clear over 60,000 pounds of green waste from the Great Highway, and plant over 500 plants.

Since February, over 3,000 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and dedicated at-least three hours to work side by side with Department of Public Works employees. Volunteers help leverage the city’s resources tremendously; DPW employees alone cannot complete the amount of work our volunteers complete.  And during these challenging economic times, utilizing volunteers has become one of the most cost-effective ways to accomplish our work.

Over the past three months, our 3,000 plus volunteers contributed at-least 9,000 hours of community service to the Department of Public Works, totaling $270,000.00 worth of labor.  I can comfortably state The Department of Public Works San Francisco works more with volunteers than any other Public Works organization in the nation.

Help us continue our momentum by volunteering for the Community Clean Team May 21st in honor of National Public Works Week at Balboa High School beginning at 9am.  For more information email us at volunteer@sfdpw.org

Along with Mayor Lee, all our volunteers, our key partners like Recology, PG&E, Walgreens, Luxor Cab Company, Clean City Coalition, the Academy of Art University, Starbucks, Hilton-Financial District, and the Emerald Fund help sustain the program.

Thank you to all our partners, all who have volunteered, and all who will volunteer.  Together we have and will continue to make a difference in San Francisco.

Mohammed Nuru is Deputy Director for Operations at the San Francisco Department of Public Works (SFDPW).  Follow him on twitter @MrCleanSF

Starbucks Event 4/9/11


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Aside from a small number of schools and playgrounds, there seems little evidence that the needs of children are reflected in our built environment. As a parent and a community-builder down in Menlo Park and founder of the Playborhood blog, Mike Lanza has become a passionate advocate for children’s right to play outside in their neighborhood streets. Mike shares his insights with NENfm.

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Show Information

Guest: Mike Lanza, founder, Playborhood.com
Host: Adam Greenfield
City: Menlo Park, CA
Additional credits: Moontan (music)


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Adam Greenfield, Inner Sunset Community Organizer

You probably understand community as knowing your neighbors, helping each other out, feeling a sense of commonality and connection, and so forth. But how does one actually begin building community? In this writing, I focus on one element – an element without which full community cannot happen: Bringing civic life back to the streets.

Why is the street so important?

Whereas the street was once the place for connection and for lingering, it is now a place of hypermobility and danger. That this common space could, in daily life, be for anything else is now unquestioned; it is apparently rude and dangerous to act otherwise. When we retreated from the streets, the roar of traffic then pushed us off the sidewalk into our homes. The retreat was complete.

In the street, recurring faces become familiar and familiar faces become friendly. From there we begin sharing our lives. Pushing back into the streets is essential; it is also easy, cheap, fun, requires little time, and is liberating. Below I’ll list some ways that you can do this, ranging from instantly doable to achievable with some resources or a little courage.

Neighbors learn lindy hop together in the street at the Inner Sunset Street Fair, organized by people in my neighborhood. Photo taken May 15th 2010 by Chris Duderstadt


Introductory thoughts

There could be said to be two main parts of the street: The sidewalk and the road. Reversing the retreat into our houses will likely involve pushing first back onto the sidewalk and then into the road (with parking spaces as a mid step between the two). Thus, I divide the below suggestions into these different areas.

I intend to motivate you to act. Don’t spend too much time thinking; start doing something as soon as possible. Below are my suggestions but you’ll probably get more excited about your own ideas. Think for yourself about how you could push into the street.

We need a culture shift in how we view the streets, especially in moving beyond seeing streets as places dominated by automobiles. I think that culture shift would include the following:-

  • Performing as many daily functions in the street as possible.
  • Considering the street as a place for lingering, not just movement.
  • People depend less on laws and rules and more on negotiation and compromise.

Step 1. Start with the sidewalk

My 30th birthday party on the sidewalk outside my house. Photo taken October 10th 2010

The sidewalk is the place to begin bringing community back to the public realm. These daily activities are suitable for individuals or groups to do on the sidewalk:-

  • Eating meals
  • Drinking tea or coffee
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Doing physical exercise
  • Making art
  • Playing music
  • Daydreaming
  • Smiling or waving at passersby
  • Chatting, or doing any of the above, with friends

Due to their tendency to degrade the public realm or to make people feel excluded, I recommend keeping the following away from public places:-

  • Phone conversations
  • Computers
  • Sunglasses
  • Smoking

Step 2. Move out to parking spaces

The ever more popular "Park(ing) Day" event. Photo by Steve Rhodes.

Once you get used to sidewalk activities try moving beyond and doing the below in parking spaces.

  • Dinner parties
  • Book clubs
  • Discussion groups
  • Board games
  • Music, acting, or other performances

These activities can be more enjoyable if you create a living room feel outside. Loot your house or build a street reclaiming kit by visiting garage sales. To create such a space, you could bring:-

  • Rugs
  • Cushions
  • Chairs
  • Plants
  • Tables
  • Ornaments
  • Materials to create a border around your space on the road side

Some people go a little further and create “linger nodes” that can be left outside all the time. Such nodes can involve benches, potted plants, and community notice boards. I recommend visiting the City Repair website for more ideas on this subject.

There are two San Francisco-based initiatives that deal with using parking spaces as civic gathering spaces:-

  1. Park(ing) Day: This event began in San Francisco in 2005 and happens once a year in September. Organizations or groups of people transform parking spaces into small parks in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways.
  2. The parklet program: I theorize that this is the City of San Francisco’s official response to Park(ing) Day. Parklets, which are becoming very popular, are “sidewalk extentions” that stay out all the time and anyone can apply. Applicants submit a design, get approval, find funding, and build the parklet. As far as government programs go, this is still relatively unbureaucratic but you do have to find all your own funding. There’s no next application round confirmed but I hear that round should come eventually.

Step 3: Reclaim the roads

Parachuting at the Inner Sunset Street Fair 2010. Photo by Chris Duderstadt.

Right now, in San Francisco there are two main City-sanctioned ways for communities to use the road for something other than storing or moving automobiles (the Sunday Streets event also offers possibilities for street activity if an event’s route passes through your neighborhood). Both are temporary approaches – see here for more information on these approaches.

  1. Apply for a block party permit ($150 to close one block for the benefit of the residents of that block)
  2. Apply for a street fair permit ($480)

However, these options are expensive and time-consuming for communities and require months of advance notice. In the long term, to properly make our streets places of community once more, we are going to need to forge new flexible, low-cost solutions that work better for communities…

…Solutions like the “Playing Out” scheme in Bristol, England, where streets are closed regularly for short periods after school hours for children to play in the streets. This short video may inspire you:-


Playing Out from Paul Gilbert on Vimeo.

Start talking with groups in your neighborhood, and elsewhere, about how schemes like this might happen where you live.

Your street, your home

Your street is part of your home. This is your space and you should feel welcome there. In fact, the more you are there the more everybody benefits. Using the street is a service to yourself and your community.

For further reading, I strongly recommend reading the book Mental Speed Bumps (author’s site, Amazon link) and visiting the Creative Communities website, where you’ll find many inspiring suggestions included in the MSB book.

Whatever you do out in the street, make sure it’s fun and promotes community and harmony. I promise that if you push back into the street, your life and that of your community will never be the same again. You can change the world on your own street and now is the time.

Friends and neighbors join me on my stoop at my birthday party. This was inspired by the famous Art Kane Jazz Portrait photo from Harlem 1958. Photo taken October 10th 2010.

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Neighborhood Empowerment Network’s Daniel Homsey is joined by Susan Cervantes of Precita Eyes, Kate Connell of the Book and Wheel Works, and Robynn Takayama of the San Francisco Arts Commission to discuss the important links community art plays in bringing neighborhoods together. Watch a segment with Wendy Testu about the happenings in the “Welcome to the Neighborhood Project,” a community art and literacy program in Hunter’s Point.

Meet Your Partner: Neighborhood Parks Council from NENtv on Vimeo.

Every year, the Community Challenge Grant Program awards thousands of dollars for community improvement projects throughout the city. One of the driving forces that helps grant recipients see their project through is the assistance of groups like the Neighborhood Park Council which serves as a fiscal and organizational partner in the community. Join Neighborhood Park Council Executive Director Meredith Thomas as she explains the NPC’s role as an active community partner and how they’re helping to make San Francisco green, one park at a time.

The NEN and AII Release the First Episodes of NENtv’s KIOSK

The Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) and the Art Institute of California San Francisco have collaborated through the NEN University Academic Alliance to produce the first two NENtv episodes of “Kiosk”.

Kiosk is a 30 minute broadcast quality TV show dedicated to elevating and celebrating the community building work that is happening in the neighborhoods every day. Each episode features both in studio guests as well as video profiles of people and organizations from around the City who are making a difference in their communities.

The premier episodes include:

Building Community, One Garden at a Time

The Power of Art and Building Strong Communities

KIOSK was produced and directed by students enrolled in instructor Marc Smolowitz’s Studio Production course. “As an instructor, it’s my goal to help the students achieve the academic goals of the curriculum.” Stated Smolowitz, “If we can do so while at the same time helping the communities of San Francisco celebrate the great work happening in their neighborhoods, it only enhances the learning experience.”

Daniel Homsey, the program manager of the NEN, stated “The ability to collaborate with an organization such as the Art Institute of California San Francisco with its talented instructors and students, helps the NEN achieve its mission to help the communities of San Francisco no only be acknowledged for their work, but also present their efforts in a way that is easily consumable for other residents.”

To view the episodes of NENtv’s KIOSK, visit empowersf.org/nentv.

The Neighborhood Empowerment Network (NEN) was launched in the fall of 2007, when the City and County of San Francisco partnered with residents and community serving non profits to create a new platform to nurture collaboration and community centric problem solving. The NEN’s mission is to develop tools, resources and strategic partnerships that empower communities to steward themselves to being safer, cleaner, greener and healthier places to live and work.


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