Just days before he rolls out a citywide plan to clean up San Francisco’s fetid and filthy streets, Mayor Mark Farrell announced plans to hire a 10-person team of health professionals dedicated to cleaning up used needles. Farrell and Department of Public Health Director Barbara Garcia said on Monday that the city would allocate $750,000 to hire the new employees through a contract with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “People are, quite frankly, fed up with the conditions of our streets, and so am I,” Farrell said, speaking at a news conference assembled in an alley at the corner of Natoma and Russ streets.
The city and its partners, like the AIDS Foundation, collect around 275,000 used syringes each month, about 8,000 of which come from on-the-ground sweeps like the one the new AIDS Foundation team will be conducting, said Joe Hollendoner, the foundation’s CEO. Needles are also collected from syringe-disposal boxes located in areas where drug use is prevalent.
“No needles on the streets — that’s our goal,” Garcia said.
The new AIDS Foundation team will conduct targeted needle sweeps at areas identified as syringe hot spots by complaint data from the city’s 311 service portal. The city expects the team to be in place within the next month.
Farrell said he is aware of the frustration of many residents, who complain that it can take 24 hours or more to get the city to respond to 311 reports of needles on streets and sidewalks. Creating a dedicated team to solely address needle litter was intended to help fix that problem.
“We want to be responsive to our residents,” he said.
In the coming days, Farrell is expected to veto a street-cleaning budget supplemental that passed the Board of Supervisors last week. The measure was introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim.