San Francisco’s Department of Public Works doesn’t maintain every last stretch of the city’s 1,241 miles of roadway. And a good thing, too — it costs about $50 million annually to maintain what the city already maintains, and the city only has about half of that money available.

Yet, the Department of Public Works wants to add another 27 miles of roadway to the list of thoroughfares the city “accepts for maintenance and liability purposes,” adding another $1 million to the city’s total maintenance bill. What’s in it for us, you ask? About $51,000 a year in extra state and federal funding, according to DPW staff on hand Monday.

Spending $1 million to earn $51,000 doesn’t sound like a good deal — but it does get better, San Francisco: since the Department of Public Works doesn’t have the money necessary to keep up the roads, it won’t spend the money necessary to keep up the roads. Put another way: San Francisco is not spending money to make (some) money.
(That $51 million figure isn’t the funding necessary to make the streets of San Francisco nice and smooth, either: it’s the minimum amount required to make the streets rate a “fair”, or a 64, on this 0-to-100 scale used statewide. If we wanted to make the roads, say, “awesome? More money).

This scheme was approved Monday afternoon by the Board of Supervisors’ Land Use and Economic Development committee, whose chair, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, admitted that “San Francisco’s roads are some of the worst in California. Sometimes you drive into a pothole, and you don’t know when you’re going to come out.”

Some of these roadways are tiny blocks and pedestrian stairways (still named as streets because SF is quirky) but some are large stretches of up to several miles. The biggest stretches are on Great Highway between Point Lobos in the Richmond District and Sloat Boulevard in the Parkside District; Bayshore Boulevard between Costa and Wheat Streets; and Octavia Boulevard between Washington and Hayes Streets.

The Appeal desperately hopes it doesn’t have a full understanding of the situation and is missing something that will make it all make sense. Calls Monday afternoon to CalTran’s local Oakland office were not returned, and interviews with DPW staff could not be immediately conducted. As always, we’ll report back when we hear more — we’re sincerely hoping that we’ve gotten this all wrong.

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