City to Install 11 Blocks of Sidewalk Gardens in SF Neighborhoods

Public-private partnership to replace thousands of square feet of concrete with greenery

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) and Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) are partnering to replace thousands of square feet of concrete with sidewalk gardens in San Francisco. Sidewalk gardens are a stormwater management tool that can reduce the burden of stormwater on the City’s combined sewer system. The Sidewalk Garden Project launches on Saturday, May 4, at Zen Center properties in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. Community volunteers organized by FUF will plant native species and install permeable paving on Page Street between Laguna and Buchanan.

San Francisco’s combined sewer system is unique in coastal California, collecting and treating sewage from homes and business as well as stormwater runoff. The sewer system can reach capacity during heavy storms, which can lead to neighborhood flooding and discharges of partially treated wastewater into the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean.

“Reducing stormwater flowing into our combined sewer system saves on pumping and treatment costs. As we plan for critical upgrades to our aging sewer system, we’re looking at innovative and cost-effective ways to keep stormwater out of our system,” said Harlan Kelly, Jr., SFPUC General Manager. “Green stormwater solutions also improve the environment, while yielding direct community and economic benefits.”

Property owners in specific areas on the East side of the City may be eligible to green their neighborhood block for the cost of the sidewalk garden permit (approximately $160). Other costs including concrete removal, materials and plants will be provided free of charge through the SFPUC and FUF partnership. Details are available at fuf.net/sidewalk.

The Sidewalk Garden Project is among several projects the SFPUC will pursue over the next several years to help manage the City’s stormwater.  The Wiggle Neighborhood Greenway project is in the planning stages with a community meeting scheduled for early June. More information is available at www.sfwater.org/greeninfrastructure.

The SFPUC is also engaged in a long-term planning process for sewer system improvements in San Francisco over the next 20 years. Details are available at www.sfwater.org/urbanwatersheds.

“Sidewalk gardens take advantage of the natural processes of soils and plants to slow down and clean stormwater,” said Dan Flanagan, FUF’s executive director. “While protecting the environment, they also beautify our neighborhoods.”

About the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is a department of the City and County of San Francisco that provides retail drinking water and wastewater services to San Francisco, wholesale water to three Bay Area counties, and green hydroelectric and solar power to San Francisco’s municipal departments.  The agency’s mission is to provide its customers with high quality, efficient and reliable water, power, and sewer services in a manner that is inclusive of environmental and community interests, and that sustains the resources entrusted to its care.  For more information, visit http://sfwater.org.

About Friends of the Urban Forest

Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) helps individuals and neighborhood groups to plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens in San Francisco. Since 1981, FUF has planted more than 47,000 trees to reduce the city’s tree shortage. By greening the streets of San Francisco, FUF supports the health and livability of the urban environment.

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