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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Impose Heavy Fines on Illegal Dumpers - SF Chronicle

Supervisor Cohen called me the other night to tell me about the grant and to let me know that illegal dumping was one of her top priorities.  Thanks, Supervisor Cohen! Of the 2200+ reports of illegal dumping in 2009-10, I think I must have called in at least a fifth of them!   If you see dumping in your neighborhood, don't let it sit there - call it in to 311!

Jessica Kwon, SF Chronicle, writes,
Every other day now, it seems, Bayview resident Angelo King drives by piles of abandoned construction and miscellaneous debris in his neighborhood.

Truckloads of them.

And he’s sick of it.

“It looks like somebody just rolled up there and kicked crap off their truck,” King said. “People are breaking the law, trying to save a buck at the expense of our neighborhood. It makes it look trashy and drives me absolutely crazy.”

As one of the last major industrial areas in the city, southeast San Francisco is the frequent victim of large-scale illegal dumping. After recently receiving a $350,000 state grant, however, the Department of Public Works — which cleans up using taxpayers’ dollars — may finally be equipped to curb the problem. The two-year grant, awarded by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, will allow the department to clean up and monitor 25 chronic illegal dumping hot spots in the Bayview and work with community organizations to educate neighbors on how to report incidents.

Roofing dumped

The funds come on the heels of a huge increase in incidents since the summer, said Mohammed Nuru, the department’s deputy director for operations.

Eleven dumpings occurred during the past two weekends alone. One of them, a toxic pile of roofing material taller than a human being, will cost $10,000 to clean up.

“Imagine this reaching our water and our streets and people coming into contact with it,” Nuru said. “I t just hurts.”

Ten of 25 dumping reports in the past two months have been roofing material, Nuru said. The department is working with the district attorney’s office, city attorney’s office and Police Department on leads that could trace the material to several companies. “There’s a lot of unanswered questions but it’s under investigation,” said San Francisco police Officer Matthew Balzarini, adding that little evidence has been drawn from businesses’ video-camera footage.

Million-dollar cleanup

During the 2009-10 fiscal year, 2,207 of 16,939 reports of illegal dumping occurred in the city’s southeastern region. The total cleanup costs were $4 million, according to the department. Midway through this fiscal year, 9,067 dumpings have been reported citywide, 1,202 in the southeast. It hasn’t been this bad since 2000, Nuru said.

Proper disposal involves taking debris to the San Francisco Dump and paying $140.76 per ton. Illegal dumpers will typically leave 7 to 10 tons at a time, city officials said.

The city budgeted $800,000 for illegal dumping cleanup and enforcement, but the department needs more than $1 million to adequately deal with the 25 hot spots. The state funds fill the financial need.

The grant will also “change the neighborhood culture” around illegal dumping, said Supervisor Malia Cohen, who represents the area. “It is going to signal that the way (dumpers) have done business in the past … is no longer acceptable,” she said.

Door-to-door outreach

In November, the department started a campaign to address sidewalk dumping i n the Bayview’s residential areas.

Half a dozen low-income, at-risk youth with the United Fathers Coalition went door-to- door educating neighbors on proper garbage disposal and how to report dumping incidents. The coalition looks forward to engaging in the grant’s community outreach component, said executive director Rev. Charles Grays.

“I think we let the bird out of the cage — people had complaints,” he said. “They had a way to respond and there was communication going around the neighborhood.”

Spreading the word on illegal dumping and its repercussions could reverse what King, chair of the Bayview Hunters Point Project Area Committee on redevelopment, says has become “a weird sort of accepted behavior” among some residents.

“People got it in their minds that it’s OK, and now they’re regularly throwing stuff out on the corner,” he said. “It just isn’t cool.”

E-mail Jessica Kwong at jkwong@sfchronicle.com.

(h/t Marlene Tran)

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