[Hpn] Mayor Slick Willie Brown on board for clean streets -
Fri, 28 Sep 2001 14:38:11 -0400
Ilene Lelchuk, Chronicle Staff Writer Friday, September 28, 2001
San Francisco -- San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown began his latest
clean-streets crusade in vintage style:
First, proclaim that San Francisco is not a dirty city -- insist that only
pockets of it are. Then, a month later, say dirty streets and the perennial
homeless population are contributing to the tourism nose-dive.
Now, Brown is pulling discretionary funds from other programs to pump up
street sweeping and homeless outreach in such trouble spots as Sixth Street
and the South of Market. And he's starting a cleanup pilot program in North
It is a characteristic change of course for a mayor who once chastised
reporters for exaggerating stories about outlaw camping and drug use in
Golden Gate Park, then called it a crisis one day later after he was shown a
video of the activity. Then he called for airborne heat-seeking equipment to
uncover park campgrounds.
Brown's loose talk is legendary, whether it's announcing policy decisions
and promotions in the press before telling much of his staff or calling a
49ers quarterback "an embarrassment to humankind" and later apologizing.
"He talks in hyperbole or denies the obvious because he has his back up,"
said James Richardson, author of "Willie Brown: A Biography."
Richardson remembers when Brown was Assembly speaker and flatly denied that
members smoked on the Assembly floor and ghost-voted for each other -- until
a television station broadcast footage showing otherwise.
Brown spokesman Ron Vinson said the mayor's comment Wednesday about the
dirty streets was not really a flip-flop.
"He was addressing the problem pockets. It's what he's said before," Vinson
Brown's comments came after months of news stories and pressure from hotel
owners, the Convention and Visitors Bureau and other community leaders to
clean up. The tourist industry's concerns were intensified after the Sept.
11 terrorist attacks.
Not that Brown has a clear-cut course for dealing with the grime wave. Take
it from someone who's been there, said former Mayor Art Agnos, "It's a
"I don't know if you can ever satisfy the different opposing views," Agnos
said. "I don't think you can clean it up enough for people who don't want to
see any kind of begging or any unkempt persons in San Francisco. And of
the (homeless) advocates are very afraid of some (violation) of their
Brown -- who usually is chauffeured by bodyguards around town -- recently
took walking tours of the grittiest parts of the city, received dozens of
calls and letters and attended community meetings about the issue.
Last month, he sat in on a City Hall meeting with religious, social service
and business leaders, and told them San Francisco is not as dirty as some of
them were making it sound.
He also reminded the group that he has already cleaned up homeless
encampments at U.N. Plaza, Boeddeker Park and Civic Center. Throughout his
two terms, he also has increased the number of sidewalk scrubbers,
neighborhood cleanups and created a trash and graffiti hot line.
A few days after that meeting, Brown said that anyone who thinks San
Francisco is still a dirty city should help pick up litter and sweep
That's what Gideon Kramer, 51, has been doing for months.
A longtime resident of the Mission District, Kramer decided to sweep, weed
and paint out graffiti after trying for years to get public works crews
interested in spending more time there.
Now Kramer feels like he is being heard.
"I think momentum is building up," Kramer said. "I'm not the only one
screaming about this. I think a lot of people have come to realize in the
last few years the city is in really bad shape. And it's going to affect the
bottom line, the tourists."
Kramer's efforts gave Brown the idea to create the "Green Patrol," a pilot
program about to start in North Beach. Two Public Works Department employees
will be assigned to about 10 blocks in the popular neighborhood, where they
will clean, keep an eye out for problems and be a constant resource for
residents and merchants.
"They will take pride in their particular area," said Alex Tourk, director
of the Mayor's Office of Neighborhood Services. "It's about trying to change
Kramer isn't the only resident pushing up his sleeves. Tired of complaining,
Al Baccari, head of the Fisherman's Wharf Association, said he recently
pulled together city agencies and Norcal Waste Systems and won their pledges
to repaint and refurbish one of the city's biggest tourist attractions.
That includes repainting 144 trash cans with the wharf logo, a crab.
Baccari said he wasn't surprised by Brown's latest comments about
intensifying cleanup efforts.
"It's par for the course," Baccari said. "He has this great saying that the
idea you have today is mine for tomorrow."
E-mail Ilene Lelchuk at email@example.com.
2001 San Francisco Chronicle Page A - 19 Chronicle