uFixIt: Massive Bernal Heights sink hole finally fixed

Massive Bernal Heights sink hole finally fixed
November 7, 2011 8:18:44 PM PST
In our uFixIt segment, we have the story of a sink hole that's been sinking for years and people in the neighborhood are fed up with the inaction over getting it repaired, but when the ABC7News I-Team showed up things got rolling.

People who live near the sink hole tell us the ongoing patch job is a quick fix that's not safe and it's a waste of tax dollars. They wanted the sink hole in San Francisco's Bernal Heights fixed the right way, once and for all, so they contacted uFixIt for help.

It's a sink hole with a long history.

"As long as I can remember, we've had this problem down here. The city will come by, they'll dump tar in it, call it good, a month later we have the hole again," said Rob Balcioni, a neighbor.

Balcioni said many cars have gone up against the sinkhole at Holladay and Costa and lost

"My daughter was driving by in her car, made the turn, hit that, and it actually blew out her tire," said Balcioni.

But neighbors like Pat Martel worry about something worse; she emailed uFixIt.

"This is the end of a very steep hill. There is a guardrail down at the bottom and if a car hits this it's very likely that they could lose control and be seriously hurt," said Martel.

Martel knows what she's talking about. She happens to be the city manager of Daly City, so the question is, would she accept this work?

"As a city manager in Daly City, no I would have not. If my crews would have gone out and made a repair the first time on something like this, it would have been done properly," said Martel.

Our camera attracted plenty of neighbors, happy to weigh in about the chronic problem.

"We've been calling for weeks and weeks and weeks about this and you know its taxpayer money and they want more money," said Bev Colon, a neighbor.

But the neighbors aren't the only ones who noticed us -- a lone truck from the Department of Public Works happened to drive by and suddenly it's go time. They paint caution lines, they park over the hole, and call it in, they put up signs, they leave, but the neighbors hold out -- there's still a hole several feet deep. A half hour later, there was a second drive-by by Public Works, and a couple of hours later, they did another patch and even stuffed a paper bag down the hole saying it will help keep the rats out, and that's it. But another patch isn't going to fly here.

"This was just to say, 'Let's shut you up and move on with another story.' That's what they came to do. Is that the right way to do California? No it is not," said Ramses Rivera, a neighbor.

So we called DPW and they called the Public Utilities Commission, which maintain San Francisco's water and sewer lines.

"The good news is that we've identified that there is a problem that's deeper than just a pothole or a sinkhole, it's actually a crack in the sewer line," said Jean Walsh, a PUC spokesperson.

But it turns out there was also a break in communication. The PUC generated a work order for the sinkhole a year ago, but it got lost along the way. Walsh tells us until recently they kept track of problems on the 900 miles of sewer line with pen and paper.

"In light of this investigation, we've figured out there is a problem and now were on it and were fixing it. We've also implemented in the last year a new system that tracks these work orders electronically," said Walsh.

We checked back on the neighborhood and this time, instead of the persistent Bernal Heights sinkhole, we found a worksite.

"We feel empowered by your care, your presence, your camera, and thank you so very much," said Laurie, a neighbor. We stopped by late Monday to check on the progress. The broken sewer line and the sinkhole are now fixed and also has a fresh layer of asphalt.

If you have a problem that needs fixing or a government service that isn't working, upload your video at ureport.abc7news.com and don't forget to include a phone number and an email address where we can contact you.


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