Businesses face fines over sidewalk gum

January 22, 2009 6:42:17 PM PST
On Clement Street in San Francisco, the city has upset several small business owners. It has to do with a division of labor, and it is quite literally, a sticky situation.

When archeologists uncover the remnants of 21st century San Francisco, they may also discover a strange, miracle substance -- little blobs, once soft, turned hard. Maybe the same blobs that Eileen Tan at the Singapore Malaysian Restaurant missed today.

"It's the public that does it, and we have no control of that," says Tan.

She works in a family restaurant, but spent time cleaning gum Thursday in response to a love note from San Francisco's Department of Public Works. Last week, an officer served notice to all the merchants on the block -- clean up your gummy sidewalks within seven days or pay a possible $300 fine.

"We're running a restaurant here. We're not professional street cleaners," says Tan.

The Department of Public Works actually has a name for this program. They call it an eco-blitz. They insist that they are not singling out Clement Street.

"I haven't seen the exact sidewalk, but the number of gum per square foot could be enormous," says Mohammed Nuru runs operations for the Department of Public Works, which has a few errant pieces of gum in front of its building, as well.

"We actually have a schedule. These are scheduled events," says Nuru.

The Department of Public Works eco-bitized three neighborhoods Thursday, including 24th Street near Potrero. The city has targeted some 200 blocks for the clean-up program which reminds business owners that they are responsible for keeping their sidewalks clean.

"The city has a responsibility to educate and inform people of what their responsibilities are," says Nuru.

"Education to me is teaching. This is more of demanding," says Tan.

Or maybe it is just a misunderstanding. Officers have issued 70 warnings and 10 citations, so far, but none of those have been for gum.