EXCLUSIVE: Struggling to get street hazards fixed? Here's what we know about the city-wide backlog

San Francisco Public Works crews repaired the hole on a Chinatown curb one day after ABC7 News reached out asking to fix it.

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, February 1, 2024
EXCLUSIVE: SF Chinatown waits 1+ year for city to fix sidewalk hole
A broken sidewalk in Chinatown has shed light on a backlog of street-related issues across San Francisco that have yet to be dealt with.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A broken sidewalk has turned into a bit of a safety hazard in San Francisco's Chinatown. The incident shed light on a backlog of street-related issues across the city that have yet to be dealt with.

According to analysis from the ABC7 News I-Team, there have been 18,250 complaints of street and curb-related issues reported across the city from 2023 through this year. About 30% of those cases still remain open.

Street hazard backlog

Some residents we spoke with say they've been waiting more than a year to get various street hazards addressed.

"I can't sleep," business owner Vivian Lo told ABC7 as she stared at the sunken sidewalk in front of her store at the corner of Waverly streets and Washington streets in the city's Chinatown District.

"We have communicated with the city already and they said they're going to fix it," Lo said.

But Lo says that never happened.

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Call 311

When there are problems like this -- broken sidewalks, damaged sewers, or potholes -- consumers are asked to call 311 to report it to the city's non-emergency complaint line. Personnel are there to help, as it states on the website. And the expectation is to get an answer. Better yet, a resolution.

Lo says she reached out to report the issue to 311 at least four times and added the San Francisco Chinese Chamber of Commerce had to intervene to help.

Records reviewed by the I-Team show there have been eight 311 complaints filed to the city about sidewalk defects at this same intersection dating back to November of 2023. But, Lo says she started filing the complaints last January.

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"Over one year, I can't believe it -- still nothing," she said. "I've seen elderly people trip and fall because of this."

The eye-sore has remained visible on the street corner and over the past several months, people have started to stuff safety cones in the hole to prevent others from tripping.

Lo says she lost hope for a fix until she ran into Shane Johnson, a Google Fiber network technician working to install internet in nearby buildings.

"It's unacceptable," Johnson said. "If the city isn't going to help these people, I'm reaching out to Channel 7."

So he did.

And we reached out to San Francisco Public Works and asked if they can fix it. We received a response within a couple hours that a crew would be coming out to address it the next day.

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"We cut out the curb to make it even," said Rachel Gordon with San Francisco Public Works.

"Why did it take so long to get addressed?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked.

"It took a long time because we're trying to figure out what the underlying problem was. It did get worse over time," Gordon said. "We likely should've gotten to this quicker."

Crews came out Wednesday morning to fill the hole with concrete in gravel. The city says a new curb will be built before the end of the day.

A sigh of relief for Lo -- as she's been dealing with flooding from that sidewalk every time it rains.

"It's incredible. Today is my happy day. Thank you, thank you," Lo said. "Finally a success."

You can track your 311 cases here.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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