Ensure Downtown is clean, safe, and inviting

May 23, 2023

Investing in a clean and safe downtown is essential to attracting new businesses as well as workers, visitors, and residents.

“Pier 7 on the northern waterfront” by haveseen


The City has begun to advance a series of initiatives and will launch additional programs that support this strategy: 

  • Support businesses, residents, and visitors with an enhanced public safety presence 

  • Continue and grow Healthy Streets coordinated response programs that connect people experiencing homelessness, behavioral health challenges, and addiction with services while keeping streets and sidewalks safe for everyone.  

  • Implement the Mayor’s Home by the Bay plan to reduce unsheltered homelessness by half over the next five years. 

  • Implement street vending regulations to discourage and disrupt the resale of stolen merchandise while supporting small entrepreneurs and keeping sidewalks accessible.  

  • Provide a welcoming gateway to Downtown attractions through increased parking garage security at City garages.  

  • Expand on the City’s partnership with Community Benefit Districts to keep sidewalks and plazas clean through the 311 Connected Worker App

  • Continue to fund and expand targeted cleaning crews in key areas and hot spots.  

  • Welcome transit riders and visitors to Downtown with refurbished transit platforms and Shelters



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Enhanced public safety presence

One of Mayor Breed’s top budget investments is public safety, including police officer recruitment and retention. The City is committed to keeping the public safe by providing a visible, responsive, and effective public safety presence for everyone, including residents, workers, and visitors throughout the city and especially in areas with high foot traffic and other priority locations including Downtown.

  • Like public safety agencies across the country, the San Francisco Police Department is facing record staffing shortages. As part of the Mayor’s budget, increased police recruitment and retention efforts are underway and more incentives are in development. In April 2023, the Board of Supervisors approved a new police contract championed by the Mayor that will give San Francisco a recruitment edge by offering the highest starting salary for new officers in the Bay Area, while also providing raises and retention bonuses to help retain current offers. 

  • While rebuilding staffing in the long run, the Mayor recognizes that we must maintain an adequate level of public safety response now. To keep up with these needs San Francisco has been relying on overtime to ensure police are providing critical levels of service. In March 2023, the Mayor successfully passed a $25 million police staffing budget supplemental to keep residents, workers, and businesses safe.   

  • The Police Department is hiring and deploying retired officers as on-the-ground Community Safety Ambassadors and Police Services Aides in order to deter criminal activity and respond to lower and mid-level calls for service, allowing sworn officers to respond to more serious offenses quicker.  

  • To further support public safety, the Mayor’s Camera Access legislation passed in September 2022, giving police officers lawful access to privately-owned live video footage. 

  • The police presence is just one component of a comprehensive public safety approach that includes street and sidewalk activations, constant and consistent cleaning, having welcoming ambassadors along commercial and tourist corridors, and community-led activities that get more eyes and feet on the streets.  

  • Taken together, these efforts allow the Police Department to rapidly deploy sworn personnel when and where it is warranted, to further criminal investigations into organized crime and will support a continued visible public safety presence in targeted areas including Union Square and Mid-Market in Downtown.  

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Healthy Streets coordinated response

San Francisco’s Healthy Streets suite of programs provides a coordinated street response that offers alternatives to law enforcement responses to homelessness and behavioral health crisis.     

  • These innovative strategies bring City-led outreach and response teams into community to focus on acute behavioral health responses, wellness checks, housing and supportive services, and overdose response and prevention. Partner City agencies include the Department of Emergency Management, San Francisco Fire Department and Community Paramedicine, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Department of Public Health, and Public Works.  

  • In 2023, the City will expand its existing network of nine crisis response and planned outreach Street Response Teams with the launch of a new Community Response Team, an effort that will fill an important gap in our services continuum: an array of twelve crisis response and planned outreach efforts such as the Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT), Healthy Streets Operation Center (HSOC) and SF Homeless Outreach Team (SFHOT) that currently include 12 teams capable of responding 24 hours-a-day. Additionally, a new Public Awareness Campaign will educate the public on these coordinated street response services so residents know what to do when they observe situations on the street in need of response. 

  • In March 2023, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development extended two key street ambassador programs through the fall. The Mid-Market Safety Ambassadors program in Mid-Market and the Tenderloin provides a trauma-informed, non-police response for people experiencing homeless, addiction, or behavioral health issues on the street through local non-profit Urban Alchemy. The Downtown Welcome Ambassadors program deploys ambassadors throughout the Financial District, Union Square, and northeast waterfront to help visitors find their way to key destinations and attractions in partnership with the San Francisco Tourism Improvement District

  • In April 2023, the Department of Emergency Management hired a Street Ambassador Coordinator to improve and coordinate existing ambassador programs citywide through City code changes, strategic planning and deployment, network building, and standardization of trainings and practices. These efforts will include ambassador programs that are operated or contracted by the City as well as those operated by community partners including Community Benefits Districts and Business Improvement Districts. 

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Home by the Bay Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness 

San Francisco has always been committed to supporting the most vulnerable members of our society, and that includes helping those experiencing homelessness connect with resources to access the housing, support services and opportunities they need to thrive. Without the right support, people experiencing homelessness struggle to improve their own conditions or contribute their full potential to San Francisco.  

  • In April 2023, Mayor Breed and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) announced Home by the Bay, an updated five-year strategic plan to help people Downtown and throughout the City to exit homelessness successfully.  

  • The equity-driven plan builds on the City’s commitment and success in increasing access to shelter and housing in recent years and lays out bold new objectives, including moving 30,000 people into housing and reducing unsheltered homelessness by half by 2028. 

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Street vending regulations

Street vending is an important platform for small merchants and artisans, and a part of San Francisco’s cultural fabric, but street vending can also lead to sidewalk overcrowding, the resale of stolen merchandise, unsafe conditions, and disruption to nearby small businesses.  

  • In March 2022, the Board of Supervisors passed street vending legislation introduced by Mayor Breed that established a regulatory framework for vendors. This new framework gives street vendors clear operating parameters, while also providing a way for the City to monitor and discourage the resale of stolen merchandise, thereby reducing incentives for retail theft.

  • Public Works developed permitting guidelines and is now working to engage with street vendors to educate them about the new permitting program and encourage registration. The goal is to reduce retail theft and property crime, while creating cleaner, safer public spaces that empower the legal street vending economy.

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Parking garage security

Public parking garages are a gateway to Downtown for many visitors, and the City is committed to ensuring that these facilities present a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all users.   

  • The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) recently upgraded all City-managed garages with new technology to provide secure credit card transactions and tighten access to facilities during off hours. Additionally, in February 2023, the SFMTA, in partnership with the Recreation and Parks Department, increased security at the Union Square Garage by installing secure rolling doors and enhancements that limit access overnight, while also increasing staffing to expand the presence of roving staff in the garage.  

  • Security gates and locked pedestrian entrances were installed at the Fifth and Mission Garage near Yerba Buena Gardens in May 2023. Work to install security cameras and intercoms at the Ellis and O’Farrell garage was also completed in May 2023, and is underway at the Fifth and Mission garage. The SFMTA is also in the process of upgrading the lighting at the Ellis and O’Farrell Garage to ensure evening and nighttime visitors feel more secure and safe entering and exiting this facility between Market and Union Square.

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311 Connected Worker App

Community Benefit Districts (CBDs) are City-sponsored organizations that are vital to day-to-day essential services, including cleaning, activation and other community needs in specific neighborhoods.  

  • In 2021, 311 expanded its Connected Worker App to allow Community Benefit District (CBD) crews to directly receive and respond to street and sidewalk cleaning requests through 311 so that they can work in closer partnership with Public Works and other City departments to resolve situations in their districts efficiently as they arise.  
  • To date, resolution time for complaints of loose trash was reduced from 34 to 5 hours on average, for graffiti in public spaces from six days to four hours, and graffiti on private properties from nine days to 13 hours. Participating CBDs include the Downtown, East Cut, Yerba Buena, SoMa West, Tenderloin and Civic Center.   

  • The City continues to partner with CBDs to expand the reach and effectiveness of this new tool to keep Downtown streets clean and inviting at all times. 

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Targeted cleaning crews

San Francisco Public Works provides daily cleaning services to keep San Francisco’s sidewalks, streets, and public spaces clean and welcoming to residents, workers, visitors and business owners.

  • Cleaning crews are steam cleaning and addressing litter throughout Downtown daily. Additionally, Public Works deploys “Hot Spots” encampment cleanup crews to priority locations such as Embarcadero Plaza and throughout SoMa as well as the citywide overnight alley cleaning program that includes a substantial presence Downtown. 

  • Mayor Breed’s 2022-2023 budget provided additional funding to ramp up areas in and around Union Square, Moscone Center, and Tenderloin, providing corridor ambassadors to maintain a consistent presence and increasing overnight flushing and steaming services. 

  • Public Works continues to collaborate closely with SF Travel and the Moscone Conference Center as well as with the Downtown theaters to ensure cleanliness and safety during events with increased crowds. 

  • As Public Works continues to hire key positions, additional needs in Downtown districts will be assessed for further targeted efforts. 

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Refurbished transit platforms and shelters

Bus shelters and transit platforms are where many trips Downtown begin and end and a place where riders form their impressions of the overall conditions of the area where they are located. The City strives to provide a safe and clean experience at every bus, train or streetcar stop.

  • Beginning in 2023, the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency (SFMTA) has increased regular transit stop cleaning by 50%. Under this new schedule, all boarding platforms will be cleaned five times per week. All transit shelters are cleaned regularly with a focus on specific areas, including Market Street, Mission Street, and the Tenderloin. 

  • As of May 2023, the SFMTA has also conducted a citywide evaluation of transit shelter conditions to target repairs and upgrades where they are needed most, including graffiti removal, replacing glass, benches and map cases, and general repairs and maintenance. The repair and upgrade work is underway and in some cases glass is being removed from shelters that have had persistent graffiti issues. 

  • As part of its Next Generation Customer Information System, the SFMTA is installing new LCD digital displays with real-time transit vehicle arrival information at Muni transit shelters. As of April 2023, more than half of the 700 new displays had been installed. The new displays feature accessible text-to-speech capability, larger and clearer text and letters and characters in multiple languages. About a third of the displays will be double-sided for additional visibility at major transfer points.


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