Rough road for street repairs 

The cracked and pothole-filled streets of The City could be repaved using borrowed money, but San Francisco would end up paying double the amount of the $48 million loan over 20 years.

Road repairs in The City have been underfunded for years, leading to the deterioration of 850 miles of pavement on the streets.

In 1988, the conditions earned an overall score of 78 out of 100. But by 2005, the score dropped to the mid-60s. The City needs $751 million during the next decade to improve streets to a score of 70, or “good,” and maintain them at that level.

The current road rating of 64 is considered fair.

The City is proposing to borrow $48 million in what is known as certificates of participation. Unlike a general obligation bond, which is funded through property taxes, COPs do not require voter approval. Instead, The City uses an asset to back up the debt and pays it back over time with interest.

Over 20 years, The City will pay back a total of $85.5 million in annual $4 million payments from The City’s operating budget, according to a report by Budget Analyst Harvey Rose.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to vote today on the borrowing proposal introduced by Mayor Gavin Newsom.

The mayor has increased city spending on streets since coming in to office. Funding for paving projects has increased from a low of $11 million in fiscal year 2003-04 to $50.6 million for the current fiscal year, according to the Department of Public Works, which oversees infrastructure in The City.

“Street repair becomes much more costly if you allow the streets to decline to such a condition that they require extensive reconstruction later,” Department of Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey said. “As an example, the average cost of paving a street that is still in fair condition is $97,800. The cost of repairing a street in poor condition is $436,000.”

The borrowing has drawn concern from San Francisco lawmakers as well.

“We’ve lost state funding that would pay for this,” Budget Committee chair John Avalos said. “It’s just one of the things that we have to figure out how to do on top of pensions and our health care costs and our budget deficit. I don’t think it makes a lot of sense. But I’m worried that we don’t have that many choices.”

Of the borrowing, $28 million would go toward street resurfacing. Other spending includes curb ramps and sidewalk repairs.

In May, a report commissioned by The City detailed options for creating a steady revenue stream to pay for street repair. The “best options” to generate revenue, the report said, were a conditional general tax, a citywide benefits assessment district or a parcel tax based on trip generation.

Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said it is not unusual for cities to borrow money to fund their streets. 

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, however, said street repaving often loses out during the budget process.

“It appears to be the only option we have left,” Elsbernd said of the debt. “Welcome to San Francisco budgeting. It happens every year.”


Repaving bonanza

What Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed $48 million in borrowing will fund for street resurfacing:

Cabrillo Street: 25th to 45th avenues

Marina Boulevard: Laguna to Scott streets

Lyon Street: Green to Bay streets

Columbus Avenue: Union to Leavenworth streets

Broadway: Battery to Kearny streets

Stanyan Street: Geary Boulevard to Mountain Spring Avenue

Guerrero Street: Laguna to 19th streets

Silver Avenue: Bayshore Boulevard to Palou Avenue

Lawton Street: 28th to 45th avenues

Newcomb Avenue: Phelps to Newhall streets

Other spending:

$787,068 Bridge Preventive Maintenance Program

$2M Street structures, i.e. stairwell, walls

$1.5M Sidewalk repairs

$6.4M Curb ramps

Source: Department of Public Works

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