Chinatown alley slated to be spruced up in green project 

click to enlarge Spofford Alley will receive planters that capture storm water as part of an SFPUC plan. - MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Mike Koozmin/The S.F. Examiner
  • Spofford Alley will receive planters that capture storm water as part of an SFPUC plan.
One of the most heavily traveled alleys in Chinatown is about a see a makeover that is expected to beautify the area, while helping The City’s sewer system.

Spofford Street, with its beaten-up plant pots and uneven asphalt, has been selected from about a dozen alleyways for a green infrastructure project within the North Shore watershed.

Highlights of the makeover includes four planters engineered to capture storm water, concrete pavers and benches in the shape of Chinese character strokes.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is constructing one green infrastructure project at each of The City’s eight watersheds, where water naturally drains to alleviate pressure on its combined sewer system during storms. San Francisco is one of two cities in the state — the other being Sacramento — with a combined sewer system that treats surface, industrial and residential runoff before releasing it into the bay or ocean.

Spofford isn’t as steep as other alleys that were considered, allowing the planters to more easily capture runoff for filtering or evaporation that would otherwise end up in the sewer system, explained Saed Toloui, a senior project manager with the commission.

“A few times a year, even with the drought, we still see the system overwhelmed because too much water comes in and it goes over our capacity of 500 million gallons a day,” Toloui said. “Then we have to release it partially treated.”

The SFPUC chose Spofford for the Chinatown Green Alley project not only because of its incline, but also because the Department of Public Works already had plans to fix the worn asphalt with funds from a 2011 road repaving and street safety bond. The joint project will also involve a raised sidewalk to make the alley more pedestrian friendly, and less inviting to vehicle traffic.

Business owners and neighbors viewed the final project design March 12 and conversed with commission staff who marked where the new alley installations are planned, wrapping up the project’s planning phase.

Construction is slated to begin next March and expected to take nine months.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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