City maintenance needs pile up 

The City’s struggle to keep up with necessary maintenance and repairs is increasing future expenses that will result in a massive burden on generations to come, according to an infrastructure report.

Five years ago, The City created a 10-year capital plan, updated annually, that established a spending strategy for reducing the backlog of required maintenance projects.

The plan addresses all city infrastructure, including the conditions of San Francisco streets, public safety buildings, recreation centers and school buildings.

In recent years, The City made an effort to sink more money into its infrastructure needs. But in the wake of the recession and budget deficits, The City is failing to spend the necessary funds for upkeep, which further exacerbates the already-backed-up list of needed maintenance and repairs.

As a result, the current repairs that need to be made will only become more severe and costly the longer they are ignored.

“Not only does this prevent The City from maintaining its infrastructure in a state of good repair, but it makes those same repairs more expensive in the future as construction costs increase and small preventative repairs become larger and more expensive replacements,” the report said. “This means that, at a minimum, a dollar spent today equals five dollars spent ten years from now.”

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd was a strong advocate of creating the capital plan and investing more in infrastructure.

“We need to understand the long-term impact of our budget decisions,” he said.

Elsbernd said not investing adequately will create an “astronomical bill” for future generations. “They are going to hit more potholes. Their city buildings will continue to erode,” he said.

The City is facing its second consecutive year of having to close a budget deficit in excess of $500 million. By June 1, Mayor Gavin Newsom must submit a balanced city budget to the Board of Supervisors for review and adoption. The board also votes on the capital plan.

“The decision to underfund The City’s annual renewal needs has long-term effects,” the plan said. “This plan defers $183 million more [in] annual needs than last year, a 33 percent increase.”

Supervisor John Avalos, who chairs the board’s Budget and Finance Committee, said the hit on infrastructure spending is a result of having to “stretch our limited dollars over capital projects and services.

“Maybe people haven’t noticed so much so far,” Avalos said. “But they are going to notice changes when we approve this budget. The City is going to be held together with Band-Aids.”


Money problems

The City’s maintenance program is feeling the pain of budget cuts.

•$66M: Assumed investment on annual infrastructure needs in FY2010-11
•Plan defers $183 million more in annual needs than last year, a 33 percent rise
•Proposes increasing amount to $165 million by FY2020
•Projects city meets annual needs in 2025
•Backlog reaches $3 billion by FY2030

Source: Draft city capital plan for fiscal year 2011

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