Report: Inefficiency rife at DPW 

The department in charge of cleaning streets, fixing potholes and maintaining trees is disorganized and mired in bureaucracy, leading to ballooning project costs and delays, according to a report released Tuesday.

Among other things, The City’s budget analyst audit of the Department of Public Works found that the agency’s street-resurfacing program has not been cost-effective, citing unwarranted changes to work contracts as a major problem. For example, the Cesar Chavez Street Improvement Project in 2004 was delayed by 781 days and saw 25 percent of its budget eaten up by overruns caused by contract changes.

Cleaning and maintaining city streets and public rights of way were a problem, the report found, with an average of only 663 of 935 graffiti-removal requests per month completed within the department’s 48-hour goal between July 2004 and June 2006.

While Mayor Gavin Newsom has made planting trees a priority, having set a goal of adding 5,000 trees a year to city streets for the next five years, the urban forestry wing of the department has a poorly maintained database of tree location and number, the report stated. That deficiency is causing delays in enforcement of illegal tree removal, according to the report.

In addition, legal settlements brought on by tree problems, sidewalk falls and department projects cost city taxpayers $2,848,511 from 2005 to 2006, with 58 percent of payouts the result of lawsuits brought on by tree incidents, the report noted. Legal claims have gone up 50 percent over the last 10 years and payouts have increased by 79 percent during the same period.

DPW chief Fred Abadi did not dispute the findings or the 120 analyst recommendations made in the 269-page report.

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