SFPUC explores green projects to lessen burden on sewer system 

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The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission is going green.

The agency is looking for ways to alleviate stress on its collection system, and the solution might be environmentally conscious projects.

"We want to look at different technology and green infrastructure," said Raphael Garcia, a project manager with the SFPUC. "It's performance-based, so we'll see what is specifically good for stormwater and how much [green systems] perform vs. how much it costs."

The idea is to transform sidewalks, public plazas and parking spots into inviting spaces using green concepts such as rain gardens, which can help manage stormwater, or permeable concrete that catches precipitation and uses it right on-site for irrigation instead of letting it run off into the sewer system.

"When it rains hard everything that falls on the sidewalks and streets overflows our system" said SFPUC spokeswoman Lily Madjus. "These projects will build infrastructure, test the technology and beautify the neighborhood."

These types of projects will be located in each of The City's eight watersheds. Many are in the planning stages now and will be built in the next five years. SFPUC officials hope more projects will be conceived once these initial ideas are completed.

A stretch of Valencia Street between the Mission district and Bernal Heights is slated for upgrades. Curbs will be widened and vegetation added. And where Valencia Street meets Mission Street, a cultural plaza and events space will take over a portion of unused roadway. All of it will help collect stormwater.

The area has been a pass-through for people headed to the Mission or the highways, but more recently industrial spaces have become residences. The work, SFPUC officials hope, will create a better sense of community.

The plans are the result of months of community input, public meetings and consultations with businesses. Some requests were accommodated while others were tweaked to meet the needs of the entire community.

For instance, parking spaces in front of Planned Parenthood — where many protesters park cars to display their anti-abortion messages — will be removed and replaced with vegetation to capture rainwater.

Projects also are expected to begin along the Fell and Oak streets corridors in the spring, and a covered-up creek in the Bayview is expected to be unearthed.

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