Trash talk about downtown leads to cleanup effort 

Starting this week, merchants and officials downtown will embark on a social experiment: asking people to clean up after themselves.

While city and business leaders hope to boost downtown San Carlos’ reputation as a quaint, family-oriented place to shop, complaints about dirty sidewalks dotted with cigarette butts have piled up almost as high as the litter itself.

Now, signs and fliers will be posted, asking downtown merchants to clean their sidewalks regularly and urging residents and visitors to throw their garbage into trash cans rather than onto the street, according to Sheryl Pomerenk, president of the San Carlos Chamber of Commerce. No additional enforcement effort is planned.

"The things that make our city charming, such as the farmers market, the kids and the dogs, are the same things that make it messy," said Holly Hill, manager and clothing buyer for Alta, located at 701 Laurel St.

During Hot Harvest Nights, patrons drop food and then step on it, tracking it into Laurel Street shops. Meanwhile, kids leave their greasy handprints on retailers’ glass-fronted stores, Hill said.

"We’ve been finding a lot of things, such as cardboard boxes and the invoices from deliveries, behind the building," said Zenon Arroyo, unit manager at Le Boulanger, at 622 Laurel St. "It looks really bad."

Complaints about downtown’s sometimes-shabby appearance first came to the attention of the City Council roughly a year ago, according to Mayor Tom Davids. At that time, the city vowed to take better care of its flowers and plants, watering them more regularly — an effort many merchants have said they appreciate.

Even so, the trash lingered. The chamber is now offering to power-wash the streets this year, after the final session of the farmers market, while the city will power-wash them in the spring, according to Pomerenk.

In addition, volunteers continue to maintain the planter boxes, parking lots will be cleaned one to two times per week, and the city has added trash containers and extra pickups on San Carlos Avenue and Laurel Street.

It can be a little frustrating telling people they need to put litter in trash cans, according to Davids, who has cleaned streets before.

"People don’t pay attention, but some of it is because things blow from trash cans that are not secured, or from newspaper racks," Davids said. "We all have a responsibility to keepthings clean."

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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Beth Winegarner

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