California’s Severe Drought Continues, but Private Businesses Remain Saturated

Last week Wednesday, after three consecutive years of severe drought and a failed call for residents to reduce water usage, California officials proposed to issue fines to those who overuse. Fines can be up to $500 and may be incurred if water is:

  • Sprayed onto outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures.
  • Sprayed onto any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt.

Unfortunately, under the new water usage rule, local agencies are allowed to construct their own water-conservation policy to minimize the impact on their communities, which means the above rules may not apply. One of the State’s largest cities, the City of San Francisco, has taken advantage of this loophole.

Currently, along Market Street, water is sprayed onto sidewalks from 4 AM to 8 AM, five times per week, or twenty times per month, and this sidewalk water spraying policy directly violates the new water reduction regulations above—water is sprayed onto a hard surface (concrete), and runoff is occurring to public walkways (sidewalk).

Because the City is violating State mandate to conserve water, thus ignoring government regulation, or the core of a strong democracy, we must ask: Has the City of San Francisco, Home of Liberalism and Democracy, taken a turn toward Conservatism and Anti-Regulation? Have we lost our City to yet another infection of Reaganomics and private enterprise greed?

To explore further, recall that the City implemented the sidewalk water spraying policy nine months ago, after receiving requests from new Market Street companies to clean up after the City’s homeless population. Based on these requests, the City started to spray the sidewalks to remove homeless people and their belongings.

Sidewalk spraying operations occur each morning Monday through Thursday before business hours begin, which makes the true intent of the sidewalk spraying policy obvious: clean the streets of homeless people so that those who work on Market may walk with only the reflection of sun off a wet sidewalk.

But, to justify the water usage, San Francisco Department of Public Works spokesman, Rachel Gordon, cited the need to remove urination and feces.

“Our very strong concern is that human feces or heavy urination, which we get quite a few complaints about, still get cleaned up,” Rachel Gordon, San Francisco Public Works Department spokeswoman, said in an article with the SF Chronicle. “We give very high priority to responding to the pee and poop requests.”

Since pee and poop requests have become critical to San Francisco, why was the sidewalk cleaning started just nine months ago, at the crux of California’s drought? Could it be, instead, that the large influx of private corporations over the past years has resulted in a new San Francisco, one that appeases the demands of these enterprises, rather than the demands of a true democracy?

Evidence points to yes. Observers of the Market Street cleaning activities say almost all of the water spraying occurs on bare sidewalk, not on sidewalk with urination or human feces. Reports note that the spraying follows a predetermine path, from the Embarcadero to Van Ness Avenue, and not a response to report of urination or human feces. If, as Rachel Gordon says, the intent of spraying sidewalks is to respond to pee and poop requests, then why is sidewalk spraying scheduled? If spraying is supposed to be a response, why are the same sidewalks being sprayed daily?

When the watering fines start, remember that the watering fines will not start for all. Walk down Market Street, feel the dampness of the concrete, and see the doors of private corporations such as Salesforce open, the water below run down the drain. We are all in this together. Severe droughts don’t pick and choose. Neither should regulation.