Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mission Local: Petrelis' Pigeon Poop Cleanup & BART Campaign

A huge shout-out to reporter Joe Rivano Barros, who snapped the photo, for this fabulous story. He writes for the Mission Local news site and came on the tour of the plazas last week.

I find it quite ironic that BART's spokeswoman Alicia Trost says they couldn't send a rep because the walk-through was a campaign event. Um, BART managers have been staging plenty of their own campaign functions in order to get voters to approve their $3.5 billion bond measure.

Last weekend, at least one track at the MacArthur BART station was out of service so BART officials could show off their "Fleet of the Future" and plenty of reps were on hand to answer questions. So much for not engaging in political activities during election season.

That said, BART needs to step up regular maintenance services at this transit hub and the sooner the better. Excerpts from Barros' story:

"Michael Petrelis, the political gadfly and a candidate running to represent part of San Francisco on BART’s Board of Directors, is tired of pigeon crap. Its cleanup has in fact become a rallying cry for Petrelis’s campaign for the BART Board of Directors, in which he is running to represent District 9, which includes the seven BART stations from Montgomery Street to Balboa Park.

"But, he’s hardly waiting until Election Day. Last Thursday, he convened 11 representatives from five city agencies and walked them through the 16th Street BART Station — the Mission District’s dirtiest transit terminal — pointing to roosting pigeons, trashed corners, and urine-smelling pavement.

"The group — which included members of the Department of Public Works, Department of Public Health, the Municipal Transit Agency, Clear Channel, and the Police Department — listened to Petrelis and his solutions. They gave their own as well. A solar reflector, for instance, could use blinding light to prevent pigeons from roosting, said a police officer. [...]

"In the meantime, a representative from Public Works pledged to redouble efforts by clean-up crews to steam-clean the plaza. [...]

"'The pigeons are really a result of people who are congregating and making food available,' said Dr. Tomás Aragon, a health officer with the Department of Public Health. He called the preponderance of feces and trash a 'public health nuisance.' [...]
"'It’s an issue of poverty, it’s an issue of some of whom are homeless or marginally housed,' said Dr. Aragon. 'We’re going to have to figure out how we’re going to work with them, to reach out to them, to figure out a way so that they’re not feeding the birds.'

"Petrelis, a victim of pigeon poop, is adamant that his clean-up campaign is not intended to remove anyone from the plaza. The 57-year-old activist and blogger has been urging city agencies to take a keener interest in cleaning up the 16th Street BART Plaza since 2014, two years after he had an unfortunate incident there. That happened in June 2012, when Petrelis was using the downward escalator into the transit station when he put his hand on the rail and plopped it into a pile of pigeon droppings. [...]

"For Petrelis, the pigeon poop problem deserves a technical solution, one that won’t displace the regulars on the plaza but will selectively target the birds who feast on their leftovers. As a thrice-weekly user of the station, he wants the pigeon poop, dirty pavement, and trashed corners cleaned up. [...]

"Step one would be working with BART, a particular and longstanding problem, Petrelis said.

"The transit agency — along with Pacific Gas and Electric, which owns some of the wires where the pigeons perch — was not present at Petrelis’s walking tour. [...]

"Alicia Trost, a spokesperson from BART, said that there were no staff available to meet with Petrelis until mid-November. Furthermore, she said, it would be inappropriate to send staff to the walking tour since it “could be a campaign event.” Indeed, Petrelis pinned cloth reading “Vote Petrelis BART Board District 9” to his jacket and handed out business cards with the same slogan. [...]

"By the end of the hour-long tour, Darryl Dilworth from Public Works said he would look into additional funding for regular clean-up crews, funding he said Public Works was receiving from BART until a few months ago. The money, he said, allowed for daily steam-cleaning of the plaza. Petrelis, for his part, was hopeful and generally ecstatic that a citizen with a loud enough voice could assemble a half-dozen city agencies and demand they pay attention."

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