Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval: Don't Pave Over that Yard

I am happy to announce that we are making progress in the fight against one of the worst scourges in San Francisco: residents paving over their beautiful front yards with concrete so they can park their cars.

Neighborhoods across San Francisco are in danger of becoming concrete jungles. The cars leave oily stains where we once had flowers, trees and ornamental shrubs.

The problem is much more than just an aesthetic concern.

When rain does not drain into the ground, the natural aquifers under San Francisco cannot replenish themselves. The soil then settles and can damage the foundation of homes and buildings. We also use the aquifers in emergencies, for municipal golf courses, for the SF Zoo, and for Golden Gate Park. The quality of San Francisco Bay water and ocean water is also diminished.

San Francisco has a combined sewer system, whereby we process brown water and storm runoff. When it is not raining, there is plenty of capacity so everything gets cleaned and returned to the environment. But when it rains, sometimes there is not enough capacity and sewage mixed with rainwater can be discharged into the ocean. When people pave over their front yards, all the water runs into the sewers and we cannot process it all.

To fix the problem, I authored legislation in 2002 that made it illegal to pave over your front yard. A broad coalition of neighborhood groups and every member of the SF Board of Supervisors supported the ordinance.

But scofflaws have continued to tear up their front yards.

To correct this, I recently introduced legislation that allows the Planning Department to fine persons who violate the Planning Code, including the front-yard set-back requirement. If you see someone starting to dig up their front lawn, tell them it is against city law, and if necessary call your district supervisor so we can get the right people out to your block. Together, we can keep San Francisco beautiful and healthy.

Gerardo Sandoval is a San Francisco supervisor representing District 11.