BART's Mission Street plazas = public health hazards

  • by Michael Petrelis
  • Wednesday September 14, 2016
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The 24th Street BART station has attracted a lot of pigeons,<br>and their poop. Photo: Michael Petrelis <br><br><br><br><br><br><br>
The 24th Street BART station has attracted a lot of pigeons,
and their poop. Photo: Michael Petrelis 

When my hand accidentally slid into the pigeon poop near the handrail of the down escalator one morning in the spring of 2014 at the 16th Street BART station, I wanted nothing more than a chance to wash up.

After paying my fare, I headed to the men's room only to be reminded it's been shuttered due to heightened security precautions since the 9/11 attacks.

This episode two years ago was the beginning of my campaign to challenge the incumbent BART director for this station, Tom Radulovich. I attempted communication with him, but he, unfortunately, never replied to my voicemails and emails.

A series of service requests to BART, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and the Departments of Public Works and Public Health produced a concerted number of scrubbings and improvements of the two plazas at this critical transit hub.

My advocacy led Out Traveler to run an article headlined, "Are S.F.'s Train Plazas Public Health Hazards?" Still, no public response came from Radulovich, a blot of disengagement on his record.

In July of this year, before he opted out of running for another four-year term, I became a candidate for the BART District 9 seat. Democracy is best served when all incumbents face challengers to prevent political complacency.

My campaign has directly engaged with the assorted public agencies tasked with a piece of the large maintenance picture for the 16th Street station.

Photographic and video evidence of the dirty problems have been submitted to the agencies and shared on my social media. Crews from DPW have been out power-washing, using a good deal of soap, recycled gray water, and disinfectant to clean most of the surfaces, street furniture, and Muni bus shelters.

The more permanent solution to the pigeon poop problem, especially near the stairs and escalators of the subway entrances, will require BART to fill in holes with concrete and install anti-avian metal spikes.

The entrances at the 24th and Mission station are equally in need of pigeon abatement and better sanitation.

Let me unequivocally declare that none of my proposals are designed to displace any users of the plazas. No one deserves a gross public transit hub.

I've petitioned San Francisco Health Director Barbara Garcia to declare a sanitary emergency at these BART plazas, to better develop regular patterns of keeping the hub as hygienic as possible. She's instructed DPH's environmental division to investigate.

Regardless of DPH's investigation and findings, there is an overwhelming need to assess the filth at the plazas and to ensure the next BART District 9 director is monitoring their environmental conditions.

Reopening the concourse level public toilets at 16th Street and all other closed restrooms would give everyone a place to pee and poop, and wash our hands. As with the Pit Stop program, hiring the homeless to staff the toilets would help them and curtail bad behavior.

I don't believe anyone can claim the status quo is acceptable. As a candidate, there are other matters of importance I want debated.

I'm pushing for greater transparency of BART management. The public needs to have easy online access to the salary and compensation packages of top managers and the calendar for General Manager Grace Crunican should be shared on BART's site.

Directors' meetings are extremely inconvenient for BART riders and stakeholders. All of them take place at the start of the workday, at 9 a.m. on Thursdays.

At the most recent BART board meeting, out of hundreds of thousands of riders, I was the sole person present. How can the directors and managers learn what is of concern to riders if they won't hold any meetings at night?

Let's activate the plazas with pop-up bike repair and small vendor shops and meet-and-greet sessions organized by the station and BART management with the District 9 director in attendance. Establish specific times for outreach work by local nonprofit agencies " from homeless groups to public transit and biking advocacy groups " and interactive musical and art programs.

Finally, we all need to vote yes on Measure RR, the BART bond on the November ballot. This would provide $3.5 billion to replace and modernize BART's crumbling infrastructure.

I would be honored to have your vote in the fall. For more information about my BART platform and campaign, please visit or


The author is a government transparency leader who regularly files public records requests with city officials and successfully lobbied the fire and health commissions to air their meetings on SFGov TV.