Neighborhood Clean Team Aims To Keep Hayes Valley Tidy

After noticing the amount of weeds and litter along the Octavia Boulevard median, one Hayes Valley resident decided to take matters into his own hands.

To combat the issue of trash and litter, Mark Stephenson, a newly-minted resident of the area, started the Hayes Valley Clean Team, a group that meets on Saturday mornings to keep the area tidy.

"I grew up in Anaheim, where Disney is," said Stephenson, "and [Disney is] completely and antiseptically clean. They did studies and found that if it's partially clean versus completely clean, people are less apt to put trash on the ground. Any trash gives people permission to make more trash."

Some of the trash found along Octavia Blvd.

Instead of just complaining about the litter problem, Mark decided to do something. At first, he went out and pulled weeds himself, armed with just a hoe.

"The weeds were up to my chest in some cases," he noted.

Stephenson then printed out 250 fliers asking for volunteers to come out and help, and about 20 volunteers have come to help out, including neighborhood businesses like Boba Guys.

"It takes a lot of hard work, elbow grease, and coming together to keep our neighborhood looking so fresh and so clean," they wrote on Instagram after their  "bobaristas" spent a spring afternoon cleaning. "We couldn't think of a better way to spend our Saturday than getting down and dirty in the weeds!"


Gail Baugh, the president of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association (HVNA) also volunteered. She supported Stephenson in going to the Department of Public Works to get the city to provide volunteers with what they need and to help with disposal.  

"[Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association] initiated the clean-up effort to support Public Works' efforts to restore and maintain this beautiful boulevard, now 10 years old," said Baugh. "Maintenance and plant restoration will be an on-going responsibility, and we are working together, beginning with our neighbors on the Clean Team to keep eyes on the boulevard."

Mark Stephenson (left) poses for the camera after pulling weeds. A city worker (right) helps dispose of waste.

After the clean-up, the plan is to beautify the median and maintain the litter pickup. The team will take a break while Friends of the Urban Forest fixes the irrigation and trims the trees, then they will start up again for the plantings.

Although Stephenson has had a good turnout with the clean-ups, he expects more people to show up once the planting is ready.

"More people are going to volunteer for the plantings than the weedings," he noted.

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Neighborhood clean team aims to keep hayes valley tidy