A regular stream of complaints on Twitter highlighting increasing quality of life issues in Central SoMa has caught the attention of City Hall—resulting in a commitment to bring the mayor's Fix-It team to the neighborhood next year.
The group behind the complaints is #bettersoma. Adam Mesnick—owner of the popular Seventh and Folsom sandwich shop Deli Board and a Central SoMa resident—and several fellow business owners and residents in the neighborhood formed the new community group in August to organize behind their demands that City Hall address the drug use and vagrancy around Sixth and Seventh on Folsom Street.
The #bettersoma group has held five community meetings since August. But more noticeably, group members have been using Twitter to bring their frustrations with daily exposure to intravenous drug use, human waste and tent encampments on Central SoMa sidewalks to Mayor Ed Lee's attention.
“Adding the mayor [to these tweets] was to get the attention of the city so they could see, on the street level, what’s been going on,” Mesnick said.
The effort has done just that.
Last month, Mesnick met with Mayor Ed Lee, Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing; Barbara Garcia, the city's director of health; and Sandra Zuniga, director of the mayor's Fix-It program; to discuss how the city planned to deal with neighbors' concerns.
Zuniga then attended the group's latest community meeting, last Tuesday, to announce that the Fix-It team is beginning to lay the groundwork for improvement efforts in SoMa.
Mayor Lee formed the Fix-It program in May with the directive: "All residents are entitled to feel safe in their homes and neighborhoods. All residents are entitled to clean, well-maintained public spaces and facilities, such as parks, libraries, public transportation, sidewalks, and streets."
While Zuniga says a detailed plan and timeline for the department's efforts in SoMa will be shared at a follow-up community meeting in January, #bettersoma already has two hotspots on their agenda for that discussion.
The group's first ask is the removal of Tutubi Plaza, located at Russ and Minna alleys (between Sixth and Seventh streets). The parklet, built in 2011, was originally designed as an artistic neighborhood improvement, but locals have claimed since 2014 that the plaza only draws drug users and crime to the area.
More details on the location and agenda for the next #bettersoma community meeting—scheduled for January 25th, Mesnick said—and discussion with Zuniga will be released after the holidays.
In the meantime, Mesnick admits that both #bettersoma and the city have a lot of work ahead of them to bring quality of life improvements to SoMa.
"They have their hands full," Mesnick admitted.
However, "It’s important that people stay with it," he said. "It’s important for people to be and think local and that begins at your doorstep.”
To keep up or get in touch with #bettersoma, follow the group on Twitter or email bettersoma AT gmail DOT com.