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Giving the public a greater opportunity to contribute to San Francisco street projects through clearer communications

In San Francisco, proposed street projects are required to go through an Engineering Public Hearing before being approved by either the City Traffic Engineer or the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SFMTA) Board. SFMTA's Communications Division worked with the Controller's Office Lean Process Improvement Team (PPI's Ryan Hunter and Jenessa Rozier's previous team) to partner and create change for Engineering Public Hearings through process improvement techniques.

The team executed their improvement project, and found through investigation of the current state that members of the public reported not receiving clear, explicit notices. The public was frustrated at the process to submit feedback and opinion on upcoming projects, and felt that their voices were unheard since they could not adequately provide their concerns for projects in their neighborhoods. SFMTA staff, through facilitated meetings, decided to make improvements to the design of the public posting notices to make the content clear and explicit for San Francisco residents.

Side by side of old public hearing notice and new public hearing notice, with indicators of what was changed or updated

Improvements made to the existing notice included:

  • Color was used to draw attention and make the notice more visually appealing

  • Titles would appear in multiple languages, in order to consider the diverse resident population that would be reading these notices

  • Descriptions were clearer and included a map to highlight project location and impacts

  • Staff information applicable to the project were included, along with clearer steps for public participation

  • Removed excess information and jargon to make the notice simpler and less confusing to read

Here's what Alexander Jonlin, a project team member from SFMTA's Sustainable Streets division, had to say about the impact:

“Since we implemented the new hearing notice many colleagues have told me that they were frustrated by our old process and have wanted to change it for a long time but never thought it would actually happen. The process over the last few months with the Controller’s Office allowed us to think big and make real, meaningful changes, which we’ll continue to improve moving forward as we learn more. The best part has been seeing co-workers who were initially resistant to the change start to embrace it and go the extra mile in making sure all our constituents hear about projects in their neighborhood and have a chance to make their voices heard.”

The improvements made by the folks at SFMTA have improved the quality of services that the residents of San Francisco experience, and engaged the public to ensure their voices are heard.

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