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SAN FRANCISCO
City says camera captured illegal dumping in Bayview
Lawsuit filed against individual appears to be first of its kind


Robert Selna, Chronicle Staff Writer
Thursday, August 24, 2006

Illegal dumpers should beware because their acts may now be caught on camera, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said Wednesday.

At a press conference on an industrial street corner in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood, Herrera announced that a nearby city camera caught Wilfredo Amaya dumping used carpet 16 times during the course of five months, prompting Herrera's office to file the first illegal dumping lawsuit against an individual in recent memory.

"The people doing the dumping are environmentally insensitive and are using tax dollars on cleaning up their messes," Herrera said. "If you engage in illegal dumping, we will track you, find you and enforce the law; there's a stiff price to be paid for violating San Francisco's dumping laws."

Herrera said that previous illegal dumping suits were filed against property owners for failing to clean up junk, rather than the actual dumpers, apparently making the case against Amaya unique.

The city incurred a $25,000 bill to pick up old carpeting and padding that Amaya left on a vacant dirt lot at the intersection of Thomas Avenue and Griffith Street, near the Griffith Pump Station, Herrera said, adding that the city will seek financial penalties that "could reach six figures."

When contacted on his cell phone Wednesday, Amaya declined to comment.

He is the first alleged scofflaw charged since the city's Department of Public Works mounted six surveillance cameras at popular dumping sites in the Bayview in April. The cameras were purchased with $150,000 secured in the city budget by Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose District 10 includes the Bayview-Hunters Point area.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday in San Francisco Superior Court alleges that between December 2005 and August 2006, Amaya discarded used carpet and padding 23 times on land owned by the city and state in an area that has few residences, many industrial businesses and numerous vacant lots.

The suit includes two public nuisance claims, a trespassing allegation and an unfair business claim. It states that Amaya's acts violated the city Police Code and the state Health and Safety and the Business and Professions Codes, and other laws.

After the cameras were installed in April, the city officials say they spied Amaya engaging in illegal dumping on 16 separate occasions. Seven previous incidents were traced back to Amaya through information found in the debris, according to Christine Falvey, the Department of Public Works' director of communications.

The lawsuit states that the carpet and other debris found at the site bore the name Dave's Carpets, a South San Francisco company. An employee reached at Dave's Carpets declined to comment Wednesday.

Images from the cameras can be observed in real time by Department of Public Works employees and the cameras can make tape recordings that employees can view later, according to Mohammed Nuru, deputy director of operations for the Department of Public Works.

Several of the cameras are equipped with infrared technology to record at night; others work only during the day. Some focus specifically on license plates, Nuru said. The dump cameras were in place before the San Francisco Police Department decided in June to spot cameras in crime-plagued neighborhoods.

Herrera said other illegal dumping suspects are under investigation for casting off everything from carpet and tires, to glass, paint and batteries. The city attorney declined to say how many suspects his office had identified.

He noted that approximately 10 tons of debris is dumped illegally every workday in the Bayview alone and said his office is making a push to clean up neighborhoods through enforcement action. Last month, the City Attorney's Office announced that it had obtained a civil injunction and $20,000 in financial penalties against Carlos Romero, 20, whom Herrera called "one of San Francisco's most prolific graffiti vandals."

E-mail Robert Selna at rselna@sfchronicle.com.

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