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Director of Public Works

Mohammed Nuru portrait

Mohammed Nuru serves as director of the San Francisco Public Works, where he oversees one of the City’s largest and most complex operations with a 1,200-member work force and a $223 million annual operating budget. The department's active capital project portfolio exceeds $3 billion.

Mayor Edwin M. Lee and City Administrator Naomi Kelly appointed him to the top Public Works’ post in August 2011. Prior to that, he served 11 years as the deputy director for operations.

Director Nuru manages and directs the department’s four divisions: operations, engineering, architecture and administration. Public Works’ responsibilities range from construction management, bridge design and sidewalk inspections to graffiti removal, street tree care and sewer repair. His maxim: Get it done.

Even with the department's diverse responsibilities, Director Nuru created a culture of "one Public Works" to unite staff across all disciplines -- from architect to truck driver -- to reach the department's goal of delivering world-class service to San Francisco's residents, workers and visitors. The blueprint to hit that target is laid out in the department's Strategic Plan. The living document sets measurable actions and holds every Public Works employee accountable.

Under his leadership of the 24/7 municipal agency, Director Nuru has grown the City’s greening practices; created job training and employment opportunities for disadvantaged residents as part of the mayor’s 17-Point Jobs Plan; set higher standards for excellence in building design and construction management; improved the cleanliness of San Francisco neighborhoods; and strengthened partnerships with community groups, businesses, schools and volunteers to care for the City.

He also has been instrumental in assuring that the $248 million Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond, approved by San Francisco voters in 2011, has remained on track to fund the repair and repaving of more than 1,400 City blocks, the construction of some 1,700 ADA-compliant curb ramps, improvements to 125,000 square feet of sidewalk, upgrades to San Francisco’s bridges, stairways and traffic signals and the design and construction of more than two dozen major streetscape projects throughout the City.

Director Nuru trained as a landscape architect. He has deep roots in project delivery, program development, design and community engagement. He breathes his job. In the morning he may be in suit and tie developing multimillion-dollar capital project plans with partner agencies; by the afternoon he may be wearing his green safety vest and work boots sweeping up confetti on Market Street after a parade. Evenings often are spent at community meetings to discuss Public Works’ projects and programs.

He is a strong believer in using work to improve the lives of individuals and to better the community. Before coming to work for the City, Director Nuru ran the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners, a nonprofit that put volunteers and paid employees to work building community gardens to help revitalize neighborhoods.

Under his direction at Public Works and in partnership with trade unions, the department has expanded its apprenticeship opportunities and now offers five programs: general laborer, asphalt, gardener, stationary engineer and cement mason. The programs help people train for new careers and also expand the pool of potential City employees as our work force ages. Many apprentices are put to work on the department's capital projects, including the $887.4 million rebuild of San Francisco General Hospital and the new $243 million Public Safety Building.

Director Nuru has spearheaded numerous successful initiatives during his tenure at Public Works. Among them:

  • The Giant Sweep anti-litter campaign, a partnership with the San Francisco Giants that employs school curriculum, public outreach and hands-on activities to renew civic pride in the City. Nearly 50,000 volunteer hours have been logged and more than 20,000 people have pledged to do their part to keep San Francisco’s sidewalks, buses and parks clean.

  • The Road Repaving and Street Safety Bond, which was backed by City voters in 2011 to pay for better roads for drivers and cyclists, safer streets for pedestrians and to create more attractive corridors. The effort has created unprecedented levels of cooperation among City agencies. 

  • The Urban Harvesting Program, in which City crews work with residents to harvest home-grown produce for distribution to food banks and soup kitchens. 

  • The partnering directive that brings City contractors and clients to the table prior to the start of capital projects to cement expectations and map strategies to address concerns to help avoid surprises and litigation down the road.

  • University of Public Works, a one-stop training and career-development portal for Public Works employees.

  • The green fleet project that aims to reduce the department's carbon footprint by methodically switching the fleet of fossil-fuel trucks and cars over to electric and biodiesel.

  • Expansion of San Francisco's Grey2Green program, with an annual goal of transforming 100,000 square feet or more of concrete and asphalt into planted, permeable landscape to beautify the public rights-of-way, create new habitat for birds and bees and alleviate flood risks.

  • The Community Corridors Program, a job-training program that puts chronically unemployed San Franciscans to work cleaning commercial corridors. 

  • Increased use of technology to enhance the department’s efficiency and effectiveness. Sidewalk and tree inspectors, for example, now use computerized tablets to map and document their field work, saving time and improving accuracy. And the permits bureau now coordinates construction projects in real time with the web-based Envista program to minimize conflicts and disruptions.

  • The Community Clean Team, which has activated thousands of volunteers throughout the City to clean and beautify their neighborhoods.

  • The annual Arbor Day celebration, which elevates public awareness of the importance of the urban forest and includes the planting of a signature tree to honor cultural, social justice and environmental heroes.

Director Nuru was appointed to the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Board in June 2014.

Director Nuru earned a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture from Kansas State University. Working for three mayoral administrations, he has received numerous recognition awards and honors for outstanding public service from the mayor, state and federal lawmakers and community groups. He has served as keynote speaker and panelist at forums across the country on such topics as urban agriculture, community engagement and economic empowerment.

A father of five, he is fluent in English and Hausa and lives in Hunters Point in the City’s southeast. He walks, bikes and drives the streets of San Francisco every day, seeing firsthand the accomplishments and challenges of the City. He has a growing following on Twitter as MrCleanSF.