Utility hopes vibrant displays will help keep pollutants out of San Francisco Bay

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission unveiled a series of six colorful murals placed at storm drains in the Mission Bay neighborhood. Local artist Jenifer Wofford designed the murals to draw attention to the reality that trash and chemicals allowed to flow into storm drains can lead directly to San Francisco Bay.

“This partnership with the San Francisco Arts Commission enables the SFPUC to convey public service messages through a deeper connection than a sign or brochure can create,” says Tommy Moala, SFPUC assistant general manager. “Our goal is to get people to stop and think about the impact their everyday choices can have on the environment.”

Mission Bay is one of the small areas of San Francisco that is served by a separate sewer system. Storm drains require greater public awareness due to the potential for pollutants to be washed into the Bay.

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“The Arts Commission was delighted to engage a local artist on behalf of the SFPUC to develop a creative approach to this particular communication and environmental challenge,” says Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “Rather than a standard-issue sign, Jenifer Wofford has created an artwork that literally stops you in your tracks and forces you to think about the consequences of your actions.

"The message is communicated in an artful way, without words, and also enlivens the urban environment by transforming a simple storm drain into something unexpected and playful.”

Wofford is a well-known local artist who often uses humor to address social and political issues. For this project, she created a series of six murals collectively titled, “SF Bay Guardians,” with each mural depicting a different animal common to the San Francisco Bay standing guard in front of the storm drain and keeping various bits of trash and other pollutants from entering the bay.

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These cute animals gaze pleadingly to passersby. SFPUC says the artwork draws an immediate connection between pollution at the storm drain and the lives of these friendly marine animals.

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