Noe Valley Voice June 2011

Clean Living in More Ways Than One

Randy Myers—Our Man on the Spot

By Heather World

Randy Myers is on the job at 6 a.m., watering plants, scrubbing sidewalks, and picking up the litter from the night before.    Photo by Pamela Gerard 

Finder of lost cell phones, graffiti’s worst enemy, and a flower’s best friend, Randy Myers scours 24th Street five days a week, scraping off gum, throwing away cigarette butts, and scooping up dog poop left behind by careless owners.

“I work with the people of 24th Street so they can feel pride in their community,” says the 47-year-old former social worker, who lives at Post and Leavenworth and gets to Noe Valley by 6 a.m. on Muni.

Myers started his job cleaning for the neighborhood’s self-taxing benefit district, the Noe Valley Association, one year ago. The merchants and property owners along the strip are quick to praise his work ethic and effectiveness.

Sam Salamah, of Good News on 24th Street near Sanchez, says Myers works hard even in the rain and wind.

“He’s great guy,” Salamah says. “I talk to him all the time.”

Andres Rodriguez of the French Tulip, who also starts work at 6 a.m., sees Myers pass by the flower shop at least three or four times a day, he says.

“He does great work—even taking weeds from sidewalks,” he says.

Video Wave manager Gwen Sanderson lives and shops on 24th Street, and though her business does not fall within Myers’ purview, she knows she can count on him.

“It’s nice because if I see something that’s a problem, I’ll watch for him, and I’ll know who he is,” she says.

Indeed, Myers is very visible on the street.

“I work on the sidewalk and I wear a bright red shirt,” he says. “It’s hard to miss me.”

Giving Back

Three years ago it was his pot-filled pickup truck that was hard to miss: Chico police pulled Myers over and busted him for possession of marijuana with intent to sell. His goal had been to make enough money to return to Chile, where he had lived as a teenage exchange student, returning every decade or so. Instead, he found himself faced with two alternative destinations offered by the court: two years in prison or a rehabilitation program.

Myers ended up at the Jericho Project in Brisbane, a program for first-time drug offenders that emphasizes working hard and giving back to society. Residents are farmed out to construction and trade jobs during the day. Myers says he had none of the skills that would get him that kind of job. But then he got the opportunity to clean 24th Street.

“I was ecstatic,” Myers says. “I love being outside, I love the whole scene—

the people, the dogs.”

Having lived at 23rd and Douglass streets years earlier, Myers was familiar with Noe Valley. The job was something he had to learn on his own, however. “It took a while to get a routine,” he says.

Curb Appeal

Myers’ diligence earned him respect immediately, says Debra Niemann of the Noe Valley Association, which now hires Myers through his current employer, Curb Appeal. (He graduated from Jericho in January.)

“Randy is the best employee we’ve had in the six years we’ve been in operation,” says Niemann.

Carol Yenne, owner of Small Frys clothing store, agrees.

“He takes his job seriously and treats  the neighborhood likes it’s his own,” she says.

Of Graffiti and Garage Sales

Myers starts in the middle of the business district in front of his “office,” a shed around the corner from the Bank of America where he keeps his dustpan, broom, 50-gallon water tank, and garbage can. He makes a figure eight down 24th to Church Street, then loops back to Castro, up to the playground at Douglass and 24th streets, and back down to the spur along Castro to Jersey.

“Along the way, I’m watering the plants—that’s a huge responsibility right there,” he says. Along the commercial corridor, there are 26 hanging planters, 14 planter boxes on the ground, and 132 trees needing water.

Graffiti is one of his biggest headaches, he says. What he can’t remove with chemicals, he paints over. Dog feces and common trash he can handle, but he alerts the city’s neighborhood services at 311 when bigger items need picking up.

“Around the first of the month is typically the high time for furniture to be left out,” he says. People moving leave behind computers, fans, chairs, desks, and televisions. There are abandoned bicycles and mattresses on the sidewalk, and then there are the leaflets posted on telephone poles.

“A month or so ago, we had one garage sale, they put three different signs for one sale on each pole,” he says. “They just saturated 24th Street.”

At the direction of the NVA, Myers takes down advertisements for professional services immediately, notices of lost pets after a week or two, and garage sale signs after the sales have ended.

Spills also keep him busy. But 24th Street coffee drinkers and ice-cream eaters need not panic if they’re the cause of one.

Assures Myers, “I want people to know they shouldn’t hesitate to call me directly if there is a problem on the street, sidewalk, in front of their business, residence, wherever, whether it’s a dog mess, human mess, graffiti, broken glass, a mess of any kind.” .

Randy Myers can be reached at 415-596-7089.