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San Franciscans Adopt Storm Drains, Give Them Ridiculous Names

Written by Morgan EllisPublished Jan. 05, 2023 • 2:46pm
A yet-to-be-adopted storm drain is partially clogged in the Mission District on Jan. 5, 2023. Adoption of such a drain could help avoid such a stoppage. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

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While San Francisco residents wait out extreme weather, some have taken safety measures into their own hands by adopting one of San Francisco’s 25,000 storm drains. Over 4,000 have been given a “home” so far through the “Adopt a Drain” program hosted by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

In what’s arguably the best part, participants get to name their new drains. Standouts include “Watergrate,” “Lana Del Drain” and “It’s Draining Men.”

The influx of recent news showing the risks of inclement weather—particularly neighborhood flooding—has garnered the program significant attention on social media, with people sharing their recent adoptions and clever name suggestions. Plus, commenters from outside the city are comparing their city’s own similar programs, or their desire for one.

“I think it adds a general vibe of wanting to build a civic population that has a love of its city,” said Bobak Esfandiari, a longtime storm drain parent who first started participating in the program when it launched in 2016. A self-described YIMBY, Esfandiari’s drains have names like “Streamline Permitting!” and “Build More Homes!”

“Adopt a Drain” encourages a community effort in contributing to local cleanliness. The city’s sewer system collects stormwater and sewage water through a single pipe system, so clearing neighborhood grates eases heavy water flow that comes with heavy storms. It also keeps out unnecessary litter.

Another so-far-unadopted storm drain in SoMa is clogged with litter and debris on a rainy day on Jan. 5, 2023. | Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Drain parenthood is pretty simple. The SFPUC provides a website with an interactive map where you can see available drains, drains that have been adopted (and what they’ve been named) as well as drains that are particularly “in need.”  

Other similar programs exist—South San Francisco and Oakland have their own “adopt a drain” programs—and SFPUC notes that its own was inspired by an “adopt a hydrant” program in Boston. 

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Morgan Ellis can be reached at [email protected]


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