San Francisco Partnering with Community Organizations to Build Green Infrastructure

By Kyla Donato, Marketing Coordinator, Greenprint Partners

Kyla Donato is passionate about using her corporate marketing experience, multi-media communications skills, and creativity to build a greener, more sustainable future at Greenprint Partners. A marketing professional with five years’ experience, Kyla helps our clients identify, craft, and share the compelling stories that emerge from green infrastructure investments, whether it’s by coordinating a ribbon cutting event, creating interpretive signage, or conducting media relations.

Who will you meet?

Cities are innovating, companies are pivoting, and start-ups are growing. Like you, every urban practitioner has a remarkable story of insight and challenge from the past year.

Meet these peers and discuss the future of cities in the new Meeting of the Minds Executive Cohort Program. Replace boring virtual summits with facilitated, online, small-group discussions where you can make real connections with extraordinary, like-minded people.


If you head south of San Francisco’s busy downtown center along I-280, and idle just along the top of the San Francisco Golf Club, you’ll find yourself crossing Brotherhood Way, home to a mix of faith communities, ethnicities, and cultures coexisting side by side.

Along this corridor are St. Thomas More Catholic School and Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. Like so many of their neighbors, these properties are mostly paved, with a few plants dotting the grounds here and there, but that’s about to change. St. Thomas More and Holy Trinity are among the first participants in San Francisco Public Utilities Commission’s (SFPUC) Green Infrastructure Grant Program. In the coming year, these institutions, and the land they sit on, will be transformed. Permeable pavement and detention systems will slow down, filter, and store stormwater during rainstorms, while rain gardens and stormwater swales will bring pollinator-friendly native flowers and grasses.

Looking back at the last decade, the United States has been experiencing more frequent and intense rainstorms, prompting water utilities to adapt their methods of delivering safe, clean water. In this context, SFPUC introduced their OneWaterSF vision as a new, integrated approach to water and energy resource management.

With our OneWaterSF approach, San Francisco will optimize the use of our finite water and energy resources to balance community and ecosystem needs, creating a more resilient and reliable future.  

OneWaterSF Vision Statement

SFPUC recognizes that part of what makes San Francisco so special is the diverse bodies of water that surround it: the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay, and many inland watersheds. SFPUC is determined to consider ways to protect its local water resources in a way that conserves resources and returns benefits to its customers. Which brings us back to SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program.

As one of the oldest cities on the West Coast, much of San Francisco relies on a combined sewer system, similar to cities in the East and Midwest. Simply put, this is a system that combines stormwater and wastewater. And during especially heavy periods of rain, these sewer systems overflow into nearby lakes, rivers, and streams in what are called Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs). These events are bad news, not just for the plants and animals that live in the bodies of water, but for people who depend on the water for drinking, recreation, and agriculture. CSOs bring untreated human waste, car exhaust, pet waste, lawn fertilizer, and more into our precious waterways.

SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program uses green infrastructure to combat CSOs and safeguard its watersheds. Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) installations are engineered stormwater management tools that slow down, clean, and route stormwater to keep it out of a sewer system. Simultaneously, GSI provides native habitat, beautiful landscaping, groundwater recharge, and non-potable water reuse. Through this program, SFPUC encourages landowners to build GSI on their property by providing grants that cover design and construction. “Green stormwater infrastructure is one way that we can invest in our community, efficiently manage rainfall, and ease the burden on the City’s sewer system,” said SFPUC Utility Specialist Sarah Minick.

Greenprint Partners, a green infrastructure delivery partner, helps landowners participate in SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program. St. Thomas More and Holy Trinity are the first of many projects that Greenprint Partners is collaborating on with landowners to help bring the restorative effects of GSI to San Francisco and its watersheds. Together, these projects represent a $2.7 million investment that will help optimize San Francisco’s water and energy resources while also paying attention to community and ecosystem needs. The projects will manage a combined 2.2 million gallons, or about 62,850 standard bathtubs, of stormwater runoff each year.

Greenprint Partners CEO April Méndez noted, “We are enthusiastic partners with SFPUC in bringing more green stormwater infrastructure to San Francisco. These sites demonstrate our company’s commitment to delivering high impact GSI at scale and in partnership with the community.”   

St. Thomas More – Before


St. Thomas More – After

As a school that prides itself on preparing its students to become citizens committed to service, St. Thomas More sees SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Grant Program as an opportunity to be of service to the greater community. The school is looking forward to contributing to SFPUC’s stormwater management goals and gaining the restorative benefits of GSI for its students.

Greenprint Partners plans to enhance St. Thomas More’s impervious, paved surfaces with rain gardens, swales, and updated landscaping. Outdoor classroom areas will be expanded, and rainwater reuse features will offer students a hands-on, up-close look at the water cycle. Educational gardens featuring native plants and fruit trees are planned, to add greenery to the grounds and teach children about healthy food supplies. Currently, the parking lot does double duty as a playground and outdoor classroom, causing its students to experience a reduced connection to nature and frequent exposure to vehicle exhaust.

“We are committed to providing the very best learning environment for our students’ academic, spiritual, and social growth. Investing in the future starts with investing in the next generation, and we continue to do so each day at St. Thomas More School,” says Principal Marie Fitzpatrick. “St. Thomas More School is proud to contribute to SFPUC’s stormwater management goals and the surrounding community.”

Holy Trinity – Before


Holy Trinity – After

Just up the street from St. Thomas More, Holy Trinity is also excited about upcoming GSI improvements. Despite being the oldest Greek Orthodox Church west of the Mississippi River, Holy Trinity has a vision set squarely on the future, honoring its Hellenic roots while embracing persons of all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In light of this, Holy Trinity is participating in SFPUC’s Green Infrastructure Program to help serve its surrounding neighbors with better stormwater management practices. Planned improvements include seven rain gardens that will be filled with native plants, featuring an eye-pleasing array of colors and textures throughout the year. These enhanced gardens will soak up, filter, and let stormwater permeate into the ground, which will replenish the groundwater supply, while also offering up mini-habitats for local bees, butterflies, and birds seeking shelter and food. The rain gardens will increase green space for Holy Trinity’s parking lots and sidewalks, helping congregants better connect with and enjoy nature.

Parish Council President Nick Johnson said, “Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church is excited about the water infrastructure program. Soon we will have the opportunity to conserve one of God’s blessings, which will assist us in maintaining the beauty of His home. This will contribute to our mission to grow our Church, live our Faith, and walk the world as Orthodox Christians.”


Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.


  1. Great article highlighting really exciting work!

  2. Green infrastructure is the best investment a community can make. As a resident of California I can confidently say within the last decade we have experienced long periods of drought with sporadic heavy rainfall. The best time to invest in the water cycle would have been 20 years ago. The second best time would be today. Green projects like these are the mark our current generation will leave that future generations will appreciate.

  3. way above my pay grade but all very interesting. great read!!

  4. Love that churches are working to better their communities in more than just the spiritual aspects!

  5. What a great way to beautify a shared space and modernize stormwater management! I hope to see many more projects like this.

  6. Great article Kyla! As someone who has very little knowledge about how we get clean water in this country (and sometimes take for granted), it is great to see people who are taking it a step further and ensuring that more people not only have access; but doing so in a green way that will be healthier for our planet down the line! Love the before/after pictures that show how being environmentally conscious is a good thing for everyone.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

How Affordable Green Housing Enhances Cities

Housing that is affordable to low-income residents is often substandard and suffering from deferred maintenance, exposing residents to poor air quality and high energy bills. This situation can exacerbate asthma and other respiratory health issues, and siphon scarce dollars from higher value items like more nutritious food, health care, or education. Providing safe, decent, affordable, and healthy housing is one way to address historic inequities in community investment. Engaging with affordable housing and other types of community benefit projects is an important first step toward fully integrating equity into the green building process. In creating a framework for going deeper on equity, our new book, the Blueprint for Affordable Housing (Island Press 2020), starts with the Convention on Human Rights and the fundamental right to housing.  

The Pandemic, Inequality, Housing Affordability, and Urban Land

The Pandemic, Inequality, Housing Affordability, and Urban Land

Since the Great Recession of 2008, the housing wealth gap has expanded to include not just Black and Brown Americans, but younger White Americans as well. Millennials and Generation Z Whites are now joining their Black and Brown peers in facing untenable housing precarity and blocked access to wealth. With wages stuck at 1980 levels and housing prices at least double (in inflation adjusted terms) what they were 40 years ago, many younger Americans, most with college degrees, are giving up on buying a home and even struggle to rent apartments suitable for raising a family.

What makes it hard for policy people and citizens to accept this truth is that we have not seen this problem in a very long time. Back in the 1920s of course, but not really since then. But this is actually an old problem that has come back to haunt us; a problem first articulated by Adam Smith in the 1700s.

Multi-modal Transit and the Public Realm

Multi-modal Transit and the Public Realm

More than ever, urban transit services are in need of sustainable and affordable solutions to better serve all members of our diverse communities, not least among them, those that are traditionally car-dependent. New mobility technologies can be a potential resource for local transit agencies to augment multi-modal connectivity across existing transit infrastructures.

We envision a new decentralized and distributed model that provides multi-modal access through nimble and flexible multi-modal Transit Districts, rather than through traditional, centralized, and often too expensive Multi-modal Transit Hubs. Working in collaboration with existing agencies, new micro-mobility technologies could provide greater and seamless access to existing transit infrastructure, while maximizing the potential of the public realm, creating an experience that many could enjoy beyond just catching the next bus or finding a scooter. So how would we go about it?

The Future of Cities

Mayors, planners, futurists, technologists, executives and advocates — hundreds of urban thought leaders publish on Meeting of the Minds. Sign up below to follow the future of cities.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Wait! Before You Leave —

Wait! Before You Leave —

Subscribe to receive updates on the Executive Cohort Program!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This