What the COVID-19 pandemic has shown is a vast disparity of access to basic necessities for many in San Francisco. The health crisis has shed light on the harsh reality of communities lacking reliable access to food, safe drinking water, shelter, education and information, and more. Working with the Mayor’s Office and the City’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), the SFPUC rolled up its sleeves and did what it always did best: provide safe drinking water to its neighbors.
Last week, the SFPUC deployed emergency water stations, called “water manifolds,” at six locations around San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. The manifolds were deployed on Monday, May 4 for the Tenderloin to have access to reliable drinking water. For the time being, the SFPUC’s plan is to have the manifolds at these locations during the daytime for the duration of this pandemic. One person that helped make this happen was Damon Spigelman, with the support from his Division Manager, Tim Ramirez, and the SFPUC’s City Distribution Division.
Spigelman, Area Land Manager for the SFPUC’s Natural Resources Division, raised his hand to help coordinate this effort because it was the right thing to do. Born and raised in San Francisco, Spigelman has seen the City vastly change over the years. In his 23 years with the City and County of San Francisco, what hasn’t changed, he said, is the City’s and its employees’ desire to help communities and neighbors that are underserved.
Spigelman has responded to his share of emergencies. Several years ago, he was deployed to support vegetation management efforts during the Rim Fire for six weeks. “But this emergency is different. A pandemic is completely different from responding to a wildfire,” he said.
Spigelman was initially requested to work at one of the City’s hotel sites as an intake officer. When he reached out to the SFPUC’s Department Operations Center (DOC) to confirm his assignment, Spigelman was asked to help on another mission: to set up the manifold operations with CDD. “Providing safe drinking water to our neighbors is important because water is a necessity. That’s the heart of the SFPUC’s mission – to provide fresh, clean drinking water and to be a good neighbor,” said Spigelman. “This is probably the most high risk role that I’ve taken on during this pandemic. I help sterilize the manifolds and make sure they continue to work. And as I’m out there in the field, I am extra cautious and careful to be safe.”
Spigelman shared that both he and his wife are considered essential workers and have been fortunate to continue working during this challenging time. However, their family has still been impacted as their three children have either lost their jobs, had to move out of their apartments, and not be able to walk on stage in a graduation ceremony. “Thankfully, everyone is healthy,” he shared. “My wife is working to support front line workers with her company and I work for the City. We have been fortunate as a family.”
Spigelman views public service and emergency response as something he was born into. His father was previously a supervisor with SF Rec and Park and encouraged Spigelman to consider a job in public service. Transitioning from a career in the private sector, Spigelman landed a job at SF Rec and Park when he and his wife had their first child. Fast forward over two decades, he has been with the City and County of San Francisco ever since. “It turned out to be a great start to my career. The rest is history,” he said.