There are approximately 6,800 food establishments in San Francisco, and the goal of the Department of Public Health is to inspect each at least twice a year. The map above includes all inspection scores available for the Mission District from the past 12 months.
Scores are assessed based on nearly 100 categories of violations, which are ranked as low-, medium- or high-risk. Restaurants with lower scores are inspected more frequently.
Restaurant operators must post their inspection reports at a location visible to patrons, and must give the reports to diners who ask to read them. They are not required to post their green scorecards.
With five inspector vacancies, the health department has been unable to keep up with its standard quota in recent years. To date, for the 2010 calendar year it has conducted 12,449 inspections, 4,579 of which were routine. The others were re-inspections to verify that violations had been abated.
In some instances, Mission Loc@l found that restaurants had operated for more than a year without being inspected.
Ines Blanco, the owner of El Nuevo Fruitlandia, said in an earlier article that keeping up with the maintenance of her kitchen became increasingly difficult as her own economic situation worsened. Once a source of pride, the restaurant was closed by inspectors in March because of a rodent infestation.
The inspection was a wake-up call for her, Blanco said. “The inspector was impressed with how clean it was after that.” They abated the violation two days later.
Gavin Newsom once hailed the city’s inspection system as “a model for code enforcement,” but owners like Victor Escobedo, CEO of Papalote, have a different view. In July, Papalote’s 24th Street location received a score of 65, one of the neighborhood’s lowest ratings.
“We believe in consistency, not just with our recipes and the way they are prepared, but also with the way the restaurant runs,” Escobedo wrote in a recent e-mail. “There’s a time to cook, there’s a time to prep, and there’s a time to clean. Consistently, day in and day out. The restaurant has been operating the same way for the past 11 years, scores go up and down, but a score this low was shocking to our staff and to my brother and me. We do not think it is a fair score at all.”
In 2007 and 2008, Papalote’s 24th Street location’s scores were around 80. Then, in December 2008, its score dropped sharply to 70, before rebounding to 74 in April 2009. That was the location’s last recorded inspection score before its July rating. Papalote’s Fulton Avenue location received a score of 98 earlier this month, a two-point jump from an inspection earlier this year.
“The bottom line,” Escobedo said, “is that the health inspection game is one of give and take. They come in and they tell you what they want to see, you do it, and everyone is happy…until you get a new inspector…lather, rinse, repeat.”