In March, a new website, Dogpatch Solutions Tracker, launched at https://dogpatch.dillilabs.com. A community service aiming to improve neighborhood safety and cleanliness, the site features a digital map application where registered users can pinpoint such concerns as potholes, graffiti, trash, and vandalism in Dogpatch and Potrero Hill.
Reporting a problem, however, is only the first step. Dogpatch Solutions Tracker also allows users to browse existing complaints and “adopt” a problem identified by a neighbor. The adoptee then takes responsibility for ensuring that the issue is resolved, by alerting and staying on top of appropriate City authorities, or fixing it themselves.
The application’s creator, South Bay resident Piyush Hari, was inspired by a thread on the private, localized social network Nextdoor, in which Dogpatch residents complained about potholes expanding with each winter rain. “It went on and on every single day, that thread where people would be offering suggestions on what to do in order to fix the potholes,” said Hari.
Several commenters pointed to a municipal app, SF311. Hari noticed that while it was simple to report a problem to the City on SF311, there was no easy way to track all of the issues identified in a neighborhood. Hari envisioned an application that’d incite community engagement; instead of relying solely on the City to clean up the community, residents could evaluate the infrastructure issues around them and participate more actively in addressing them.
Some issues – like the potholes – ultimately require City intervention. But Hari hopes that Dogpatch Solutions Tracker may help inspire residents to sweep up broken glass, pick-up litter, and find other imaginative, independent, ways to make Dogpatch a more beautiful and functional place.
Hari, a software engineer, was born in Delhi, India. He came to the United States in 2004 to earn a Master of Science degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He moved to the South Bay to work for the multinational computer technology company, Oracle, in Redwood Shores, but quit in 2015 to “let my creative mind do what I’m doing right now”: creating bespoke software for clients as a freelancer while making time to execute his own ideas. In 2016, he incorporated his small business, Dilli Labs LLC, and rented office space on 20th Street, between Third and Illinois.
“Since then, I have really enjoyed this neighborhood,” he said. “Being in the City, with more things happening around you, you get to see more opportunities where tech can be deployed to better some of the pain points.”
Right now, Dogpatch Solutions Tracker exists only as a web application, with a handful of active users. If it gets more support Hari said he’ll program specific mobile versions for the iPhone and Android, though it’ll remain a “not-for-profit gig.” The website is currently usable in Safari and Chrome.
Another planned improvement involves creating material incentives for users to report and adopt problems. “I want to pull in local businesses,” Hari said. He imagines that if the app becomes more popular restaurants and shops in Dogpatch may be willing to participate by offering coupons or discounts for good Samaritans.
Whatever growth may occur, Hari doesn’t favor the idea of expanding the application’s range beyond the Dogpatch-Potrero Hill area. “When you’re talking with your wife at home, the discussions you’re having are a lot different than the discussions you’re having with your neighbors, which are a lot different than the discussions you’re having with strangers,” he observed. “Charity starts at home. I feel a sense of ownership here, given that my office space is here, and I spend a lot of my time at my office space, and I want other people to feel that sense of ownership.”