Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Zac Appleton

By Zac Appleton, Livability

Like many people at EPA, I’m the sort of person who feels compelled to go the extra mile, to right the wrongs we find. My daily job is to work with grantees, businesses, and the public to cajole them to go a little greener, to find the resources and tools they need, and give them credit for their success when it’s due. Yet beyond the daily grind, it’s the unexpected challenges that become the test of who you are as a public servant.

One day in March 2010, as I dashed out of the office to grab lunch before a conference call, I was shocked when I witnessed a parked vehicle reverse into a pedestrian crossing, missing a family with a small child by millimeters and milliseconds. The driver was equally shocked when I let her know how close they were to tragedy. I went on with my day’s work, but I couldn’t forget about it. There was no reason for the loading zone stripe on the sidewalk there to extend all the way to the pedestrian crossing, creating a deadly hazard.

So, I went back outside with a camera and took photos, using them to lodge a complaint with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)’s Livable Streets website. I described the near-miss, told how a design flaw in the designated loading zone was the root cause, and proposed solutions. To my great surprise, SFMTA responded promptly, and painted a new 9-foot red “No Parking” zone nearest the crosswalk! It might not have been the solution I suggested, but the red stripe got the job done.

For me, this is what “Livability” is about — recognizing that the built environment we’ve inherited has lots of design flaws that need fixing, for people, now. Like a lot of us at EPA, we fix these problems because they need fixing, not because we crave recognition. I hope readers will take time to look around their own parts of the world, see what needs fixing, and talk with their neighbors and government to get it done.

About the author: Zac Appleton is a project officer and E-waste coordinator for the Office of Strategic Planning & Partnerships in EPA Pacific Southwest Region (Region 9). Zac is part Burmese.