Alfred J. Cleary (SI 1900)

In 1930, Alfred J. Cleary (SI 1900 & grandfather of Board of Regents President Mark Cleary ’64) was appointed San Francisco’s first chief administrative officer by Mayor Angelo Rossi. Cleary, who had trained at UC Berkeley as a civil engineer, was chief assistant in charge of work on the Hetch Hetchy Dam and the supervisor of the pipeline that carried its water to the Bay Area. He also proposed the Rincon Hill site for the Bay Bridge and created the Mokelumne Water Project, which supplied the East Bay with water.

Under the city’s new charter, Cleary wielded considerable power as supervisor of both the SFFD and SFPD, the departments of finance and records, purchasing, public works, health, real estate, electricity, street traffic, welfare, coroner’s office and several minor bureaus. The San Francisco News praised the appointment in a December 16, 1930, editorial, calling Cleary an “experienced, successful and highly regarded civil engineer…. In his new post Mr. Cleary will be the real boss of most of the routine work of the city.”

Alluding to the corruption inherent in city government at that time, the News editorial added this note: “To clean up the Department of Public Works and to apply efficiency and economy to its street and other construction work will be in itself a job to test any man’s capacity.”

When he died in 1938, 108 honorary pallbearers, including A.P. Giannini (founder of the Bank of Italy which later became the Bank of America), took part in a funeral procession down Van Ness Avenue. Alfred Cleary Street, on the west side of St. Mary’s Cathedral, was named for this remarkable civic leader.