Benches Removed from Harvey Milk Plaza by Castro CBD

Photo: Liz Haflia

Friday, amid growing complaints about loitering homeless from local merchants and a small, very vocal, cadre of neighbors, the benches located at the Harvey Milk Plaza were removed. The benches, some of the last in the City not designed to be unwelcoming, were often used by transients to hang out on in the Castro to avoid violating the City’s much debated, ‘No Sit/No Lie‘ law, designed to keep homeless from congregating or panhandling within neighborhoods known for their heavy tourist population like the Upper Haight, Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach and the Castro.

The removal decision was made Monday by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District (CBD), the community group that paid $40,000 to install the benches in 2010 and has been discussing their adverse impact on the plaza for months. The group paid $1800 more to remove the benches, said spokesperson Andrea Aiello, executive director of the benefit district.

This move to remove the benches was applauded by some and decried by others. Scott Weiner, Supervisor from District 8 which includes the Castro, said that, “after the ‘nudity’ issue the homeless ‘situation’ was the most often complained about issue from his constituents. What hasn’t been addressed is how many of the homeless were LGBTQ youth who often massed in the Castro as it felt the most ‘safe’ of all spaces open to them.

Johnny, no last name given, 18, is one of those directly effected by the bench removal. “We can’t sit. We can’t lie. We can’t go home ’cause we’re Gay and the shelters don’t feel safe either. At least here it felt like we weren’t hated. Guess that ain’t true.”

Supervisor Weiner has said that there is now tentative plans to remodel the whole of Harvey Milk Plaza and make it more ‘user’ friendly and do more to honor it’s namesake, the slain, San Francisco supervisor and internationally regarded LGBT activist. One wonders what Harvey would’ve made of all of this and how many of the ‘offending’ transients are LGBTQ youth in need being turned out of their politically ancestral homeland.

As of now no one will be sitting in Harvey Milk Plaza-transient or transit commuters-anytime soon.

Waiyde Palmer

Waiyde Palmer loves San Francisco, social activism and punk rock(ers). His work has appeared in Handbook Magazine. SF Bay Times, The Advocate, Diseased Pariah News and American Music Press . He also has an extensive and repeatedly redacted FBI file.

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9 Responses

  1. So the houseless (they do have a home, although we all want to deny them even that) have moved to JWP, and Saturday I saw a few of them naked, combining the top two problems into one! Now that is what I call efficiency! Which makes me wonder, what is the top third problem in the Beige Gayborhodd? I just love naked houseless folk!

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  2. Kyle says:

    This is incredibly sad. We gentrify neighborhoods to the point of excluding those who need help the most, queer people that we could only accept into the folds of our community if they can afford a place to live. Many LGBTQ youth sat on those benches to avoid being arrested, and face administrative violence, prison violence and violence in shelters… the list can go on. With the city's Sit/Lie law, that's what they'll face, also by having a record will also hinder possible reinstatement back into our capitalist society if circumstances allow them to be offered a job. The Castro Neighborhood is such a shining star on map for many LGBTQ people that look to it for hope, and community belonging, if we can't help those that heterosexual society shuns (and sadly queer society shuns), how can we consider the community united? Think about your privilege, and how by having such privilege others suffer because of it. This is an example of when a community fails terribly. More often then not, those queer kids sitting on those benches wanted nothing more than to feel safe enough to be queer!

    Don't get me started on that Dick… I mean Weiner and his White privileged, heterocentric politicking.

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  3. Don Kyle says:

    I feel very sad after joining the San Francisco community only recently to see such inane laws passed (or potentially) and the removal of perhaps the one place of safety many of our glbt youth felt they had. Weiner is a weasel whose approach is as divisive as the neighborhood merchants which removed the benches. May as welcome the rest of corporate America to the Castro, Disney the place up and throw out all those nasty non conformists who make San Francisco what it is.

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  4. rblack says:

    These were not homeless gay kids – I live a block away, I use this station multiple times a day. These people were drinking, doing drugs, urinating/defecting, leaving rubbish, and one day I saw them spitting on people exiting the station.

    There are a minimum set of standard behaviors in a society.

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    • Waiyde says:

      Mr. Black-I agree there is a segment of trouble makers who have been problematic. Mental illness, drug addiction and poverty tend to make people less responsive to social mores.

      There are Queer kids, homeless with the Castro as well. I know as I've spoken with them and have helped some out over my time in the neighborhood. The truth is the Sit/Lie law isn't worth the paper it was written on and does little to address the root problem. Removing the benches will not solve this ongoing social disgrace. Our homeless youth need our community involvement as much-if not more-than any other segment of our population. We need concrete steps of help beyond pushing them from one location to another-not in my backyard doesn't seem to be a resolution worthy of us as a neighborhood or City.

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      • Don Kyle says:

        I remember a time in my life as a youth needing that safe place to be. If it means the difference in helping one person, then all the urinating, spitting, etc is a small price to pay for someone's well being. Making me cry just reading and responding to this. It's so

        much easier to ignore a problem than address it.

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  5. Christian Figueroa says:

    I’m neither a nudist nor a homeless gay teen, but I did shop in the castro a lot. This weekend, I plan to walk into every store that knows me and announce to them that I plan to NOT shop in their stores anymore. I used to like spending my money in the Castro, because I felt that they were a welcoming neighborhood for the gay people. But now with these draconian laws, I just won’t be shopping there anymore. Congrats Castro, you’re now as lame as every other neighborhood. Goodbye, Cliff’s, Diesel, Levi’s, Walgreens, Starbucks, Does you mother know, Castro Nails, Hot Cookie, Fork… ETC. total douchebaggery.

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  6. Trey Allen says:

    I, too, find Sup. Scott Weiner’s claims that nudity was a top complaint a false statement. Perhaps it was one in a list if items that his business backers were eager to legislate to the history books.
    I believe one thing we can do is vote in a more progressive Supervisor in Sup. Weiner’s place. I will campaign for a reliably progressive candidate ASAP. Sup. Scott W. be warned.
    Secondly we should boycott those special interest groups that influence Sup. Scott W. Is it true Cliff’s Variety is one if them?

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  7. Starlite Auto Theatre says:

    Having seen Trey’s recent protest over the nude ban I must say he has a very beautiful body and should have the right to bare it wherever he sees fit. Particularly in a supposedly liberal city.

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