UPDATE: Supes Final Vote – SF Parks to be Shuttered Overnight

Dolores Park at night. Photo: Tempero Caruru Flickr

Dolores Park at night. Photo: Tempero Caruru Flickr

Despite a vocal and concerted effort by City homeless advocates and a Dolores Park protest spearheaded by the Harvey Milk Democratic Club, the full Board of Supervisors voted, ‘yes’ on Castro Supervisor Scott Wiener’s hot-button legislation aimed at closing all City parks from midnight to 5AM each night.

100 activist led by the Milk Club gather at Dolores Park to protest Scott Wiener's new park curfew law. Photo: Trey Allen

100 activist led by the Milk Club gather at Dolores Park to protest Scott Wiener’s new park curfew law. Photo: Trey Allen

The original vote was postponed during the Boards Oct. 29th meeting following the well attended and media covered Dolores Park protest. Round two at Tuesday’s Nov. 5th Board meeting led to a very close vote of 6-5 in favor of park closures.

This was a major loss for the City’s homeless advocates who deemed the legislation part of what they say is the City’s ongoing attack on poor people. Tom Temprano, chief organizers of last weeks Dolores Park ‘sleep-in’ protest and current Milk Club prez wrote on his Facebook page in response:

“Incredibly disappointed that in the midst of a housing crisis our board of supervisors would vote to further criminalize the people in our city who have no choice but to sleep in our parks.”

Mr. Wiener is pleased with the outcome. He has said from the onset that the legislation is merely supporting existing laws already on the books outlawing camping in SF parks. This law will strengthen the police and City park officers position when confronting illegal dumpers and park vandals who Wiener has said are the real targets of the legislation.

Sup. London Breed, Dist 5

Sup. London Breed, Dist 5

Five supervisors weren’t convinced among them Dist. 5′s new Supe London Breed who wondered during the vote debate if homeless weren’t the target as Wiener has assured repeatedly then who would it be focused on at parks? “Suspicious looking people, teenagers, joggers?”, she asked during yesterdays full Board meeting. Will this ordinance push homeless people just looking to bed down for the night out of the park and into doorways and front steps of neighborhoods bordering once safe havens of City parks? And who will enforce it and how will officers already spread paper-thin amongst the 4000 square foot acres of City green step up their patrols now that they have this new legal tool at their disposal?

Despite amendments to the bill by Supervisors Cohen, Yee and Avalos the tenor of the original legislation was passed. Next week the bill requires one more cursory vote by the Board before it heads to the Mayors desk where he is expected to sign it. Once that happens enforcement could begin within thirty days most notably at two of the local popular parks, Dolores and Duboce.

Many Wiener constituents and supporters expressed pleasure with the vote while others were not. Irwin Swirnoff wrote on the Supervisors Facebook wall, “Very saddened that the park’s legislation passed today. This is an attack on our public/common spaces and our homeless population. This is not the spirit/soul/compassion of the San Francisco so many of us sought refuge in.”

Park’s and Rec Dept. head, Phil Ginsberg, agreed that though the staff isn’t currently in place to adequately patrol all our City acreage at night this bill will be used, “for education, and try to prevent vandalism from happening.”

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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19 Responses

  1. rblack says:

    First of all I don’t buy into the argument that this is targeting homeless people. It’s a common sense law that most cities have to curb unlawful behavior in the parks.

    Secondly, do homeless advocates really want to be fighting for people to have the right to sleep outside in cold parks hidden away and out of site? Surely that energy could be spent fighting for more beds and safer shelters so the homeless have somewhere else to go other than the parks.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 11

    • Surely that could have been Wiener’s plan….but that isn’t what he proposed. Instead he was defensive and offered hollow words about his concern for the homeless.

      Listening in on the BOS session yesterday was a revelation.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 12 Thumb down 11

    • Shane says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • rblack says:

        The problem with the laws that are on the books is they are unenforceable unless someone is caught in the act. By closing the parks at night, the police only need to ask someone to leave if they are there after hours. No need to enforce anything.

        “Are you practicing what you preach?”

        Not that I owe you any explanation but I volunteer my time at three separate non profits and donate money to others. How about you?

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        • sfjohn says:

          and this one will be unenforceable as well – ever notice how big GG Park is? Or McClaren Park, or……

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          • rblack says:

            So if it’s unenforceable why all the pushback? Now is this “unenforceable” law an attack on the homeless?

            Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  2. London Breed’s rebuttal to Wiener’s plan is REQUIRED reading/hearing.

    She and her staff raised 6 valuable points. Eric Mar called Wiener’s plan mean spirited. Both Campos and Kim did not hold back on their criticisms and concerns.

    The entire hour of speeches should be circulated as a lesson in how to take down a supervisor that continually over reaches legislatively in a transparent effort to promote his career and build his resume.

    Also worth witnessing – the whining response from the thin skinned District 8 politician who only had one leg to stand on: preventing vandalism. His bitterness at the words expressed against his plan reveal how little of an investment he had in this legislation.

    He took this personally because it’s about HIM not about SF Parks.

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  3. Raymond says:

    I wonder what will happen when the people busted in the parks after midnight are gay men out cruising……

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

    • Or just minding your own business. It doesnt have to be about cruising or even doing something wrong. If you are in the park after midnight you will be in trouble. Its ridiculous. Im less worried about it only because the police wont be able to enforce this legislation.

      There have been dozens of armed robberies in the Castro as of lately and the police have made ZERO arrests. This to me is a much larger issue than someone sleeping in the park. Vandalism is so far down the list of issues for SF, this law is a joke.

      Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  4. Mitch Mansfield says:

    Slowly but surely San Francisco is starting to act like other cities. Who would have thought?!?!? I’m actually quite surprised. Sounds like a nice debate was had by all.

    Next week’s vote should be interesting.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  5. Mark Vogel says:

    Wow, a law most other cities (US and European) have and already enforce. Imagine that! I’m so tired of the rants against Wiener. We don’t have to agree on all of his initiatives, but at least he gets things done. If you ride MUNI during rush times, you have probably noticed the 2-car and now 3-car trains that finally function like a real metro system? Wiener had a lot to do with that. What important, meaningful legislation have the other sups put forward lately? Seriously, I’m hard pressed to come up with much.

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    • Shane says:

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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      • SeanC says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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    • Actually I haven’t noticed the improvements to muni. I’ve seem them get discussed and proposed and offered but there hasn’t been much change.

      Wiener is a transit advocate for sure. I wish he would focus on what he does well…what can help MORE and harm fewer.

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

      • Mark Vogel says:

        Fortunately, the Chronicle just published numbers to support that MUNI (particularly MUNI Metro) is much improved in recent months. “[T]he report shows a significant improvement in the number of light-rail – Muni Metro – vehicles available for service. The number of days on which enough rail cars were available has been embarrassingly low in recent reports – none last December and 9.1 percent in April. But it climbed as high as 87 percent in July and averaged about 73 percent for the quarter.”
        http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Some-progress-seen-in-Muni-s-on-time-numbers-4962217.php

        Sorry you haven’t noticed any improvement, Patrick.

        Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Sasha says:

    So I understand there are valid reasons why some people without permanent housing avoid the existing shelters. I also feel like it chips away at my humanity every time I see someone sleeping on the street and then walk past them. What I don’t understand is what we need to do as a city to ensure that everyone without permanent housing has a safe place to sleep, and has access to assistance to secure permanent housing. The fact that people are sleeping in city parks says to me that we’re doing something wrong as a city. I’ve lived here coming up on 20 years, and have voted for several plans and politicians who claimed they’d make things better for homeless people. Have those plans worked? I don’t know. But San Franciscans are still homeless, which tells me we still have work to do. Ideas?

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    • Mitch Mansfield says:

      New York City took care of their homeless situation. But I fear the methods used by Gulliani and Bloomberg would never be permitted here. We are too much of a tolerant city. That’s why the homeless come here and also to Santa Monica.

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      • sfjohn says:

        Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

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        • Mitch Mansfield says:

          I go to New York twice a year for business and have been doing that for over 25 years. Trust me, Guilliani and Bloomberg did indeed take care of the homeless problem.

          But I may be wrong. Where can I find the homeless? I’ll look for them the next time I’m there……..

          Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

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