Why I oppose closing our parks

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OPINION I have great respect for Recreation & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, my colleague Sup. Scott Wiener, and my constituents and friends who support the parks closure legislation. I certainly share their concerns about damage to our parks. But I do not think this law is the appropriate means to address it.

I have six fundamental problems with the legislation.

My first concern is the impact this could have on our neighborhoods. There are an estimated 7,350 homeless youth and adults in San Francisco. Many find a shelter bed; some wind up in jail or a hospital. Over 4,300 people, though, have nowhere to sleep.

As the supervisor for District 5, it would be irresponsible for me not to think about this, not to consider what will happen if homeless people are evicted from the parks and wind up sleeping on the doorsteps of my constituents in the Haight, Inner Sunset, or Buena Vista. This would be unjust for the homeless and worse for the neighborhoods.

Second, we have an enforcement problem, not a regulation problem. The Park Code already prohibits: camping, sleeping between 8pm-8am, dumping, drinking (in most parks), being under the influence, damaging the parks, or making loud, "unreasonable" noises.

Unfortunately, at night there are only two or three park patrol officers on the beat for all 220 parks across 3,500 acres.

We can't enforce the codes we have. Rather than adding a broad, redundant code, I would like targeted improvements to the codes and their enforcement.

Third, it could cost more to enforce this law than we would actually save. Vandalism is distributed all over the park system and does not all occur between midnight and 5am. A dramatic increase in officers could decrease vandalism, but that would cost more than any savings realized.

Fourth, I am sympathetic to the almost-Libertarian argument made by some constituents that: "My tax dollars pay for those parks and if I want to use them at 4am, that is my prerogative."

Firefighters and others who work late shifts should be allowed to walk their dogs in the park when they get off work. Whenever I raise this point, I am told by the law's supporters, "Oh it won't be enforced against them."

This is exactly the problem, and my fifth concern — that this law will be selectively enforced. If it's not intended to target the homeless, the firefighter, or the well-groomed neighbor, who is the law designed to target? Suspicious looking people? Teenagers? Young men in hooded sweatshirts?

Lastly, I think there are perfectly legitimate reasons to use the parks at night, and I don't think our government should be admonishing us otherwise.

Acts can be criminal. Vandalism, dumping, drug use — those are acts. I am not comfortable preemptively criminalizing a person's presence, or everyone's presence, in order to deter the few who commit those acts. I am not comfortable limiting everyone's freedom in order to deter those who abuse that freedom.

But frankly, I am also not comfortable with how politically charged the issue of homelessness has become in San Francisco. Whether this particular law passes or fails, 7,350 people will wake up tomorrow morning not knowing where they will sleep tomorrow night.

We must be creative, unconventional. For example, we could repurpose fallow city buildings as temporary shelters. Would this idea be received as an opportunity or an insult? I hope the former, but I suspect the latter.

We have a political climate in this city which, for a variety of reasons, seems to default to the status quo on homelessness. Well, we need change. We need to acknowledge that not every call for service is a "handout," nor every call for enforcement a "criminalization."

Comments

It's already illegal to sleep in the parks and yet that is very hard to enforce unless we do not let anyone in there in the first place. A simple law making it a crime to be n the park after the closing time will suffice, which is why every other major US city has already done that.

You are wrong on this.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:51 pm

It's illegal to sleep on the sidewalk too. So by your logic, we need a law prohibiting people from being on the sidewalks in the first place.

Posted by Starchild on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:10 pm

the sidewalk at night, as long as they are going somewhere.

There is no legitimate reason to be in a park, so this will be much easier for SFPD to enforce.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

This is a terrible idea. Parks should be free to be enjoyed at any time. The problem is that there is not nearly enough police to enforce the laws. The last thing the city needs is more laws they can't enforce.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

existing law prohibiting sleeping in the park. instead of having to witness slumber, the cops now only have to witness presence.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:37 pm

Sorry GUEST....YOU are wrong on this. Don't believe everything you read. MANY of the nation's largest cities do not have park closure times. For instance San Diego has WAY more park acres in its city boundaries and yet does not enforce any park hours. Oh and BTW San Diego is a BIGGER city than San Francisco.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

Nobody goes into a park at night unless they are up to some kind of mischief.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:45 pm

Moonlight stroll with your sweetie?

Posted by marcos on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

Of course, it's too foggy there to see the moon, but whatever.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

People like to do things at night, sometimes in the early morning, including hanging out or strolling in a park. In my younger years, I might hang out in Dolores Park late night. Now, I would be a lawbreaker.

Maybe Wiener's next effort will be to pass a law requiring all San Franciscans to be as miserable as you.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

You don't now because you know better.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 6:55 am

completely wrong.

I wasn't particulary reckless when I was younger nor am I overly cautious in my middle age.

I just go to bed earlier now and am married. Maybe we'll go for a midnight stroll in a nearby park this weekend and after this ridiculous law takes effect.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 8:35 am

a life lived in fear is not worth living

Posted by gl on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:15 am

Find somewhere else to walk. The beach, for instance.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:26 pm

but only blocks away from several parks.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:35 pm

ideas of places to go at night without breaking the law.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:48 pm

I'm going to the park.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:16 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:19 pm

"Maybe Wiener's next effort will be to pass a law requiring all San Franciscans to be as miserable as you."

Best line ever. Love it!

Posted by Andy Blue on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

Mr. Blue. My time wasting is not a total waste of time if I made you smile.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:00 pm

I'm very happy and comfortable about it.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:27 pm

Uhm not the case. Considering so many of the parks in SF are surrounded by neighborhoods it is ridiculous that I can not cut through the park at night to get from point A to point B instead of walking the MANY blocks to go AROUND the park. This is what is wrong with SF these days, just a bunch of yuppies squashing out the vibe of the city. Just because you don't go to the park at night doesn't mean other people don't use the park at night. When the sun goes down the park does not turn into a dangerous world of reckless abandon and nefarious acts. sorry

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 10:22 pm

In reading Mr. Breed's article I found myself saddened by the underlying reason for this legislation--a continued gentrification of San Francisco. Mr. Breed is correct--we ignore the problem of homelessness, and this is just but a another means to express anger and frustration at people who are homeless.

Each day the Chronicle is filled with stories of eviction, rent increase, and the suffering that is resulting from that. The Day of the Dead Celebration in the Mission is a historical religious celebration and this year we read of those who came in to party and to simply have fun.

This law is but a another slam at people who are homeless, and a sign of a Board of Supervisors who are out of touch with those who ride our buses, who live in the low rent apartments that are left, and out of touch with the streets in general.

Thank you Mr. Breed for your awesome article.

In Jesus, Street Person and Rebel,

Fr. River Damien Sims,
Temenos Catholic Worker

Posted by Guest Fr. River Damien Sims on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:25 am
Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

What a mouth she has on her! She makes Jerry Springer's guests seem articulate and civilized.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 17, 2013 @ 12:51 am

One of our finest local photographers shoots between mid night and 5 am. My nextdoor neighbor gets up uber early to walk his dog in the park before anyone else gets up.

There will always be poor, always be homeless and always
be mentally ill people in the world. You can't criminalize this behavior and lock them up. Where? The Feds say we have too many of our citizens in jail already. We waste good resources on fear based ideas, like this one.

I am not a religious person, but I have to ask what would jesus do?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 1:36 pm

I'm glad to read of your concern with the homeless situation in S.F.
Lucky for you, you are in a powerful position that can conceivably alleviate the problem (at least to some extent). I'm all ears as to what your plan of attack is. Do tell.

And maybe having these homeless people out of the parks and onto people's doorsteps is a good thing. It is easy to ignore a problem if it is mostly out of sight. If tons of people start having issues with homeless folks in the doorways, maybe the City will finally do something worthwhile in regards to solving the problem.

Haven't really heard a peep from Bevan Dufty since he became the Homeless Czar. What's he done to earn his keep?

Every other major city in the U.S. closes its parks at night, why this is a big deal in SF is beyond me. I'm glad the measure passed yesterday

Posted by guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 2:30 pm

Do your research and stop listening to WEINER's dribble

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 10:26 pm

London Breed does a good job outlining the many problems with the latest piece of authoritarian legislation from supervisor Wiener, and I thank her for opposing it. One hopes that her opposition is sincere and principled, and not just pandering to liberal District 5 voters.

Breed refers to "the almost-Libertarian argument made by some constituents that: 'My tax dollars pay for those parks and if I want to use them at 4am, that is my prerogative.'"

The apparent planned selective enforcement of the law is another strong libertarian argument against it. Equal treatment under the law is an important libertarian principle.

An even more libertarian argument is that if people aren't harming anyone, government should leave them the hell alone. The supervisor articulates this argument well when she writes,

"I am not comfortable preemptively criminalizing a person's presence, or everyone's presence, in order to deter the few who commit those acts. I am not comfortable limiting everyone's freedom in order to deter those who abuse that freedom."

Posted by Starchild on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

Should we do nothing about homelessness?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:42 pm

have less homelessness. Right now, SF offers so much help to the homeless that SF has become a magnet for them. Doing less might work better.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:20 pm

London Breed does a good job outlining the many problems with the latest piece of authoritarian legislation from supervisor Wiener, and I thank her for opposing it. One hopes that her opposition is sincere and principled, and not just pandering to liberal District 5 voters.

Breed refers to "the almost-Libertarian argument made by some constituents that: 'My tax dollars pay for those parks and if I want to use them at 4am, that is my prerogative.'"

The apparent planned selective enforcement of the law is another strong libertarian argument against it. Equal treatment under the law is an important libertarian principle.

An even more libertarian argument is that if people aren't harming anyone, government should leave them the hell alone. The supervisor articulates this argument well when she writes,

"I am not comfortable preemptively criminalizing a person's presence, or everyone's presence, in order to deter the few who commit those acts. I am not comfortable limiting everyone's freedom in order to deter those who abuse that freedom."

Posted by Starchild on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

Almost any public building, for a start.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:28 pm

Because there is no difference between a public park and a building.
I mean, for a drooling imbecile.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

I proved you wrong. Government can prescribe the hours that you may have access to their property.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

"their property"?
Who the fuck do you think owns that property?
Who do you think "the government" is paid to serve?

I stand corrected. You are a drooling imbecile with a fetish for being dominated by people elected to public service positions. You would fit in well in Russia, where you could do what you're told while having little bitter orgasms over the suffering of your neighbors.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 11:57 pm

The government owns it and they may let you use it at hours that they set.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 6:41 am

or prepare the SFPD for mass arrests for festival goers who linger past midnight.

This law is unconstitutional on its face because its sponsors admit that it will be selectively enforced.

I'm going to test it. Who will join me?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:18 pm

Just like the ban on nudity gets waived for for certain events.

The law clearly targets itinerant slumberers and not the odd midnight stroller. But I suspect a lot of bad stuff goes on in the parks at night, and this ban has popular support.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

So clearly unlike me you do not cut through GG Park at night on a regular basis to realize...THERE IS NOTHING TO BE AFRAID OF.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 16, 2013 @ 10:28 pm

"OPINION I have great respect for Recreation & Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, my colleague Sup. Scott Wiener,...."

WHY?

Just because of some damn title they have behind their name?

I couldn't read any more than that. For someone to start out with ass eating, that's enough to turn me off considering whose ass she's eating. Respect must be earned, London. What exactly have these people done to earn respect? One hates on the homeless: campaigned on sit-lie which criminalizes homelessness, authored sit-lie II for Warner/Milk plazas, is responsible for removing benches from Milk Plaza so (again) the homeless and no one else can sit there, and now closing parks. What is there to respect about that? And the other person isn't any better.

Sounds like she just automatically respects people because of a position they hold. One would hope she would have higher standards than that. Guess not.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 7:36 pm

The Bay Guardian already covered Breed's vote (and strong support for) the privatization of 55 acres of Golden Gate Park which have been handed over to the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society.

She "respects" Ginsburg and Wiener?

Why on earth?

Why was this published only AFTER the vote????

Breed needs to go, but will she?

We are stuck with this awful, rightwing woman for eight years.

And she will do a lot of damage!

Posted by London Breed Constituent on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 7:46 am

District 5 loves moderate London Breed

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:01 am

with the changes to the neighborhood. Much of D5 is now an enclave for affluent successful professionals and they have little reason to support extremism.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:17 am

otherwise be a real left-wing town. Damn them. Is there are way we can disenfranchise the voters who do not vote the way we want them to?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:09 am

London Breed is a clever one. You'll see her vote more and more on the side of D5 constituents when her vote is not the deciding one. But she'll always be there for Ed Lee when he needs her. But I don't think we're stuck with her for 8 years. This behavior can be pointed out and voters will realize what she's doing. Breed can lose, as long as progressives don't fracture and self-destruct.

Posted by Greg on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 8:39 am

Not just in D5 either. Look at D6 - Kim is a liberal but miles to the right of Daly. both D5 and D6 have a lot of six-figure professionals who are economically conservative.

Progressives are vulnerable in Avalos's district too - that oddball constituency in the far south should be the most progressive district in the city.

Nor is there anything in the mayoral results to encourage you - both Ammiano and Gonzales came closer to winning than Avalos.

Posted by anon on Nov. 08, 2013 @ 9:52 am

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