UPDATED: Board narrowly approves closing city parks at night

Sups. Scott Wiener (left) and Eric Mar were on opposite sides of today's vote.
Reed Nelson

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today narrowly approved Sup. Scott Wiener’s legislation to close parks and large plazas from midnight to 5am, a measure that Wiener said was about preventing vandalism but which progressive activists called an attack on the homeless.

The vote was 6-5, with Sups. John Avalos, London Breed, David Campos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar voting against the proposal. The key swing votes in the decision were Breed — who wrote an op-ed for this week’s Guardian (posting soon) explaining her position — and Sup. Norman Yee, who was elected last year in Dist. 7 with progressive support.

To address the homeless issue, Kim asked for an amendment to make an exception for sleeping in the parks. Without the amendment, “we are criminalizing poverty and issuing fines people will never pay, and not getting the results we wanted,” she said. 

Hundreds of homeless lay their heads to rest in the parks of San Francisco every night as the city struggles to meet housing demand, which is already illegal under city law. Kim’s amendment says those sleeping in parks are to be cited under previously existing codes against sleeping in parks and not double-fined under this ordinance. Wiener supported the amendment and it was inserted into the legislation, although that didn't end the debate over the legislation or win over its main opponents.

As the legislation was first introduced, Wiener made the argument he’s made many times before. Closing the parks at night is about vandalism, he said. 

“We need to establish a clear baseline that establishes hours for the park to combat vandalism and dumping,” Sup. Scott Wiener told the board. He made the case that most major cities in the U.S. have laws closing their parks and playgrounds at night, and that even New York City had them on the books.

Wiener also directly and flatly denied that his legislation was an attack on the homeless. 

“If the police wanted to remove people sleeping and camping in parks, they already have the tools to do that. This legislation does not give them those tools beyond what they have,” he said. 

But opponents of the measure, who have been organizing against it for weeks, said it will target the homeless and be selectively enforced. As Mar said at the hearing, “I think this is a really mean-spirited ordinance.”

And that’s when the avalanche of arguments began. Campos, Mar, Avalos, and Kim all  passionately defended the homeless that sleep in the parks. But no one brought more facts to the argument than Breed.

“We have 1,339 shelter beds and 6,000 people in San Francisco with nowhere to sleep,” she said. “I’ve been told again and again this will not target the homeless. But if it doesn’t target the homeless or the investment banker or the firefighter, who will this law target? Suspicious looking people in hoods? Teenagers?” 

The room took on a chill as she evoked echoes of Trayvon Martin and others who have been selectively targeted in the name of justice. Enforcement was her next bone of contention. There are only a handful of park police, often only two, that patrol over 220 parks in San Francisco, she said. 

If the ordinance is supposed to combat vandalism, it doesn’t even do that effectively, she said to the board: “We don’t have a legislative problem, we have an enforcement problem.”

To that end, Yee amended Wiener’s proposal to identify more funding for the park police. Everyone on all sides of the argument acknowledged that two to three officers to cover over 4,000 acres of San Francisco parks was woefully inadequate. 

It's still unclear where that funding will come from, and how much it will be. 

After the meeting the Guardian asked Police Chief Greg Suhr, who was present for the meeting, if the homeless would be targeted under the ordinance.

“We’re not that Police Department,” he said. But he also said the controversial Sit/Lie Ordinance doesn't target homeless people either, a claim that homeless advocates would dispute. “We’re a reasonable suspicion detention department.” 

An audio interview with Police Chief Greg Suhr just after the park closure legislation passed, where we asked Suhr, "Will the homeless be targeted?"

Tom Temprano, president of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, disagreed. 

“I think that anyone who tells you the homeless will not be targeted in legislation that closes our parks at night are lying to you. There’s no other way to read this legislation,” he said. Temprano was one of the lead organizers of the sleep-in protest of the ordinance, which we previously covered.

When we asked if the ordinance would spur increased law enforcement in the parks, Suhr referred us elsewhere. 

“I leave the deployments to the station captains... certainly [the captains] have a pulse on what’s going on in the parks,” he said. 

So we called Captain Greg Corrales at Park Station, which oversees one of the most populous sections of Golden Gate Park, filled to the brim with campers. Corrales told us he didn’t imagine this ordinance would spur him to increase patrols or enforcement.

“There will not be more officers. The hours of the park have been posted on signs in the park, and past closing time people were cited for failure to abide by the signs,” he said. 

They cite 10-20 people for sleeping in the park per night, he said. As Kim noted, often these don’t lead to any prosecutions at all. 

But as for vandalism, Corrales said that there was recently a vandal throwing rocks through the windows of the Conservatory of Flowers and McLaren Lodge in Golden Gate Park. Would the ordinance help curb people from that kind of behavior?

“We’re already enforcing park closure,” he said. “It really doesn’t have much impact on us.” 



One small step for sanity.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

Douchebag Weiner at it again. Sad.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:22 pm

Of all the current Supes, he is the most likely to become Mayor once Ed Lee completes his second term (or third, depending on how you look at it).

Posted by anon on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

i pray that is not the case.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 5:55 pm

He is a pragmatists, not an ideolog, and the voters like that.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:21 pm

pragmatism: an approach that assesses the truth of meaning of theories or beliefs in terms of the success of their practical application.

By this definition he's not a pragmatist, considering the slim chance of his legislation working even toward the end of "preventing vandalism" as he claims. Rather it seems he's espousing one fluff theory while the practical application will result in... nothing at best, bullying of the homeless on the other.

I'm not sure which voters you're referring to but I'm certainly not one of them.

Posted by Kiriko on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:02 am

I know Chiu stopped being a progressive vote some time ago, despite his platitudes often start with 'our shared progressive values,' but when did he not even count as a swing vote anymore?

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:05 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:24 pm

He knows that to win the Assembly seat, he needs to pander to the moderate base, since Campos has the progressives in the bag. This vote was a way he to draw the battle lines for 2014.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

By literally less than 50 votes. He's not going to be marching to the drumbeat of the SFBG anytime soon - sorry Steven.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

soda tax.

Which of course will be considered visionary.

During the debate on the park thing last week on KQED the howling homeless advocate lady complained that cops were citing her golden bums for smoking at bus stops.

The irony of SF politics.

Posted by trolly troll trolling on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:40 pm

He doesn't seek to impose his own views on others, like ideologs and activists do.

That is why Wiener has my 100% support.

He's right on the in-laws and the micro-apartments as well. Creative solutions to the housing problem rather than just landlord and developer bashing.

Wiener for Mayor!

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:48 pm

and he was wrong on renaming SFO too.

Generally he's correct but Wiener has some pretty strong nanny state-tendencies.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:04 pm

The only reason Weiner is pushing the soda tax is because of the progressive monkey house crowd. Progressives are like Randroids. They always want to control people. I'm as much for the homosexual agenda as the necxt guy, and I don't mind the homosexuals as long as they aren't progressive, so I'm fine with Wiener supporting the Harvey Milk thing. It was pushed by Ammiano which is why it failed. That's why the bridge is being renamed after Willie Brown, because shrill homosexuals like Ammiano aren't behind it, not that I mind. Interstingly, progressives squealed like stuck pigs over renaming the Golden Gate Bridge, but they were just fine with the nanny state remanig of SFO. So progressives have no one but themself to blame for the soda tax nanny state. As usual it's the fault of the progressives that we have the Ammianoid homeless zoo in charge of the city.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:48 pm

I give it a 7

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:12 pm

Wiener carries himself like a stentorian schoolmarm.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 9:19 pm

type monkey house crowd.

It's such a strange thing that we need laws to allow housing to be built that people will rent.

I think this was a meaningless law though.

In the end the cops will just use it to fuck with people when they cops are bored, just like the visionary no smoking at bus stop non sense that the visionary progressobots were for

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:11 pm

Or Jane Kim for that matter. There are politicians concerned about responding to the broad-based concerns of their constituents and Wiener is one of those. Then there are politicians only concerned with responding to concerns from the narrow "coalitions" of special interests who elected them and Jane Kim/Campos/Avalos are one of those.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

Gracias to John Avalos, London Breed, David Campos, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar.

The majority on this board seem to give this conservative corporatist politician anything he wants. He speaks and they bow and genuflect on cue.

Of course this law is purely symbolic and meaningless and there will be no way to enforce it as with other purely symbolic and meaningless bull shit law this conservative piece has dreamed up in his vigilant campaign against the homeless. As far as kicking the homeless out of the city parks, what are they going to do?...look under every tree in every park? Who has the resources for that? Again, this is just more symbolic, feel-good pabulum to give as bait (because Hate sells) to a corporatist politicians' conservative base (including the Real Estate Industrial Complex and their corrupt liars) going into his re-election year. Hate sells. Hate on the homeless.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:47 pm
Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:57 pm

Thank all of the people you mentioned for being servile to public employees.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:16 pm

And if someone wants to vandalize a park or dump something in a park, someone will do so whether the park is technically open or closed. That's also what makes this law so insane, stupid and meaningless. Are they going to put police at every city park every night? I-don't-think-so. Who has the money for that? What an idiotic law.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

I hear that Marcos and Eric will be offering up their homes for the homeless to stay.

Very noble of them.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

I expected this. Politically, as a realist I've come to expect the worst considering what most politicians and the public have become. The same with this election. I expect all bad things will be approved, somehow. It's damn rare that things go the way I'd prefer they go politically.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

approved it by a big majority. The thing with Wiener is that he has a very good sense of what the majority want.

I've been impressed with him since before he became a Supe, and supported him in his race, but he has surpassed even my expectations for him.

He's the leading and most influential politician in the city right now.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:00 pm
Posted by lkm on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 10:54 pm

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Posted by marcos on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

I thought it was illegal to sleep at night in any city park. Can anyone explain what the law was before this toothless legislation passed? Thanks.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

The current law says it is illegal to sleep overnight in a city park. It does not say it is illegal to be present in a park at night, so one can spend all night in a park, so long as one is not sleeping, camping or cooking. So, if a park officer just saw you sitting or walking around at night in a park, there would be no violation for you to receive a citation for. You could go do jumping jacks in a park at 3:00 AM, and you would not have committed a violation under the existing law.

This new ordinance, which will become the law, now makes it illegal to be physically present in any park after closing hours (something that didn't exist before). So, now if a park officer finds you in a city park after closing hours, even if you are awake and not sleeping, camping, or cooking, you can be cited for being present in a park after closing hours.

As for being toothless, the law itself is not toothless, there is a clear prohibition of specific conduct. What may very well prove toothless is the enforcement of the law. If there are not enough officers to enforce the law, or if the police department adopts an informal policy of focusing on other priorities, then the enforcement will be toothless. Similarly, if after a person accumulates a certain number of citations (the Parks Code allows a person to get out of the first citation for sleeping and camping if they accept social service, and infractions just result in fines, not jail time), if the DA's office is not interested in pursuing a case against the individual for failure to pay the fines, then the enforcement will be toothless, regardless of how aggressive the police may be with enforcement.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:35 pm

Chris, Thank you so much for the informative reply. I understand park regs so much better now.

Posted by voltairesmistress on Nov. 07, 2013 @ 5:16 pm

Today for example. He rambled on and on about how this "isn't San Francisco." Pretty rich for an illegal Guatemalan immigrant from LA to be lecturing San Franciscans about the REAL San Francisco.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:22 pm

where the golden son of Los Angeles complained about people coming to SF and attempting to tell us how to live.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 7:49 pm

"As Mar said at the hearing, “I think this is a really mean-spirited ordinance.”"

Yes it is, and that's what one has come to expect from Scott Wiener. He's consistently mean-spirited---and that's being polite---no matter what pretty gift-wrap he uses to try to disguise his right-wing agenda. His conservative agenda is mean-spirited. That's his signature. And all one has to do is to read some previous posts over the past months on this site from Wiener's rabid, elitist, smug and arrogant, redneck, hateful, prudish, right-wing supporters to know who he listens to.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 9:22 pm


Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

Wiener is the biggest C@$% blocker in SF political history. Who, other than homeless, use public space, parks & "Large Plazas" between midnight & dawn? LOVERS...that's who. Picture that movie "Before sunrise" set in Weiner-World... Yuck..so sad.
Think about this guy's voting record. There is something a little strange about Scott. Perhaps its time for another career. Perhaps as an Iranian public decency cop.

Posted by Guest Tracy on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 9:41 pm

I don't even want to think about what this guy has planned for next year (his re-election campaign year). What draconian shit has he already dreamed up that he plans to propose to later be "amended" in order to get his shit passed? Or since it's a re-election campaign, will he try to come off as some "sweet, quiet, gentle, little Jewish boy" (that's how his rabid supporters label him as if they see him as some damn deity) where he's absolutely harmless and "Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth." I use that last expression about "Butter..." because I'm sure his supporters could relate to such an outdated description.

Homeless people are not like some bug that one swats away. Homeless people are not less valued than you are. There have been "leaders" in the past who have thought that way, specifically in Germany (24th of November 1933 approx).

Posted by Guest on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 9:52 pm

I am very glad to help homeless people, but allowing them to starve, defecate on themselves, get exposed to the elements, and generally waste away in a park or on a sidewalk is not helping the homeless.

Also, the homeless are not the only people who go into parks at night. Various people who are well housed go into parks at night because they provide a dark and relatively empty location that provide a good spot to buy drugs, sexually assault someone who happens to be wandering through, or engage in other sorts of activities that people want to do hidden away from public view. But, let's just put that issue aside for now. Also, let's set aside the fact that since it is already illegal to sleep at night in parks, or camp or cook at any time in them, you are basically saying you just want homeless people to stay up all night, sleep deprived, with no bedding to keep warm, just sitting in a park.

In any event, just focusing on the homeless, and setting aside the existing no sleeping rule, if you are concerned about helping the homeless, then advocate for expanded mental health treatment, including forced treatment for people who are not competent to make medical decisions for themselves, and building more supportive housing. There are plenty of ways the city can support these efforts. Instead, what I keep hearing from people who claim to want to support the homeless is basically, "Just let them die on the streets," except they hide that blunt sentiment behind a bunch of rhetoric about homeless rights, etc.

Also, I am not sure why you are blathering on about "butter" and other such nonsense. I think even Wiener's "outdated" supporters wouldn't have the faintest idea of what you are talking about. Just write in plain English and say what you want to say without a lot of high drama and silliness.

Posted by Chris on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:56 pm

Homeless people need housing, not "treatment". Being homeless is about not having the money to pay for a place to live, not being crazy.

Posted by Guest on Nov. 10, 2013 @ 11:00 am

Is it constitutional? I mean, you can still drive through the park, right? But you can't walk through? Bicycle? Correct me if I'm wrong.

Will there be a progressive backlash? The wall of the waterfront lost decisively. Would the park closing have passed if put in front of the voters?

Another mention of term limits. While term limits might have made a bit of sense in the era of at large elections where candidates basically had to be vetted with PG&E, with the advent of district elections and public financing they don't make any sense in regard to supervisor seats.

Aren't too many supervisorial votes being cast with a view to how they might look to some future hoped-for constituency -- as opposed to the district which the supes are supposed to be representing?

Posted by lillipublicans on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 10:49 pm

We need to change election law because you think you would win more elections that way?


You are also concerned that local politicians are using various levels of government as a stepping stone to other levels of government?

You are also concerned that politicians are casting votes in such away that there votes might appeal to a broad cross section of the population, thus they might get elected to higher office?

What you seem to be doing is complaining about Tom Ammiano.

Posted by Matlock on Nov. 05, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

I'm sure swing vote London Breed heard from her constituents. I'm sure swing vote Norman Yee heard from his. Point being that they are often as important to the outcome as the elected official.

Posted by AnnGarrison on Nov. 06, 2013 @ 10:26 am

of the constituency as whole. It's the loud minority who make the noise but it's more important to hear what the quiet majority think, and I believe that they are boradly in favor of closing the parks at night

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