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.
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.
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."
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