Neighbors Say Encampments, Drug Dealing, Fires Increasing On Cole Street

Neighbors Say Encampments, Drug Dealing, Fires Increasing On Cole Street
Photo: Camden Avery/Hoodline
By Camden Avery - Published on November 10, 2016.

A year ago, we reported on one apartment building manager's efforts to reduce overnight encampments, pit bulls and drug dealing on the corner of Haight and Clayton. Now, residents of the 500 block of Cole Street, between Page and Haight, are reporting a similar increase in disturbances on their block.

Tipster Anthony M., who resides on the block, told us that this past weekend alone involved two separate after-hours screaming bouts, the breakup of an encampment (with fire trucks and police cruisers), off-leash pit bulls, piles of garbage, drug dealing, and nudity.

"When the weather is at its most comfortable is when the party tends to grow, but the the past few days have been unbearable," he wrote.

"I report anything like graffiti, garbage, dumped furniture and homeless encampments on the 311 app, like Park Station says to do," he said, but while the city has responded with additional trash pickups, the overnight crowds keep coming.

"There is someone sleeping on Cole Street 50 to 60 percent of the time when I am up in the early morning to walk the dog. Just this morning, there was a guy peeing on a parked car on Cole between the Panhandle and Page."

Cole between Page and Haight has had some positive movement of late, including plans for a new store to occupy the long-vacant former Homeless Youth Alliance space at the Haight corner. But three buildings on the block have recently been under scaffolding for renovation work (one was just completed), and the construction appears to have provided a safe haven for people to camp, our tipster said.

There's also concern about fires on the block. A few days ago, tipster Elana W. informed us that the steps of a home on Cole between Haight and Page appeared to have been set aflame on Saturday morning, the same time period in which clothing store Ambiance, a few blocks away, had its awning torched.

While a SFFD representative told us there was no report of a fire on the block in the wee hours of Saturday, Elana shared this photo of 505 Cole St. later that morning:

Remnants of an apparent fire on the steps of 505 Cole St.  | photo: elana w.

Elana told us she reported the remains of the fire to 311, but that they weren't cleared for days afterward.

"The following morning, I ran into a police officer getting a homeless man up off the sidewalk, a few feet from where the fire had been," she said. "I stopped and mentioned it to the officer and asked if he knew anything about it. He snapped at me and said 'This is my Monday,' and essentially shooed me away. He was totally dismissive. The homeless man said he saw the fire burning, but he hadn't seen who set it."

On the evening of the two fires, Hoodline also received several reports of people hearing what sounded like about a dozen gunshots in the Panhandle. No associated injuries were reported, and the SFPD told us they had no information about the possible gunshots.  

Thanks to Anthony M. and Elana W. for the tip.

Have you noticed increased problems on the block, or does it feel like business as usual in the Upper Haight? Leave a comment below, or text Hoodline at (415) 200-3233. 

Update 11/11: Tipster Emily B., who lives in one of the scaffold-enclosed buildings, reports:

I live in the building with the scaffolding and agree that it's getting out of control. On any night there are usually 12-15 people sleeping under the scaffolding, more when it rains. The result is tons of trash/waste and very loud nights. I have given up calling Park Station because it typically takes them so long to respond. ... I've noticed the crowds increase since the scaffolding on my building was erected in September. The crowds under the scaffolding really increased when the weather became more rainy a few weeks ago. I'm actually planning to call the building management company on Monday because the scaffolding was supposed to be taken down on November 4.