Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Community & Society
Published on September 20, 2019
25 boulders mysteriously appear on Clinton Park sidewalk, in apparent anti-encampment measurePhotos: Teresa Hammerl/Hoodline

About 25 boulders were recently placed on the sidewalk of Clinton Park, a small residential street located between Market, Dolores and Guerrero streets.

The boulders' source is unknown — but it's likely they were placed there to deter homeless encampments, a frequent occurrence on the street.

An area resident told Hoodline that the boulders, adjacent to Pet Food Express' parking lot and back wall, first appeared almost two weeks ago. A reporter visited this morning to find them still in place on the public sidewalk.

A person who claimed to live on Clinton Park told Hoodline that the boulders were put in place due to an ongoing issue with homeless encampments. But he's not sure exactly who is responsible.

The Clinton Park resident, who requested anonymity, said that neighbors often hear people screaming outside their windows in the middle of the night. There have been recent break-ins at some of the homes across the street from the boulders, he said.

A manager at Pet Food Express, who declined to give his name, said that encampments on the street are frequent. Employees of the pet store hose down the Clinton Park sidewalk almost every evening, in order to keep it clean.

The manager also wasn't sure who put up the boulders, nor how successful they've been. The homeless encampments are mostly there during the night, he said, while he only arrives at work in the morning. 

311 data reveals that since the beginning of the year, about 300 reports of homeless encampments have been filed for the unit block of Clinton Park. Another 200 requests for street and sidewalk cleaning have also been filed there. Most requests were filed in the morning, according to city data.

By comparison, Clinton Park received about 140 reports of encampments and 200 requests for street and sidewalk cleaning in 2018. In 2017, only about 80 reports for encampments and 160 street and sidewalk cleaning requests were filed.

Police incident reports for 2019 show one forcible entry into a building and one burglary, including unlawful entry into an apartment house. The related police reports do not indicate if the crimes were connected with homeless encampments.

Reached via phone, SF Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon said that she believes the city is not responsible for putting up the boulders on Clinton Park.

It wasn’t immediately clear if someone else got permission from the city to install them on the public sidewalk. We have requested further details from Public Works, and will update this story if we learn more.

Tipster Adam said that he doesn’t believe the boulders are the right way to approach the issue. Reached via phone, Coalition on Homelessness policy director Sam Lew agreed.

Lew said she has seen similar installations in other parts of San Francisco. She believes they represent the opposite of addressing the situation in a humane way, and that the money for the boulders would have been better spent “on real solutions like housing, mental health services, and shelter.”

It's not the first time efforts have been made to move homeless encampments from a sidewalk in the area.

In early 2018, SF Public Works placed metal barricades on the north side of Market Street (between Church and Reservoir streets) to prevent people from sleeping on the sidewalk in front of Safeway.

And earlier this year, nearby restaurant Izakaya Sushi Ran made headlines for painting a large rock, housed in a nook of its exterior windows, with the colors of the Pride flag.

Many advocates for the homeless expressed anger at the decision, arguing that the rock was placed in the space to keep homeless people from sleeping there. Izakaya Sushi Ran denied the allegations, noting that the rock had been in place for four years under the previous tenant, Nomica.