Plazas are public spaces

Scott Weiner's proposal to limit usage of the Castro's plazas should be rejected 

|
(3)

EDITORIAL The attack on public space has been underway for years now in San Francisco. Parks and recreation centers have been turned into pay-to-enter facilities rented out to private organizations. The sit-lie law restricts the use of public sidewalks. Occupy protesters have been evicted from a public plaza. And now, Supervisor Scott Wiener wants to put new restrictions on the mini-parks and plazas that have been a rare bright spot in the battle to reclaim the streets.

Wiener has introduced legislation that would ban camping, cooking, four-wheeled shopping carts, and the sale of merchandise in Harvey Milk Plaza and Jane Warner Plaza, near Market and Castro. He argues that the two parklets — one reclaimed from what had been roadway — are in legal limbo: They aren't parks, so the city's park codes don't apply, and they aren't sidewalks, so rules like the sit-lie law don't apply, either.

But there are serious problems with the Wiener legislation. For one thing, it's clearly directed at homeless people — the ban on shopping carts makes no sense at all except for the fact that a lot of homeless people carry their possessions in those carts. And the ban on camping (which isn't a problem right now in the two plazas) could be used to prevent an Occupy-style action in the Castro.

The ACLU says there are serious constitutional issues with the bill. In a Jan. 21 letter, ACLU staff attorney Linda Lye notes that the ban on the sale of merchandise without a permit could "burden expressive activity." And she explains that the shopping cart rules have exceptions for bicycles, strollers, and two-wheeled carts, but "it is wholly unclear why some but not other wheeled conveyances are singled out for prohibition, other than to restrict the activities of an unpopular group."

A letter signed by 21 members of the Harvey Milk Club, including co-founders Harry Britt and Cleve Jones, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, and eight past club presidents, points out that "the interests of the LGBT community have always been united with the interests of public space. As a community that is forced—far too often and for far too long—to spend much of our collective lives 'in the closet,' the ability to be free in public spaces has been tremendously liberating. Harvey Milk knew that liberation was only possible if we escaped the shadows of anonymity and invisibility. When we restrict these spaces—even when those restrictions are meant, initially, to be applied to another group of people—we damage ourselves."

The issue goes far beyond the Castro. There are a growing number of small plazas in the city, part of the popular and successful Pavement to Parks Program — and the last thing the city should be doing is putting undue restrictions on their use.

Wiener, to his credit, has been in touch with the ACLU, and amended his original proposal to exempt the sale of newspapers and other printed material. But that doesn't solve the First Amendment issues — for example, would the sale of t-shirts with political slogans be banned? Could the city decide which political candidates or causes could get a permit and which couldn't?

The whole thing seems like a solution in search of a problem. The plazas, like most of the city's parklets, are for the most part clean and well-maintained community gathering spots that don't need new rules or restrictions. The supervisors should reject the Wiener legislation.

Comments

Dear Scott -

This is the response I posted to our discussion on Facebook. I see now that you have removed that conversation, so let's have it continue here.

The parcel of land you think I am referring to, "The Corbett Slope", is not the parcel of land I'm referring to, so no - I am not misinformed, as you accuse me of being. I have already detailed my question, exactly what parcel of land I am referring to, all of which is contained in the 4 or so emails I sent to your staff and cc'd to you. (IF your office is being run properly, then all of the emails I have sent to you, Adam and Gary McCoy should be in your inbox archive. I am aware that the City of San Francisco requires that any elected official handle and archive emails from constituents in a certain, prescribed manner.)

To date, you and your staff have never answered my question. Meaning, I haven't heard a peep from you office in over a month - the last email I received was from Gary McCoy on December 21str, 2011. I first met with your staff almost 2 months ago, and I have still not received an answer to my question. I have given you all the information you would need to follow up, but you and your staff have assiduously not followed up. So, who is misinformed, Scott?

You also have never given me an answer regarding the announcement I forwarded regarding the Corwin Street Community Garden, which I asked to be posted in your newsletter. I am in conversation with Marvin Yee, Kristin Bowman and Marianne Kjbomand with RPD; General Manager Phil Ginsburg is also in the loop on this one. You or your staff made no effort to learn anything more about this public resource located in your district. Rebecca Prozan, the candidate who ran alongside you in 2010, actually reached out to our organization, came to a garden work party, advised us on a grant application we were preparing and otherwise involved herself in this civic project. What did your office do? Nothing. No curiosity, no follow up, nothing because, Scott - what I get coming from you is that you really don't care and you're really not interested. You've offended me by asking for some proof of this as an RPD property and did I have authority to be advertising for a VOLUNTEER POSITION, and still did not follow up. Just ask the RPD personnel I mentioned above, if you don't already know them then I guess this would be a good time to get to know them.

Also, I could tell you a story about how one of your volunteers handled a phone call from me to your office. Talk about rude. I would be embarrassed if I were you, having someone like that be the public voice for your office in your absence. AND, my message, which was to please have Adam call me back, was never heeded. Adam never called me back. That was over a month ago, and guess what Scott? I really don't want to hear excuses like he was busy or didn't get the message.

Really Scott - you've got a lot of nerve getting on your high horse when your staff and you have basically ignored me, treated me rudely and never answered my questions. Nor have shown any interest in this unique garden which has received awards from two previous GAY Supervisors, amongst others - this garden which is an absolute gem, and which I have donated 5,000 hours of volunteer time in maintaining and developing. No, Scott - you instead wander the streets of your district, your eyes glued to your Blackberry. I find you offensive young man. That's right, you and your staff have offended me, several times now.

I eagerly await your response to this email.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 26, 2012 @ 12:33 am

Some have the public realm and the public good in mind. SuperWiener, as some like to call him, has his delicate sensibilities, affluence and the broader agenda of privitazation of public spaces in, um.....mind?

In the words of the Supervisor ""This legislation is not draconian. It does not restrict anyone from the plazas," said Wiener, later adding, "This is basic, common sense legislation." - well, obviously that's a matter of opinion. It's interesting to me that Wiener focuses his attention on such matters (which some might categorize as demonizing the homeless, destitute and desperate...), rather than do work to HELP homeless people. As one person has said "I'm sooo releived to know that our very own "SuperWeiner" (I just coined that) is expending his legislative might to tackle the REALLY BIG issues plaguing our fair corner of the City."

Unfortunately for all of us and for our city by the bay, Homelessness has been a favorite political football in this in some ways provincial town for neigh unto 4 decades. The politicians and other forces in the city use homelessness and the homeless to attain other political goals. I find this particularly ugly and loathsome as the homeless represent the weakest link in our shared culture - they are the most desperate of folk among us. Just in case there are those of us who might not have thought of this, many if not all of the homeless are multiply-diagnosed. The first thing they are diagnosed with is not having a home (a condition which plays havoc with one's dignity not to mention personal hygiene.) Then comes HIV disease of various stages of progression, other infectious diseases such as tuberculosis as well as health problems that are present in the non-homeless population but may not be treated in the homeless due to lack of medical care or access to such, active or latent drug and alcohol dependencies, mental illness, at-risk state of being for such things as sexual and physical and emotional and legal assault, and the list goes on and on.

Add to that, the heavy handed regulatory aspirations of Wiener Doodle. Let's face it, folks, even if he isn't one of the 1% now, he is certainly acting like one and undoubtably aspires to be one of the one, in time. He DOES have a Harvard Law degree, after alll.......but unlike our President, Barack Obama, he is not an appealing creature - quite the opposite. When I first became aware of him running for District 8 Supervisor, let's just say that my visceral, intuitive response was not favorable. And he has shown himself to be just as I intuited. He was behind the Ballot Measure the year he ran, 2010, to do what Republican Governors in other states have done - bash the Unions. Well, Scott, darling deary - do you know why it's called "Union Square" - probably not, or you haven't thought of the ramifications of such. He was behind the "Sit/Lie" ballot measure that DID pass in November of 2010. He seems to be all up in the face of working folk and the disadvantaged. And it's obvious why - in addtion to being unusally taller than most people, he not only literally looks down on others, but figuratively, as well. It's just odious behavior, not befitting of a PUBLIC SERVANT.

Unlike some, I view the homeless as PEOPLE first and foremost - meaning not "vermin" or "trash" or "hopeless" or "a drain on society", but rather fellow human beings. Fellow human beings, who the last thing they need, is powerful people with malevolent agendas taking advantage of them and/or their plight.

Well, I'm going to say right here and now that in 2014? I'm looking forward to someone running AGAINST him if he tries for a second term. He is that bad. The GAY MEN I know have told me that he wanders the streets of his district, his eyes glued to his Blackberry, while he is blind to his constituents all around him. BAD NENERGY folks. Just not appealing as a person and certainly not as an elected official spearheading policy and regulatory mechanisms.

I think we need to OCCUPY Scott Wiener.....any takers?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 27, 2012 @ 10:58 pm

than previously. The district now stretches up over Twin Peaks. He's going to be a shoo-in when he runs again no matter how many slaves of Non Profit Inc squeak away on the SFBG's comment boards. If they couldn't beat him in the previous district there's no way they're going to be able to do so now.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 28, 2012 @ 10:42 am

Also from this author

  • Guardian endorsements

    Campos for Assembly, Yes on Props. B and 42, re-elect Gov. Jerry Brown — our recommendations for the June 2014 primary election

  • The future of Piers 30-32

  • Hold BART accountable for deaths