Castro residents clash over proposed restrictions in public spaces


UPDATE: This article has been changed to include three corrections.

Community activists in the Castro District of San Francisco have been riled up by recent legislation proposed to limit public use of the Harvey Milk and Jane Warner plazas.

The ordinance proposes to ban “wheeled equipment” and prevent people from sleeping, camping, or selling merchandise. Further, the ordinance limits the time that seating will be available to 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. 

“Poor people and low income people can’t live in the neighborhood anymore,” said community activist and Housing Rights Committee member Tommi Avicolli Mecca. “This ordinance is a response to people’s discomfort with people who look homeless in the plaza.”

Mecca believes that this legislation was pushed forward by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District and the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro (MUMC) as a way to privatize the public spaces and, in effect, prevent homeless people from occupying them.

"(The legislation) talks about sleeping and camping. Who is doing that other than homeless people and what printed materials are being distributed other than the Street Sheets?" said Bob Offer-Westort human rights organizer for the Coalition for Homelessness. "All of this really clearly targets homeless people."

Other community activists, such as blogger Mike Petrelis, believe that this legislation is a preemptive act against the Occupy movement and that meetings discussing the ordinance intentionally excluded activists like himself. "This new legislation is part of a downtown agenda to prevent an Occupy encampment set up," said Petrelis.

Petrelis wrote about the legislation on his blog, and among his arguments he states that preventing tents to be present in Harvey Milk and Jane Warner plazas expresses direct disapproval of the movement.

"I read this and hear fear on the part of [Sup. Scott] Wiener, MUMC and the CBD that an Occupy the Castro encampment could take root at the top of Market Street,” he said.

Wiener, who is sponsoring the legislation, says that it was drafted under the Pavement to Parks effort to transform the space into park land and that the provisions are standard for that use. 

"We’re trying to have usable vibrant public space and this legislation will help us have it,” Wiener told us. “This legislation provides what we already have in our parks. It’s pretty basic provisions.”

Wiener says that many local merchants and advocates, such as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, have been involved in discussions around of this legislation, but the Sisters have not taken a stand on the measure.

"The Sisters, as far as I know, have not made a collective effort one way or another on the legislation at this time," said Sister Barbi Mitzvah in an email. "The Sisters individually can comment, but coming from the organization takes a majority vote as we are a 501c3 non profit."

Whether this legislation addresses homelessness, an attempt to prevent an Occupy Castro movement, or if it is to create a “usable vibrant public space,” the community is demanding participation in this decision.

"Both plazas play a vital role in the Castro community," Petrelis said. "So why won’t he hold a public meeting?"



"Both plazas play a vital role in the Castro community," Petrelis said. "So why won’t he hold a public meeting?"

That's not something Wiener does.

He works on behalf of big developers and downtown, not his district residents or City residents.

Posted by CRS on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

Your comment states that Weiner works on behalf of big developers and downtown and not his residents. What exactly proof do you have of any legislation he is working on with developers. The Castro has no room not any plans for any major development. Perhaps you should get your facts straight and not make blanket statements.

Posted by Joey R on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 9:24 pm

"Both plazas play a vital role in the Castro community," Petrelis said. "So why won’t he hold a public meeting?"

Wiener doesn't hold public meetings, nor does he work for his district residents or the city's residents. He works for big developers and downtown.

Posted by CRS on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 7:21 pm

Why must everyone with an issue pick on the Castro? Every time some new social or political issue comes up, people congregate here, even if it has nothing to do with the neighborhood. The small businesses here have a really tough time getting by and the large number of homeless people sleeping in doorways doesn't help. Please consider the small businesses and long-time residents in the Castro when you talk about what should and should not be allowed. Don't even get me started about the nudity... special occasions and street fairs, sure, but not every day. And do you have any idea how much damage is done here by Halloween celebrations? It used to be fun, but it's certainly not the people who live and work here who cause the problems.

A 25 year Castro resident and decidedly-not-wealthy small business owner.

Posted by Cat T on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 7:45 pm

The biggest improvement for the Castro would be to throw something over and fumigate the ugly naked exhibitionists who infest the area and leave lice and vermin in their odoriferous wake. This is an affront to the senses that greatly exceeds any appearance of homelessness or the presence of wheeled vehicles in HM Plaza.

Posted by DanC on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 9:09 pm

someone has a case of the vapors. Clutch your pearls and retire to the fainting couch, Victoria!

Posted by marke on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

You don't get to set them for our society and those who disagree with you are not Victorian-era prudes.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:52 pm

Oh! dear me, Marke. I suppose I should (if I don't lose consciousness strolling by 17th & Castro first).

Posted by DanC on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 5:00 pm

would be removing the pervasive stench of urine around the plaza that bears his name -- especially when you consider the important role that the not-unrelated issue of dog poo played in his early political career.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 2:13 pm

Why are the Sisters even mentioned in this article? . . . other than a silly way for Mr Sellout Wiener to rally the idea of support behind this corrupt attempt to limit public space and gathering. It is another disgusting example of politicians yoking together half-assed ideas to maintain the profit of corporations and to limit interaction across members of our communities. And this article does a lot to bring attention to members our san francisco family who are without a home, which I think also attempts to support this initiative through backhanded classist imagery. In sum, gross. Gross. gross.

Posted by Tim Lafond/Sister Tammy fae on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

Dear Sister,

As a friend of several business owners in the Castro, I find it hard to believe your statement that this would "maintain the profit of corporations". Other than Pottery Barn and Diesel, the Castro is home to very small business owners who are struggling to stay in business.

Are you stating that you are for letting people camp in Jane Warner Plaza or Harvey Milk as a solution to the homeless? This isn't a public park, it is a street and a subway stop. I am all for assisting the homeless, but letting them camp in the Castro in these areas is not the solution.

There isn't room, it would deter from local small business owners and odds are make local residents uncomfortable. Yes, we need to find a solution, but this isn't the one.

I've read the legislation and do not see how it is limiting public space other than keep unwanted vendors who do not have permits out of the areas. Frankly, with all the problems with the food trucks who are now allowed in the Castro and Duboce Park, I know many restaurants are hurting. Limiting what can go in is a solution for the gay business owners.

Posted by Joey R on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 11:44 am

You are exactly correct Sister. I have seen Wieners roll of the eyes at the meetings with OccupySF. He does not represent the cultural diversity of the castro neighborhood or its core values of acceptance, and human rights. Anyone even in support of more laws limiting access to PUBLIC PROPERTY, should be labeled a domestic terrorist as the people who will be sighted and arrested, will never be able to pay the fines therefore causing our ridiculous debt bubble to further expand, leading to higher taxes, and therefore criminalizing lack of wealth, and lack of common sense or the reality of our human rights. Shame on you Wiener for helping to dismantle everything Harvey stood for, Shame on you for basically shitting on the flag that flies above that plaza. What will happen to tourism in the castro when the already overly competitive gay scene can only wear red or blue? It will up and leave just like it did polk street, and you will be known as the castro's bulldozer.

Posted by Christopher Ray on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:00 pm

then why was he elected to be the Castro's Supervisor?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

It includes Noe Valley which isn't particularly gay or diverse.

for that matter, Castro isn't diverse at all - it's over 90% white!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

Occupy is supposed to be focused on corporate America - hence the original Occupy in Manhattan being centered near Wall Street. How is occupying public space in a neighborhood composed of small, local businesses, homeowners and renters going to in any way advance the movement?

Answer - it doesn't.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:14 pm

This post contains two inaccuracies. First, it states that my legislation bans the "distribution" of printed material in the plaza. That is not the case. Second, it states that I indicated that the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence support the legislation. I did not state that. Rather, the intern who wrote the story asked me if the Sisters were aware of the legislation. I responded that the Sisters are members of MUMC and were present at the MUMC meeting where I discussed it. I did not state or imply that the Sisters endorsed it.

I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with any legislation I propose, but I do ask that the legislation, and my statements, be described accurately.

Posted by Scott Wiener on Dec. 06, 2011 @ 11:19 pm

We are not going to occupy the castro with a homeless encampment lol infact we are super excited down at Justin Herman Plaza that some of the stubborn alcoholic disrespectful parasites that refuse the services we provide (for free mind you) or the services offered by the city, that they are leaving JHP over the next few days to occupy the space on 16th and mission provided by Ed Lee. Allowing us to clean up and sanitize, beautify and transform OccupySF into the 24hr protest it was meant to be. And we need all the help we can get from our Historically pro-active, diverse and artistic neighbors here in San Francisco. The hardest part of the occupation is over. Which was the patience we have exercised and the prevention of being able to provide more and better services by the very people we feed everyday. FINALLY recources donated will be going to people who are sacrificing their careers and friends by simply attempting to provide a community where the drug addicted dont feel the need to use because they are accepted, and fed and listened to. We will finally be able to sustain our movement, and in doing so will take pressure off of the citys tax dollars by means of the free services our amazing community has been working so hard to provide. Scott, i urge you to please table this for further debate open to the public. Harvey Milk Plaza is known around the WORLD under its name, and historical significance. Dont tarnish the validity of the plaza and the Castro its self to even bear his name.

Posted by Christopher Ray on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 12:00 am

hey scott,

i had no idea the sisters were part of MUMC. do they own a store? how the heck do they qualify as a merchant and have membership in that bullying group. very curious that you don't deny you've not held any public meetings of your own about your proposal. as you well know, MUMC meetings are not open to the general public and MUMC's head bully steve adams does not allow for public comments from non-MUMC members.

so, how about your office organizing a town hall in the castro about your latest proposal? invite all of the stakeholders and not just speak to your buddies at MUMC and the castro benefits district?

while you're at it, please tell us what is happening with the muni investigation into the driver who struck and killed a pedestrian in august on 18th street.

hope to soon hear that you'll hold not just a public meeting open to all about the plazas,but that you will start regular town halls around your district. MUMC is not the only stakeholder interested in castro issues.


Posted by MPetrelis on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 12:10 am

If he held a public forum for local residents, would you allow the doorman to check id to verify your address? I think you would see that the true residents of the Castro support Scott Wiener as evidenced by his recent win by a landslide. Although, you'd probably oppose this as you would say anyone willing to come to the Castro, strip off their clothes, and piss in the plaza should be considered a local resident.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 13, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

Compassion. Where is it from a community that less that 10 years ago was a disease rather than a culture or thrown in jail for being who we are. When we put sales and money before human beings we end up with what we have on our streets: homeless and mentally ill people with out resources. The Castro denies housing for homeless youth time and time again: even homeless queer youth; and now trying to block and limiting their time in Harvey Milk Plaza.
Harvey Milk would have worked to feed clothe and restore dignity to these people not restrict them. Hell if they cleaned up well they would probably get a date and a place to live out of the very compassionate Harvey Milk.
Why have we no compassion for our fellow man? I am ashamed of our society and it's lack of true vision. Putting MONEY and BOTTOM LINES before people is a very sick way to behave.
Harvey I'm sorry there is blasphemy going on in your name sake plaza.

Posted by Guest Anna Conda on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 6:37 am

Being called "faggot" on several occasions by drunk, aggressive street people in the Castro. Are you suggesting that our glorious tapestry of humanity needs to find a home for those people too?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 1:45 pm


Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

Well said.

Posted by Longtime Lurker on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 9:02 pm

Only the SFBG would inflate Michael Petrelis by giving him an inch of page space. Wait, this was only a blog, lol.

Stay on the internet where you belong Petrelis, because you're just a troll (definition: One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 12:29 pm

Always the ugly one standing on the outside of the dance floor looking in. He spends as much time raging at "A-Gays" as he does the supposedly vast conspiracy which exists to "degay" the Castro.

Hey Michael - how's that campaign coming to reopen the bathhouses?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

I thought that the name of the plaza was Jane Warner and not Warren. She was the lesbian security/police officer that patrolled the Castro. She died a few years ago of ovarian cancer. The plaza was named after her to honor her contribution to the community.

Posted by Guest Michael S. on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

I apologize if this posts twice but I didn't see my comment appear.
I thought the name of the plaza at 17th St & Castro was named Jane Warner.
She was the lesbian security/police officer that patrolled the Castro. She died of ovarian cancer a few years ago. They named the plaza in her honor.

Posted by Guest Michael S. on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

Who is Jane Warren?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

Sorry, we've corrected that now as well.

Posted by steven on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 4:34 pm

"'We’re trying to have usable vibrant public space and this legislation will help us have it,' Wiener told us. 'This legislation provides what we already have in our parks. It’s pretty basic provisions.'”

Supervisor Wiener's contention that this legislation represents an attempt to have a usable, vibrant public space does nothing to address the legitimate issues and concerns raised by critics of this proposed legislation.

From the 9pm - 9am curfew to the vaguely worded prohibition on "printed material" to performing "labor," this proposed ordinance threatens to choke the very vibrancy Mr. Wiener claims it will "help". If only San Francisco city and county-sanctioned printed material can be "distributed," what about expression that is "pinned" or "placed" or held as a sign on a placard? Or voiced, whispered or shouted? Would taping a photo of a gay-bashed murder victim to a pole require city approval first?

The proposed legislation does nothing to specify what gnawing problem exists that its passage would remedy.

What does seem pretty transparent is that Mr. Wiener's claim that " I responded that the Sisters are members of MUMC and were present at the MUMC meeting where I discussed it," demonstrates a dis-ingenuousness that is as dubious as it is telling. The general narrative by Mr. Wiener is that local merchants and advocates, have been involved in discussions relating to this legislation, and whether through semantics or implication, arrived at consensus in its favor. Who, aside from MUMC, was involved in these discussions?

From a First Amendment standpoint, and open government standpoint, this proposed legislation and the lack of candor and clarity regarding its meaning, reasoning, objective and what problems it seeks to address are noticeably absent from any defense of it. Regardless of its true intent, even if in some twisted way it is genuinely in the interests of enhancing the vibrancy of Harvey Milk and Jane Warner plazas, the legislation, on its face, is ill-conceived, clumsy and constitutionally vague at best.

For a deeper exploration into the proposed ordinance, including a link to a copy of it, take a look at:

Mr. Wiener, I would gladly debate this with you honestly, openly and respectfully if you care to.

Clinton Fein

P.S. While I am as much an advocate of privacy and anonymity as I am free expression, the criticisms being leveled at Mr. Petrelis under the pseudonym "Guest" would carry far more weight if done so with the courage of conviction of the author communicating using his/her real identity.

Posted by Clinton Fein on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 2:24 pm

When you cant afford the neighborhood, you have 3 choices. Make more money, spend less money, or MOVE ..... we had to...... went where we dont get taked to death for all the social programs that DONT WORK

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

I worked and saved and strategized for 20 years before I was finally able to fulfill my dream of moving to San Francisco and then to the Castro. Apparently I needn't have bothered.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 4:10 pm

It's obvious that the homeless problem in the Castro district has gotten worse over the past few years. Nowadays, I can't even sit in the plaza and read a book without being harassed by a schizophrenic homeless young person. I wish that they have a place to sleep, food, etc. But sadly the majority of homeless in Castro are vegabond youth who, with offered help, don't care to make better of their lives by contributing to society. I'm about the same age as most of them, and I struggle to pay rent and survive in this city. Yet they are given free handouts, while I'm still trying to find a way to eat before my work shift.

Posted by Trevor on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

A few months ago, some of us went to a meeting of the Castro Benefits District to ask that they form a task force with representatives of community groups, activists, merchants, etc., all the stakeholders in the neighborhood, to come up with ways to make the plazas more welcoming to everyone. We suggested this because there was concern about certain things happening at the plazas. Our proposal was rejected, we were told that they had no interest in that. We sent Scott Wiener a copy of our request. Then Scott introduces this legislation, without any input from those of us who approached the CBD. In other words, it was a back door deal that only MUMC (which supported Scott's election) got to discuss. Is that a way to represent a district -- excluding whole groups of people who volunteer to be a part of a community process to build consensus?!

Scott did the same thing with his legislation on 341 Corbett. Instead of including housing advocates who have a stake in whether that property is sold and the money is used for affordable housing somewhere in the city, he left us out in the cold and crafted legislation that gives that land away free, in clear violation of the vacant properties law. While I am not opposed to green space there, I resent the fact that those of us who fight for affordable housing were not given the opportunity to work with neighbors to perhaps craft a win-win compromise for 341 Corbett. Instead, neighbors and affordable housing advocates are being pitted against each other.

Scott Wiener doesn't build community or consensus. He is a divider not a uniter.

Posted by tommi avicolli mecca on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

"Scott Wiener doesn't build community or consensus. He is a divider not a uniter."
- Tommi Avicolli Mecca

Tommi, I didn't even know you were still around. Second of all, your entire schtick is to be divisive.

Posted by 16 year Castro Resident on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

You can make the abolition of Columbus Day in San Francisco, with mandatory prison terms for those daring to celebrate it, your signature issue. I'm SURE you'll be elected in a landslide!

Posted by Guest on Dec. 07, 2011 @ 9:08 pm

What ever happened to common sense? The time restrictions make sense, as well as restrictions on tents. Back in the 1970's, most of the businesses were non-franchise and rents were reasonable for both businesses and residential property. However, it was greedy real estate companies,many gay owned and managed that kept raising rents forcing out gay storefronts, including Harvey Milk's camera shop at 575 Castro Street. The Harvey Milk Plaza was not created as a place for the disenfranchise, but dedicated for all people as a remembrance to Harvey Milk. It should be used on special days or nights, and I think it proper that a permit be needed for that occasion, to stop it from getting out of hand. The fact of the matter, as always... not every business or those living in the Castro are gay. Respecting others is also important. I like those who are part of the Occupying Movement... but it can and should be done during limited hours as not to disrupt those who have businesses and reside in the neighborhood from making a living or trying to get sleep. Like I started this comment... Where is common sense?

Posted by jerry pritikin aka The Bleacher Preacher on Dec. 12, 2011 @ 5:41 am