Ordinance would put restrictions on Castro District plazas


The city is considering putting restrictions on the use of Harvey Milk Plaza. Photo by Steve Rhodes/SF Public Press

A proposal to regulate two popular Castro District hangouts by restricting chairs and shopping carts is a step closer to becoming city law.

The Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday on an ordinance, which passed the Land Use Committee this week that would ban nighttime sitting, sleeping, vending, smoking and even pushing a shopping cart in Harvey Milk and Jane Warner Plaza.

Supervisor Scott Wiener said his measure will clarify a legal gray area that city and park codes don’t cover at the plazas located across the street from each other at the intersection of 17th, Castro and Market streets. He called it “common sense legislation.”

The city would charge fines up to $500 for camping, smoking and selling merchandise without a permit in those areas. The ordinance would also bar sitting on removable chairs between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. and bans shopping carts.

Supporters from neighborhood associations and merchant groups said the law would alleviate noise, safety and public health problems. But advocates for homeless people and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth oppose the measure, saying it adds to existing codes that already penalize them.

“This isn’t about law. It’s not about order, it’s not about rules, it’s not about safety, it’s not about quiet,” said civil rights organizer Bob Offer-Westort of the Coalition on Homelessness. “It’s about an emotional response, and the emotion that the author of this legislation has chosen is hatred.”

If the board approves the measure, it could take effect as soon as Feb. 29.