January 23, 2012

No Chairs For You In The Castro Commons Before (Or After) Nine

Castro Commons (www.SocketSite.com)

On the agenda for San Francisco’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee this afternoon, new regulations for the use of Jane Warner Plaza, also known as the 17th Street Plaza or Castro Commons, San Francisco’s first parklet to open at the intersection of Castro and 17th Streets.

As sponsored by Supervisor Wiener, a new use ordinance would prohibit sitting "on movable chairs or movable benches" in the plaza from 9pm to 9am and prohibit sleeping, camping, smoking or peddling merchandize in the plaza at any time.

The proposed restrictions will apply to Harvey Milk Plaza as well. And of course, please don't forget to wear your pants.

Regulations for Jane Warner and Harvey Milk Plazas [sfbos.org]
Soon To Be Sitting Pretty In A Series Of New Plazas And Parklets [SocketSite]
San Francisco Parklets Present And Proposed [SocketSite]
Wiener’s Proposed Public Weiner (And Ass) Ordinance [SocketSite]

First Published: January 23, 2012 10:15 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

9 PM to 9 AM? That is ridiculous. I have to say Weiner is not working out to be a very impressive Supervisor.

Posted by: curmudgeon at January 23, 2012 10:16 AM

9 till 9? What? Something against morning coffee drinkers? And what about those very rare warm evenings in the summer?

How about dusk till dawn instead?

Posted by: BobN at January 23, 2012 10:17 AM

don't worry, like sit-lie, the intent of this new law is selective enforcement.

Posted by: James at January 23, 2012 10:38 AM

But, James, would it prohibit setting the movable chairs out between 9 PM and 9 AM? It seems to me that it should be up to MUMC or whoever locks and unlocks them daily to determine when the best time is. Those chairs are definitely an amenity in both the morning and in the evening (particularly on freak warm evenings).

Posted by: curmudgeon at January 23, 2012 10:55 AM

The chairs are currently locked & unlocked by the owners of Orphan Andy's, because they're nice enough to do it. It's not really clear who should officially be in charge of things like that. This legislation will be the beginning many discussions about who "owns" the parklets.

Posted by: James at January 23, 2012 11:27 AM

The 9am-to-9pm is about the movable chairs folks. From the link, '...Plazas are open and available for pedestrians 24hrs a day. However, both Plazas should be available for sitting on movable chairs and movable benches only between the hours of 9:00am and 9:00pm'.

To me, this is just trying to say when should those chairs be 'expected' to be out there.
I don't have a problem with it and jeez, if I expected it to be there right at 7am or past 9pm, I think that's being unreasonable and something I would neither expect of nearby businesses nor city employees to execute.

SS, maybe I haven't read far enough but I don't think sitting is prohibited as you have written. It's about sitting on those movable chairs.

Posted by: DanRH at January 23, 2012 1:51 PM

DanRH is right. It's about the chairs, that's it basically. The plaza is open 24/7.

Posted by: futurist at January 23, 2012 2:19 PM

So, solving a problem that doesn't really exist?

Posted by: EH at January 23, 2012 2:57 PM

UPDATE: The exact ordinance language to which we linked, and have added above, is indeed "both Plazas should be available for sitting on moveable chairs or moveable benches only between the hours of 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m." And while we could be wrong, we don’t believe that managing expectations with respect to when chairs will be available is the only intent.

With respect to sit-lie ordinance, but rejected by Supervisor Wiener, the San Francisco Police Department had actually recommended "inclusion of language about no loitering or sitting on the pavement in the plazas between 9:00 am and 9:00 pm" as the Civil Sidewalk Ordinance "is not enforceable in the 'Pavement to Parks' projects."

Posted by: SocketSite at January 23, 2012 3:06 PM

This is such a weird vertigeal badly designed poor excuse of a "plaza", that is laughable that there are rules and discussions in City Hall about it.

Posted by: silly sf at January 23, 2012 3:18 PM

Both plazas are owned by the city but the Castro Community Benefits District (CBD), which is an organization funded by extra property taxes paid by merchants, is responsible for maintaining them both. They rely on volunteers from nearby businesses to secure the tables and chairs at night.

One problem with having no rules in these areas is that the volunteers often meet resistance from people, often intoxicated, when they try to do their jobs by locking up the tables and chairs at the appointed hour. Having official hours of availability would give them a bit more authority to point to a sign with posted hours to justify what they are doing.

Other restrictions, such as on smoking, are common-sense rules that apply to every park in SF, and should also apply to parklets and plazas to ensure that everyone can enjoy the space.

I'm happy to report that the legislation was passed on to the full board by the land use committee, by a 2-1 vote (Supervisor Mar voted against.)

Posted by: Dubocian at January 23, 2012 3:59 PM

Dubocian, do you mean to suggest that no smoking in parks is an actual, current law? If so, I would imagine that it has never *once* been enforced during its time on the books. I've seen eight SFPD park patrol cops, on their dirtbikes, cruising through Alamo Square Park (making sure everybody cleans up after their dog?), while entire groups of bums are essentially living on the basketball court and surrounding areas in the Panhandle, but I've never seen anyone "busted" for smoking in a park.

Posted by: The Chief (tm) at January 23, 2012 4:18 PM

SS, thanks for updating your written description.

Posted by: DanRH at January 23, 2012 4:43 PM

The Chief wrote:Dubocian, do you mean to suggest that no smoking in parks is an actual, current law?

Looks like it. From S.F. Gate, January 26, 2005, S.F. board votes to ban smoking in city's parks:

The Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 Tuesday to outlaw smoking outdoors in all recreational areas managed by the city except for golf courses. That includes parks, squares, gardens and playing fields but not federal lands such as the Presidio or Ocean Beach…The law now goes to Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it. The ordinance, to be enforced by police and employees, would not go into effect until July 1 to give the city time to erect "no smoking" signs.

I can't cite chapter and verse of the municipal code and I am not a lawyer, but from what I've read this is good law.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at January 23, 2012 4:57 PM

I gave up too easily earlier. Looks like Art. 19I: Section 1009.81. Prohibiting Smoking In City Park And Recreational Areas:

(a) Smoking is prohibited on any unenclosed area of property in the City and County of San Francisco that is open to the public and under the jurisdiction of the Recreation and Park Commission or any other City department if the property is a park, square, garden, sport or playing field, pier, or other property used for recreational purposes, or a farmers' market.

Maybe its unclear that Castro Commons is just another kind of park and/or the signs aren't up so people don't know that smoking is prohibited, so Supervisor Wiener's new use ordinance would help clarify things for everyone, including those folks who think that having a Prop. 215 "recommendation" entitles them to blow marijuana smoke at everybody that happens to walk by.

Posted by: Brahma (incensed renter) at January 23, 2012 10:11 PM

That's interesting, that all smoking is prohibited and not just of tobacco, since the SFPD officially doesn't enforce marijuana infractions. A classic San Francisco reversal, to object to the smoke but not the drug.

Posted by: James at January 24, 2012 10:20 AM

How about "it shall be illegal to sit in chairs when they aren't there". Ah, clarity and logic in the law...

"I've seen eight SFPD park patrol cops, on their dirtbikes, cruising through Alamo Square Park (making sure everybody cleans up after their dog?)"

When they're on their bikes they're either 1) training or 2) waiting to swarm down the hill into the troubled blocks near public housing. The latter happens a couple times a year, usually after there's been a shooting and the police expect (rightly so) more violence in retribution (or if they shooters missed the first time).

Posted by: BobN at January 24, 2012 11:47 AM

@BobN, if it's 10pm, folks are sitting in them still, and the nice volunteers need to collect them and go home - and (assume) folks in them are drunk and refuse...what then? they need something to 'point' to. Not always as simple as you think.

Posted by: DanRH at January 24, 2012 2:44 PM

This is why we can't have nice things.

Posted by: Bang Ding Ow at September 27, 2013 8:34 AM

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