October 25, 2013

A Move To Close All San Francisco Parks At Midnight

The hours at which San Francisco's public parks are considered to be closed and off-limits are currently set on an ad-hoc basis, making it difficult to effectively police and enforce.

On the agenda for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors next week, an ordinance which would establish a midnight closing time for all City parks in San Francisco including Golden Gate Park, Union Square and the Panhandle. That being said, roadways and paved paths would remain open for the purposes of traversing any park or plaza, but no stopping or stepping on the grass.

San Francisco's parks would open again at 5am daily.

First Published: October 25, 2013 8:30 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Just such a terrible thing if it passes. Im sure some people will here will be for it, I dont have the energy to argue at the moment. But closing union square at midnight? These are public spaces, can you imagine if Rome closed its squares at midnight.

Posted by: Sam at October 25, 2013 8:49 AM

Good lord, are the police too stupid to read signs posted at park entrances? Of course they're not. But the Board is stupid enough to do this instead of tackling a real issue.

Posted by: BobN at October 25, 2013 8:54 AM

Union Square? Seriously?

I can understand the desire to give the police another tool against bums but practically speaking, enforcement of fines and penalties always falls squarely on the shoulders of those able to pay and has no practical deterrent effect on the indigent.

Sit/lie should be enough for them. How about just doing some real police work and roust the bums out of GG Park every night for a year instead of letting the problems fester for decades?

Oh yeah... not the San Francisco way. Soak the rich. Protect the bums ... whatever.

Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at October 25, 2013 9:10 AM

I reluctantly agree with this legislation...and once again, it's being proposed because the travelers/drifters/homeless have taken up residence in GGPark (see Alvord Lake where the City has given up control and allowed a shantytown-like community to establish there) and the Panhandle

I live directly across from the Panhandle, there are crashers/campers in there every night. When they get up the next morning (because SFPD does not patrol there nightly) they typically leave a trail of trash behind them.

Not allowing these groups to establish territory is a key.

Closing these areas will drive them into the neighborhoods, the neighborhoods should respond accordingly.

Posted by: SFOrange at October 25, 2013 9:23 AM

I'm pretty sure the cops already have the means, if not the will, to roust the campers Southern Sheriff style, with guns, clubs, dogs and mass arrests..

It'll be a fun night at the park and the cops can get out some of that pent-up aggression. Get the rookies out there to do the heavy lifting since half the force have obviously stopped caring.

They'd just rather sit in their squad cars, get fat and write parking tickets all day.

Posted by: Jimmy (not a Real San Franciscan (TM)) at October 25, 2013 9:32 AM

I'm somewhat inclined to agree with SFOrange. I can see the issues with attempting to close Union Square after midnight, but what's the problem elsewhere? In other words, what is the reason to keep parks "open" between midnight and 5AM?

Posted by: Fishchum at October 25, 2013 9:33 AM

@Fishchum

How about the fact that my friends and I might want to go to them?

Posted by: Sam at October 25, 2013 10:03 AM

Bravo! We live near Jefferson Square Park, which is so beautiful after the money the city spent on it last year. But of course the losers are back with their tents, needles, and trash. One group actually pitched a huge tent complete with lawn chairs.

Quality of life issues need to be fixed, just like Giuliani did in New York City.

I have sympathy for people with issues, but at what point do my needs as a taxpaying citizen with a job for clean, safe public space become just as important as those who leave their trash all over, and have all kinds of social and mental issues? I wouldn't care if they were just there, but their lack of concern for the park, by leaving trash, food items, feces, and needles, means I don't want them around.

Tired of it. Clean it up, make it uncomfortable for these piles of human filth.

Posted by: CivicCenter at October 25, 2013 10:30 AM

This is ridiculous. I do not support this ordinance.

Posted by: Gabe at October 25, 2013 10:38 AM

While I agree that some parks should be closed at night, this law is not going to do anything to keep the bums out. The problem is the lack of enforcement, not the available tools. It's already illegal to camp in parks overnight, but the cops do nothing. This will be as effective as sit-lie, which has had no impact since the cops don't do anything. They've already got all the tools they need, they simply need to enforce it.

I've been trying to deal with a regular homeless encampment near my office and the cops only bother to come out may 1 our of every 5 times I call, and when they do come out they don't make any real effort, never citing the people even though it is the same people over and over and they come back almost immediately after being rousted.

Closing Union Square at midnight? Ridiculous!

Posted by: lyqwyd at October 25, 2013 10:42 AM

If the city could get control of the homeless population, this wouldn't be an issue. They will enact this law, and nothing will change except that law-abiding citizens will not be able to enjoy the park.

Just like sit/lie, it will pass to make it look like the city is doing something, but then it will not be enforced -- the homeless and junkies will still fester in the parks, but now the responsible people will not be able to use it.

Just fix the original problem already!

Posted by: Drew at October 25, 2013 10:55 AM

Union Square???!!!

There'a already very little streetlife culturally in the US, not hard to see why with this kind of attitude and law.

Imagine London closing Trafalger Square at midnight for example, or Spain or Mexico shutting down their main plazas when the night is just getting going there..

Posted by: REpornaddict at October 25, 2013 10:55 AM

Worth noting that overnight park closures should also help limit the graffiti nuisance that sadly appears to have taken over so many parks and even playgrounds. Heck, even Central Park in NYC is closed from 1am-6am...if they can do it with the crush of itinerant population NYC faces in adjacent neighborhoods, SF should be able to do it too with GG and other parks.

Posted by: no_ vally at October 25, 2013 11:07 AM

Stupid. How on earth are they going to patrol ALL of GGPark to make sure no one is camping or whatever? And closing Union Square? Stupid

Posted by: sfjohn at October 25, 2013 11:10 AM

Someone at Parks and Rec needs to visit NYC and see how its done. What a shit show GG Park is compared to Central Park.

Posted by: nsfw at October 25, 2013 11:54 AM

OK Sam, I'll bite - what the hell are you doing in a park at 1 AM?

Posted by: Fishchum at October 25, 2013 11:58 AM

Sitting there? Making out with my gf? Eating a sandwich? Staring at the stars? Playing acoustic music with friends? Dancing by myself because this is America and I can? Whittling wood? Walking my dog?
What does it matter what Im doing, just let me do it in peace. I do have a slight libertarian bent I guess

Posted by: Sam at October 25, 2013 12:09 PM

Well Sam, I'm afraid you're in the minority, then. Maybe it's the result of my NY upbringing, but to me, being in the park at that hour = trouble.

I think some posters here make some good points, though. Between sit/lie and the no overnight camping law, that should be effective enough to combat the problems. Let's start enforcing these laws before we consider putting another on the books.

Posted by: Fishchum at October 25, 2013 12:15 PM

I've been known to walk my dogs late, late at night. And I walk on the grass... to pick up their poop.

Posted by: BobN at October 25, 2013 1:13 PM

So basically, they're not proposing to close the parks, just to make it so that only people who don't abide the law will use them.

Posted by: formidable doer of the nasty at October 25, 2013 1:53 PM

Once after picking up some fast food from the drive through* in the wee hours of the morning I stopped in a park (not in SF) to eat my meal before it got cold. A cop came by within five minutes and rousted me from having a quiet meal at the picnic table.

So yes, there are legitimate reasons why someone might want to use a park late at night. I personally see this as a minor hassle, but why not enforce the existing laws against illegal activity instead? It is kind of like the "open container" law that prevents passengers from sipping a beer while being chauffeured by a stone sober driver. If the problem is drunk driving then test the driver and leave the passengers alone.

(* and try buying fast food on a bicycle late at night from the drive through. It is either a hassle or not possible. Strange that businesses can legally discriminate against non-motorists by citing bogus safety issues.)

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at October 25, 2013 1:59 PM

Sam, you don't have to be libertarian to want to be in a park at 1am. It just a recreational facility - who's to say that you cannot do leisure activities after midnight - it makes no sense. It's not a subway where somebody has to do track maintenance - and I am saying that to counter the NYC comment as their subway runs 24/7.

I totally oppose this. It's pointless.

Posted by: Anton at October 25, 2013 2:25 PM

You want clean parks? Start voting to increase the budgets of street cleaning services, and hey, maybe donating money to organizations that get people out of homelessness not the least by giving them jobs cleaning streets.

Yeah, let's take Giuliani's example, and Bloomberg's by extension. You see the Met has been given permission to start charging a mandatory entrance fee? Keeping the homeless encampments out, no doubt.

Posted by: EH at October 25, 2013 3:09 PM

A number of years ago on a unusually warm night my girlfriend and I wandered from dinner in the Mission and sat on one of the benches in Dolores Park. I was new in town and it never even occurred to me that parks could close. A few minutes later a cop car with lights flashing drove into the park and told us and a few others to leave.

I got to have the teenage experience in my late 20s that I was too nerdy to have in my teens. Thank you SFPD.

Posted by: Frog at October 25, 2013 4:00 PM

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