Haight could see more limits on head shops

June 15, 2009 7:17:57 PM PDT
Change may be coming to one of San Francisco's most famous neighborhoods. The city is considering placing a limit on a popular Haight-Ashbury business. The era of head shops on every corner may be ending.

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San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury is considered the cradle of the 1960's counter culture -- hippies, free love and drugs.

Four decades later there are still signs of that time, especially the so-called head shops that sell marijuana paraphernalia.

"You definitely want to identify the history and respect it, but at the same time there's more to the Haight than we think, that it offers than to have 15 plus head shops," said FTC Skateboard owner Kent Uyehara.

Uyehara is among those saying enough is enough when you have three and four head shops on one block. Now the neighborhood's supervisor is pushing legislation to ban any new ones.

"Like Fisherman's Wharf is well known for Ghirardelli Square and sourdough bread, the Haight is known for its paraphernalia shops, I'd like to see more neighborhood serving businesses," said San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi.

Jim Siegel agrees. He owns Distractions, a head shop and believes the growing competition is not only bad for his bottom line but for the neighborhood.

"Families don't want to come down to Haight Street when they have to explain to their 5-year-old what a bong is," said Siegel.

Siegel says the city should enforce a state law requiring that paraphernalia be kept in a backroom, but the sight of bongs and pipes is one of the main draws for tourists like Canadians Frank and Deb Pirker.

"It's part of the ambiance of the street, the culture of the 60's and 70's nothing wrong with that," said Frank Pirker.

But on Monday a supervisors committee decided there's nothing wrong with prohibiting new shops along a stretch of Haight.

The law would only be in effect for three years unless the supervisors decided to extend it.

Mark Zeidan hopes the moratorium helps his Ashbury Tobacco Center survive the economic downturn.

The full board could vote on the proposal before the end of the month.

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