San Francisco considering closing parks overnight

July 23, 2013 6:04:24 PM PDT
San Francisco is often setting trends, but it is actually behind the curve when it comes to having a curfew for city parks.

On Tuesday, one lawmaker proposed uniform closing hours for all parks in the city. At both small parks like Portsmouth Square in Chinatown and large ones like Golden Gate Park, the idea is to have clear and consistent closing times so that there is no confusion.

What time does your favorite park close? In San Francisco, there is no city code, just informal, inconsistent curfews. San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation Tuesday to establish uniform closing hours for all parks in the city, midnight to 5 a.m., to deal with crimes that occur in the wee hours.

"We have a huge problem with vandalism, metal thefts, and dumping at night, in our parks. It costs the Parks Department more than $1 million a year," Wiener said.

The first night after the new Dolores Park playground opened, it was vandalized. Tree tops in Golden Gate Park have been chopped off. Just two nights ago, a bench in Portsmouth Square was reduced to splinters.

There are only 24 park personnel to patrol over 200 parks. "If we need to, then we can concentrate law enforcement just in that time frame which may mean shifting some of our schedules around," San Francisco Park Ranger Director Bob Lotti said.

San Francisco is the largest city in the nation without a set closing time for parks. In Los Angeles it's 10:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. In New York, it's 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. In Chicago, it's 11 p.m. until 6 a.m.

"I'm not sure it would be an attack on the homeless so much as they're tired of all the trash that's in the park at night. And, there's a lot of not-so-decent people who use this place and abuse this place," Johnny Quinn told ABC7 News.

But an advocate with the homeless coalition warns of unintended consequences. "In fact, what we will see is just a displacement of homeless people to our downtown streets because we certainly don't have the room in the shelters, and then ultimately, back in the park," said Lisa Marie Alatorre with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness.

The measure includes an exception for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists to travel on the sidewalks and streets through the parks any time of day.


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