Social media post draws controversy to new barricades at SF's 'red-light district'

Stephanie Sierra Image
Wednesday, February 22, 2023
Controversy over barricades at SF's 'red-light district'
A social media post by San Francisco firefighters union is drawing controversy to the new cement barricades at the "red-light district" on Capp St.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A post on social media is drawing more controversy to the so-called "red-light district" of San Francisco.

SFMTA installed new barriers along Capp St. in the Mission District, replacing existing barriers that were put up several weeks ago to curb ongoing prostitution in the area. The barricades, which are made of cement blocks, are raising concerns for the San Francisco firefighters union.

"I think it's the best thing they've done in... forever," said Carl Connell, a longtime resident who lives on Capp St. "Now I can get up in the middle of the night and there's no cars racing up and down the street, and no exploited women walking the street."

For the first time in 41 years, Connell says he's actually enjoying his neighborhood - even if it means his new sense of peace is moving the problem somewhere else.

"I don't know, it's somebody else's turn to have 40 years of this stuff," Connell said.

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A turn his neighbors down the street aren't ready to take.

"That's just obviously stupid," said Steve Bower, who owns a wood and paint finishing shop along Capp St. "There needs to be a safe place for sex workers to work."

The irony of the barriers intending to block out the problem - may just be creating another one.

"It's jeopardizing public safety," said Bower.

Over the weekend, the local San Francisco firefighters union sent out a tweet that said "Selfish decisions that put others at risk can have dire consequences. I wonder who is going to take credit for this?" The tweet included a photo of the barricades and referenced a large fire impacted their ability to provide rescues to the 300 block of Capp St.

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Video shows new street barriers aimed to curb alleged sex work torn up in San Francisco's "red-light district."

Word spread quickly.

"I heard that there was this massive explosion and the fire trucks could not get in to do their jobs," said Bower. "Seems like a pretty high price to pay for complaints from neighbors who don't like people driving up asking for sex."

But according to residents and city records, there was no fire on Capp St. over the weekend. The tweet actually confused many in the neighborhood.

"We were a little concerned," said one resident who lives on Capp St. "We were like, oh, are the barriers causing problems? But talking to other residents we realized there hadn't been a fire, not in the 300 block of Capp St. or anywhere else on Capp St. since the barriers were put up."

Several neighbors told the I-Team they felt the tweet misrepresented the reality of what happened. But emergency crews argue every second counts when responding to life-threatening situations.

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More than 170 neighbors signed a letter expressing their support for the barricades, adding they've reduced violence and restored peace in the area. The letter was presented to Mayor Breed and other city officials during a meeting on Tuesday discussing next steps.

"In the interim, the mayor has decided we are keeping the barricades up," said Sup. Hillary Ronen, adding minor delays will be caused as a result in the event of emergencies. "But on the flip side, the danger in the street from violence and gunshots and a pedestrian being hit was so severe, we have to weigh all these competing factors against each other."

"Are you concerned about the impact to response times?" ABC7's Stephanie Sierra asked Connell. "Nope. They just have to know how to get in," he said.

But other residents aren't pleased with the idea - anticipating more traffic, parking headaches, and delayed deliveries.

"It's a danger," said Bower. "This is not a solution."

Sup. Ronen says the city will be designing and building a new system of barricades that will be bolted to the ground over the next six weeks. At that point, fire crews will be able to use a tool to remove the barricades in the event of an emergency.

Take a look at more stories by the ABC7 News I-Team.

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