SF residents asked by city to remove benches from sidewalk or pay $1.4K permit fee

Efforts to enhance the look of their street is now being challenged by Dept. of Public Works

Lyanne Melendez Image
Wednesday, February 1, 2023
SF residents asked by city to remove benches from sidewalk
Residents in San Francisco's Bernal Heights were asked by the city to remove their benches from the sidewalk as they're "unpermitted encroachments."

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A group of neighbors from Bernal Heights in San Francisco are asking for some leniency from the city after being asked to remove some so-called "unpermitted encroachments." They're benches to you and me.

The residents hoped they'd enhance the look of their street, making it more family friendly.

Mirabel Avenue in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood is known as a kid-friendly street.

Neighbors have gone out of their way to make the street here more attractive. People even use these stone benches to conduct outdoor meetings.

But, what residents have had in place for nearly 20 years, is now being targeted by the Department of Public Works after someone complained to 311.

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"The city asked us to apply for an encroachment permit on the sidewalk or remove the benches," explained Josh Crandall who has two benches against his property.

There are plenty of encroachments throughout the city.

We've all have had to walk around them, e-bikes, scooters, homeless encampments to name a few.

"The big thing we want to make sure is that there's going to be no hazards at all, particularly for people who are visually impaired, it they are using a wheelchair, we want to keep the path of travel safe of all users," said Rachel Gordon of the San Francisco Public Works Department.

One thing the neighbors here have are usually wide sidewalks. So we measured from the curb to the benches in question, nearly 14 feet of available space. Plenty of room for strollers and more.

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The notice given to neighbors specifies that they must apply for a minor encroachment permit at a cost to them of $1,400.

"No way am I going to pay $1,400. I'll just take it down if I have to," vowed Gail Wilson who built a beautiful tree bench and spent hours painting it.

"It's similar to how the school board was dealing with renaming high schools during the pandemic rather than dealing with distance learning and it jut seems like it's a non-issue that's creating a lot of energy and use of resource for something that wasn't a problem in the first place," added Crandall.

Public Works is now working with neighbors and the local district supervisor, Hillary Ronen to find a solution.

In a statement, Ronen said, " My office is working with DPW to maintain the community atmosphere on Mirabel which means keeping the benches where they are."

Only the Board of Supervisors can waive the fees or come up with legislation that would allow this kind of encroachment as part of the neighborhood.

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