Another San Francisco neighborhood fighting to keep its sidewalk benches

The city is asking for an encroachment application fee of $1,400 - an amount residents say, is too high.

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Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Another SF neighborhood fighting to keep its sidewalk benches
San Francisco's Department of Public Works is asking Dogpatch residents to have benches on Indiana Street removed.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- What happens in San Francisco, doesn't always stay in San Francisco. The city is asking to have these benches on Indiana Street in the Dogpatch neighborhood removed. They were built during COVID.

"I thought, why don't we build some seating around the trees so our staff could meet with our participants outdoors," explained Carmen Castorena O'Keefe, director of RAMS, Hire-Ability Vocational Services, a nonprofit that helps people with a mental health diagnosis find a job.

Shortly after, she received a complaint from San Francisco's Department of Public Works.

"The trees weren't able to get water and car doors, if they parked along the street, were not able to open the car door. But we fixed it," she said.

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

Residents in San Francisco's Bernal Heights were asked by the city to remove their benches from the sidewalk as they're "unpermitted encroachments."

Changes were quickly made. They removed half of the seating. This allowed water to get to the tree and it allowed car doors to open.

"The trees are fine. They are taken care of," expressed Van Dao, the owner of the local coffee shop, Cafe Phoenix, who told us the benches have been an asset to his business and the community.

"Instead of the graffiti that we're seeing around the city, this is actually beautifying the community and allowing both our clients who have suffered from mental health issue to have fresh air outside," added Dao.

"People being able to sit down in places like this makes the neighborhood, makes the block better, make it more enjoyable," said resident Aldrich Lim.

Neighbors in another part of the city are now working with the Department of Public Works to keep their benches. It's getting a lot of attention. Some people have even posted on social media, #SavetheBenches.

The residents of that Bernal Heights street say some of their benches have been in place for more than 17 years.

Despite the changes made to the Indiana Street benches, now the nonprofit has been notified that the two by fours had to be spaced apart to allow for more water to reach the roots.

"I think we're going to have to remove the outdoor seating," explained Castorena O'Keefe.

In addition, the city is asking them to pay an encroachment application fee of $1,400 - an amount, they say, is too high and not worth fighting for.

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