San Francisco residents hold meeting to deal with alley where shady dealings go down

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Someone in San Francisco recently took it upon themselves to block an alley, with a makeshift wooden wall, where homeless people congregate.

It has sparked a debate over safety versus public space.

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On Wednesday night, Ingleside residents met with members of the Ocean Avenue Association, a nonprofit organization for businesses in the area.

The discussion was passionate.

"There are lights in the alley, they've been broken. There are cameras in the alley, they've been stolen," pleaded a woman, who lives in Ingleside. Fearing backlash, she asked ABC7 not to use her name.

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On Sept. 25, the woman got permission from San Francisco's Department of Public Works to install two temporary gates at either end of Ingleside path. It's a 240-foot long alley that connects Ocean Avenue to Urbano Drive.

The alley is right next to the woman's home, where she lives with her husband and two small children. The alley is also the home for some of her unhoused neighbors.

It's "a very dangerous place," she said.

The woman shared video with ABC7 of someone screaming profanities from the alley in the middle of the day, where she says there is fighting on a daily basis. She feels the issues in the alley are not a homelessness issue, but rather a safety issue. She says people break into homes and backyards from the alley, do illegal drugs in the alley. She says one time someone poured gasoline on the alley sidewalk and threatened to burn everything down.

So someone-- neighbors won't say who-- jumped the gun and put up a plywood wall at the end of September, blocking the alley.

The wooden barricade and fence on either end of the alley did not comply with DPW's requirement for key access to the city, PUC, fire department, and other businesses and neighbors.

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The wooden barricades were up for less than a week.

"I believe people have taken shortcuts and I don't believe it's a democratic process," said William Walraven, who lives in Ingleside and showed up to a neighborhood meeting, where the community is now debating installing a DPW compliant gate.

"I do empathize and feel for the people that live directly abutting that property, but when they bought that property, that easement, that public right of way existed," said Walraven.

San Francisco Supervisor Norman Yee's office is involved and says the community needs to keep working towards consensus before any other alterations are made to Ingleside path.

The woman who wishes to remain anonymous who got permission from the Department of Public Works for the gate issued a statement-- read it below:

In my opinion, Ingleside Terrace has always been a working-class, family-friendly neighborhood that takes public safety very seriously. The neighbors of Ingleside Pathway feel it's closure is necessary to preserve public safety. This extremely narrow alleyway measuring only 48 inches wide provides a safe harbor for drug dealing, drug use, and other illegal activity 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Given the long and extremely narrow width, and the turn in the pathway, there isn't a vantage point from Ocean or Urbano to see all of the activity that goes on in this pathway.

As a result of this unlawful activity needles have been discovered in my backyard, my shed and garage have been broken into, and gasoline has been poured down this 200' alley with threats of burning everything down. There is yelling and fighting on a daily basis. Many of these disruptive fights occur in the middle of the night. The screaming, cursing, abusive language echoes throughout the neighborhood during the early hours of the morning. The nail salon has recently had men high on drugs run into the salon and expose themselves to the women patrons. Other neighbors report having their teenage kids assaulted. Because of all of the fighting, yelling and the smell, my own child is afraid to use the backyard which abuts the pathway.

This walkway has been a burden on city resources for some time now. The walkway requires multiple trips a week for power washing and city records confirm that over 100 calls were received for emergency services. The neighbors of Ingleside Pathway understand that the State of California has a big homelessness problem, and we are willing to shoulder our share of that problem but this is a public safety issue and we should not be expected to compromise on public safety.

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