Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 51 / 18 December 2014
 

Critics of SF park closure hours continue opposition

Supervisor Scott Wiener (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Supervisor Scott Wiener (Photo: Rick Gerharter)

Critics of gay Supervisor Scott Wiener’s legislation to close city parks from midnight to 5 a.m. are continuing their opposition, even after the full board approved his proposal 6-5 on its first reading this week.

Saying the group is “disgusted,” the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club said in an open letter to the board Friday, November 8, “We are in disbelief that at a time when San Francisco is facing a housing crisis, a homeless crisis, and an affordability crisis, our elected officials have chosen to spend their time putting forth and passing legislation that exacerbates all of these problems by further criminalizing the impoverished.”

In its letter, the Milk Club continued, “Even if we’re to believe for a second that Supervisor Wiener’s vandalism narrative smacked of even the smallest truth, this behavior is already illegal. Must we now direct our efforts toward scrutinizing our police department, given the broad discretion our City has now granted it to disparately enforce redundant and discriminatory legislation? We fear so.”

Wiener recently said he’s been “a strong proponent” for services for homeless people, including securing housing funding for homeless LGBT youth, making more homeless outreach workers available, and supporting a youth meal program.

He added removing homeless people from the parks “is not my motivation” and said, “It is currently illegal to sleep or camp in the parks. It has been for years.”

The actual purpose of his legislation is to “reduce the epidemic of vandalism and dumping in our parks,” said Wiener.

The Milk Club letter also states, “As members of the LGBTQ community, we know first hand the effects that discriminatory public policies have had on our lives. It’s a shame some of our elected officials don’t see that. Should our sexuality, gender identity or gender expression be rendered a crime? Should race and economic status be signifiers of criminal activity? Beacons for unwarranted police attacks? Absolutely not; not in San Francisco, not anywhere.”

The Milk Club thanked gay Supervisor David Campos and Supervisors John Avalos, London Breed, Jane Kim, and Eric Mar for voting against the plan Tuesday, November 5.

Wiener was joined by Supervisors David Chiu, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Katy Tang, and Norman Yee in approving the legislation.

In its letter, the Milk Club told those supervisors, “You have drawn a bright line in the sand, and we are ashamed of you for continuing to stand with the moneyed elite and our City’s landed gentry without any regard for the working class and impoverished.” The letter says Wiener’s proposal “is one more anecdote in the ongoing tale of our two separate cities,” and “Lest you try to escape this broader narrative, we will remind you again and again, until you either change your ways or are forever emblazoned on the wrong side of this City’s history.”

The club called on all supervisors to work on policy solutions addressing the cost of living in the city, Ellis Act evictions,  affordable housing, and homelessness, among other issues.

“This City is no longer experiencing a crisis – it is enduring a catastrophe,” the letter says. “The end to this catastrophe must begin now.”

In a statement distributed by the Coalition on Homelessness, Brian Basinger, director of AIDS Housing Alliance-San Francisco, said, “Because of Scott Wiener’s legislation, LGBTQ San Franciscans who have lost their homes will experience increased physical violence, our public health system will be burdened by more emergency room visits due to the hate crimes committed against people kicked out of the parks who will be sleeping in the neighborhoods, merchants will have to work harder to deal with the impacts of people getting kicked out of the parks.” He also predicted that the city would spend more money on the Recreation and Park Department and police patrols “than what it costs to address the vandalism that this legislation was allegedly supposed to be targeting.”

The second vote on the legislation is set for Tuesday, November 19. The legislation goes into effect 30 days after Mayor Ed Lee signs it, which he’s expected to do. Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for Lee, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, November 8, 2013 @ 6:02 pm PST
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