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What if homeless people trashed Dolores Park?

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San Francisco should treat everyone equally under the law or admit that its intent is selective enforcement to harass homeless people, rather than a sincere concern about dogs, litter or booze. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)


Dolores Park was trashed by revelers on a recent Saturday. It looked like the rubble of Earth in “Wall-E.” Recreation and Park employees told reporters this happens when the mercury tops 65 degrees. Predictably and consistently. Visitors who were supposed to pack out their trash left beer bottles and garbage, requiring 44 hours of work by city employees to clean up 460 bags of litter.

The news coverage was revealing. Here’s the Chronicle description: “Soaking up the sun, people socialized, sun-bathed, danced, flung around hula hoops, did yoga tricks, and walked slack-lines tied between palm trees. Many of them drank copious amounts of alcohol, creating a scene similar to what you might expect at a mega fraternity party.”

Reading that description, what race would you imagine the people destroying the park to be? What socioeconomic class? What age? What do you suppose The City’s response might be if Dolores Park were ravaged by homeless people?

I dug up a 2016 Budget and Legislative Analyst report on the 36 quality-of-life crimes that The City spends $20.6 million a year citing and arresting homeless people for, to no discernible positive result. There are four city codes related to public drinking, which include a mix of infractions and misdemeanors, one for littering and one for smoking in the park. There are other codes that may be relevant to Dolores Park weekend shenanigans, related to dogs and leashes, public urination and public nuisance.

If The City had cited people in Dolores Park with the same criteria they use against the homeless, we would have heard about it. Of course, they didn’t.

Of course, neither news outlets nor politicians are clamoring for the San Francisco Police Department to enforce our laws consistently, whether the violation is committed by homeless people in tents or millennials getting rowdy in Dolores Park. In fact, the BLA report found that enforcing quality-of-life laws is costly and has no measurable effect on homelessness, because homeless people can’t get homes — no matter how much you ticket them.

On the other hand, a little ticketing in Dolores Park could go a long way. The City should treat everyone equally under the law. Arrest people waiting for tech shuttles for “gang loitering.” Blast water-cannons on people who litter. Taser people on slack lines drinking Pabst ironically in defiance of our open-container codes and good taste. Dole out misdemeanors to the owners of every off-leash dog.

The law is the law. Otherwise, The City has to admit that its intent is selective enforcement to harass homeless people, rather than a sincere concern about dogs, litter or booze.

Speaking of people who love to scapegoat the homeless …

Last week, MapLight reported that Gavin Newsom’s campaign for governor in 2018 raised more than $200,000 from employees of Airbnb. He did well defending Airbnb and its unregulatable model and has been rewarded handsomely.

Newsom also announced he supports “universal health care.” Single-payer health care has been introduced in Sacramento, and some single-payer advocates see Newsom as a champion. But he’s not. Newsom has never stood up to corporate power. He can be bold at solving problems, as long as the solutions do not cost the rich anything. His vision of universal health care is not single-payer but replicating Healthy San Francisco.

We should assume that Newsom would approach statewide health care as he did Healthy SF. Specifically, Healthy San Francisco included an employer mandate based on the recognition that taxpayers pay the price when uninsured workers end up in the safety net. Why should taxpayers subsidize Newsom’s pals in the restaurant biz who don’t offer benefits?

We got great service delivery under Healthy SF, but he underfunded the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, The City’s department charged with enforcing the employer mandate and going after scofflaw employers. Newsom wanted to get credit for innovative policy, as long as nobody powerful was upset by the implementation.

Nato Green is a San Francisco-based comedian and writer.

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