George Davis has been arrested 15 times, but he doesn’t consider himself a criminal. He’s just naked. In public. A lot. He’s one of several unclothed Castro regulars who have become just as much of a landmark in the neighborhood as the rainbow flag.
The 65-year-old said he has never faced prosecution for the various police run-ins or citizen arrests, but soon the cops might have more cause to charge him. That’s because Supervisor Scott Wiener has introduced new legislation sending a clear message to the disrobed denizens of the famously gay neighborhood: Go ahead and be naked in public, but keep it clean.
In what he described as public health legislation, Wiener introduced a measure at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that would require clothing or another “barrier” to be put down on public seats if nudists choose to sit there. Also, if naked people want to go into restaurants, they must cover their “genitals, buttocks” and “anal region.” Violators would be subject to fines and repeat offenders could even face up to a year in jail.
Wiener said the increasing number of naked men in his district has been prompting more complaints about bare-skinned pedestrians in general, but the legislation is not designed to ban nudity or restrict it to certain areas.
“That is a different debate for a different day,” Wiener said at the board meeting.
The proposed new law has Castro nudists scoffing.
“It’s just codifying what is already nudist etiquette,” said Davis, a nude yoga aficionado and former San Francisco mayoral candidate who frequents Jane Warner Plaza, a popular spot for nudists near the corner of 17th and Castro streets.
Currently, California state law says anyone offended by a nude person can make a citizen’s arrest, but police have no recourse to arrest people parading around in the buff unless they are aroused or being otherwise disruptive, according to information Wiener used in drafting the legislation.
“There’s very little [the police] can do, but this will be one thing they can do,” Wiener said.
Martha Asten, owner of Cliff’s Variety hardware store on Castro Street, said she has grown tired of the constant nakedness in the area. She said Wiener’s legislation should go further and totally ban nudity in the bustling commercial district that is also near schools and an increasing number of children.
“Why not? We legislate everything else,” Asten said. “They want to legislate things like circumcision, and what we can put in our bodies. Why shouldn’t they legislate what we have on our bodies?”
A nudist eating lunch in Jane Warner Plaza on Tuesday didn’t see the logic in any ban, pointing out that nudists frequent other public places such as Baker Beach.
“There are families and kids at Baker Beach all the time,” said Eric Anderson, a 10-year Castro resident.
Michael England, a longtime Orphan Andy’s diner employee who can see the nudists out the picture window on most nice days, said the legislation probably won’t change much. The nudists aren’t allowed in the diner naked, and the outdoor space has been well-established as the zone of nakedness. Most people put down a towel or their pants before they sit on the grated metal chairs, he said.
“They sit on their clothes,” England said. “I haven’t ever seen the prints of those chairs on their butts.”
If a new local nudist law passes, it will regulate sitting naked on public seats or entering restaurants unclothed:
$100 First offense
$200 Second offense within 12 months
$1,000 Fine, and up to a year in jail, for third offense
Source: Board of Supervisors