It’s been the talk of San Francisco’s online blogosphere since Saturday: A man was cited by the San Francisco Police Department for eating pizza at a downtown Muni shelter.
The conversation started when Kelley Cutler, a staffer at the Coalition on Homelessness, tweeted a citation that itself simply read, “PC 640 (b)(1) Eating in the shelter.”
Cutler tweeted, “A senior came to the office for citation defense because he received a ticket for eating pizza at a bus stop.”
From there, local news outlets reported the citation and it became as popular as pepperoni. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency told the San Francisco Examiner, “I don’t see that listed in our fee schedule,” referring to fines and citations issued by SFMTA officers.
Now the San Francisco Police Department is speaking out on the citation, and told the Examiner the officer issued it because of a recent crime committed in the neighborhood, by Seventh and Market streets.
Officer Grace Gatpandan, an SFPD spokesperson, said, “It looks like it was [issued] right after a stabbing in that shelter.”
The citation was issued because a number of complaints came in of people drinking and smoking at the Muni shelter, she said, and with additional concerns about the stabbing, officers were trying to “move him along.”
She noted the man didn’t seem to be waiting for a bus, and may have blocked access for Muni riders to sit.
Cutler, from the homeless coalition, confirmed most homeless and low-income residents aren’t required to pay citations, because “the judge will normally dismiss it,” but the process of accessing social services to dismiss the citation often takes upwards of 20 hours.
“The consequence is having to go through the process,” Cutler said.
As for whether the man was smoking and drinking at the bus shelter, or was a possible stabber, Cutler said, “He was extremely polite,” and the description of incidents at the shelter “does not seem to fit the picture of the gentleman I met, but I wasn’t there for it.”
“And,” she added, if the man was in fact being a nuisance, “I wonder why they didn’t give him a citation for those things — instead of for eating pizza.”
The man’s next step is to obtain a court date, which has not been determined, Cutler said.
This post has been updated from its print version.