Board of Supervisors heat up debate over police policy on surveillance cameras 

click to enlarge Nosa Ria, located at 500 Laguna St., is one of the businesses applying for a liquor license. “This is a specialty grocery store,” not a nightclub, Supervisor Scott Wiener said, arguing that the establishment doesn’t need a surveillance camera. - ANNA LATINO/SPECIAL TO THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Anna Latino/Special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Nosa Ria, located at 500 Laguna St., is one of the businesses applying for a liquor license. “This is a specialty grocery store,” not a nightclub, Supervisor Scott Wiener said, arguing that the establishment doesn’t need a surveillance camera.

The Police Department has since 2010 routinely required business owners to install surveillance cameras in order to receive permits to sell alcohol, but suddenly the Board of Supervisors has begun voting against the condition.

On Thursday, a board committee approved two liquor licenses, but not before shooting down the surveillance requirement at the urging of Supervisor Scott Wiener.

The vote came three days after Wiener publicly criticized the requirement in two permit cases. Amid his objections, Wiener emphasized that he is not philosophically opposed to cameras and supports them in some situations.

In this case, one permit is for Nosa Ria, a Spanish market at 500 Laguna St. in  Hayes Valley, and another is for a ballroom at 820 26th St. in the Bayview district. These permits will next need approval by the full board.

“It’s a pretty significant thing to mandate that a private business owner put up a surveillance camera,” Wiener said, adding that the market is the “exact opposite of some kind of rowdy nightclub or bar where people are going in and getting drunk and really bad things are happening.”

“This is a specialty grocery store that’s asking to sell imported wines, sherries and ciders from Spain,” he said.
Officer Gordon Shyy defended the surveillance condition for the market, saying, “They are subject to crimes as well.”

Shyy said the department began recommending surveillance in 2010 as the technology became affordable for small-business owners. He said the cameras can help solve crimes and reduce liability for merchants.

Wiener also has suggested that the Police Department is effectively implementing a citywide policy in a crafty way — these permits come up for approval on a case-by-case basis — noting that in 2010, the department had proposed a citywide requirement of surveillance in all entertainment venues and bars, along with the scanning of patrons’ IDs. It was shelved amid opposition.

Shyy said while “most, if not all, applications” in recent years have included the surveillance condition, the Police Department does not have an official policy but weighs numerous factors, such as the area’s density and crime statistics.  

The debate has surfaced now because the DNA Lounge nightclub has blogged this month about feeling pressured by police and city officials to install cameras. Wiener said a resident of his district alerted him to the issue and so he began to look into it.

Wiener said he and Supervisor David Campos plan to request a hearing into the matter during Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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