mike Koozmin/2011 S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTOSafety is being emphasized during this year's Bay to Breakers race.

Alamo Square closed for Bay to Breakers, safety emphasized

Safety will be the focus of this year's Bay to Breakers race, according to city leaders who spoke about preparations for Sunday's race from the steps of City Hall today.

A portion of Alamo Square will also be closed during the race.

“The [southern section] is going to be closed at the request of the neighborhood,” said Police Chief Greg Suhr.

Officers will patrol the closed section of the park, said Suhr.

“You won't be able to see the race from the park that's open,” he said.

“We want it to be fun, but we also want it to be safe,” said San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.

This year's race, which kicks off at 8 a.m. Sunday and covers 7.46 miles from The Embarcadero to Ocean Beach, will have 20 percent more private security on site and support from at least eight outside law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and the FBI.

“We've seen years where it wasn't as safe as it could be,” Mayor Ed Lee said.

Police arrested 21 people for public intoxication at last year's Bay to Breakers race, as well as one person for possession of a firearm and one person for robbery.

There were also two deaths associated with 2013's Bay to Breakers. David Hamzeh, 28, fell three stories to his death after the race from the roof of a party on Fell Street along the Panhandle, while Beau Rasmussen, 27, was never found after going into the water in Ocean Beach after walking the race.

“Public safety is one of my biggest priorities,” said Supervisor London Breed. “I want everyone to be responsible.”

Police will continue to enforce a no-alcohol policy at this year's race. There will be four funnel points, up from three last year, where the race path narrows so police can scan for alcoholic containers, according to San Francisco police Chief Greg Suhr.

Suhr said heightened security is partially in response to the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013. He urged race participants and spectators to report suspicious activity and unattended bags.

No bags larger than 8.5 inches by 11 inches by 4 inches will be permitted at the race, Suhr said. There will also be a ban on wheeled objects, including strollers and skateboards.

This is the first year the Wasserman Media Group has taken ownership of the race, which will feature an estimated 40,000 runners and 100,000 spectators.

Mayor Lee called the Bay to Breakers race, now in its 103rd year, “iconic,” saying it highlights the “kookiness” of San Francisco.

Racers and spectators are known for running in costumes and sometimes wearing nothing at all.

“Bay to Breakers is one of the most fun, exciting races around,” Breed said.

Wasserman Media Group has partnered with the local anti-poverty organization Tipping Point Community, which will receive a portion of the registration fees.

To increase public cleanliness, there will be nearly 25 percent more portable toilets at this year's race, more than 1,000 in all, according to Clare Bergman with the Wasserman Media Group.

The southern portion of Alamo Square will be closed in response to neighbors' previous complaints about public urination and rowdiness, Suhr said.

BART will open early on race day, with trains starting to run around 6 a.m. Sunday.

City officials seemed split on their approach to nudity at the race, with Suhr flatly stating it is “not okay.”

“I'm the rules guy,” he said.

But Supervisor Katy Tang focused on practical concerns, saying “If you are planning to come unclothed, don't forget to wear your sunscreen.”

Breed issued a more pointed suggestion.

“All the folks with the nice six-packs, come out naked,” she said.

S.F. Examiner staff writer Jonah Owen Lamb contributed to this report. Alamo SquareBay Area NewsBay to Breakers

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