Blitz on Castro Halloween ban eased

What was promised to be a large public-relations campaign to steer tens of thousands of revelers away from the Castro this Halloween has instead become a scaled-down effort that includes simple flyers, a Web site and a series of low-cost advertisements posted on YouTube and shown during free radio and TV slots.

The $40,000 Home for Halloween campaign — paid for by the San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau — was launched to support a controversial ban on the annual Halloween celebration in the Castro, which has grown into a violence-marred event that has historically attracted more than 100,000 people to the iconic neighborhood.

After the 2006 event, at which a gunman opened fire and wounded nine people, city officials decided to cancel the all-night street party. In 2002, four people were stabbed.

A large advertising campaign was unnecessary, said Supervisor Bevan Dufty, whose district covers the Castro area. He said The City’s effort to keep people away from The Castro on Halloween had been widely covered by the press.

“As I travel around The City, it’s clear to me that everyone is aware of The City’s effort,” Dufty said.

Around 600 police officers will be on hand this Oct. 31, and the county Sheriff’s Department will provide assistance.

The City has also asked at least 130 Castro businesses to close as early as 6 p.m. on Halloween. Public-relations consultant David Perry, who was hired to run the campaign to encourage San Franciscans and visitors to stay home for Halloween, on Monday said that 20 Castro businesses, including bars and restaurants, have agreed to close that night.

Perry said he started early this month to ask networks to run a series of public service announcements, and that Clear Channel radio stations and two television networks already run the announcements. KRON 4 is trying to run the free announcements “fairly regularly,” said station community relations manager Javier Valencia.

An additional $20,000 advertising budget, which had been considered, was unnecessary, Perry said, because the announcements are running for free.

Another Web site was set up by Citizens for Halloween, co-founded by Alix Rosenthal, to pressure The City to install public restrooms and provide entertainment on Halloween. Rosenthal, who ran against Dufty in the last election, said her group isn’t encouraging revelers to visit the Castro for Halloween but that people will head to The Castro whether or not it’s sanctioned by The City. A simple Google search for “Halloween in the Castro” lists the Web site at the top of search results.

“You can’t cancel it,” Rosinthal said, “because you aren’t selling tickets to it. We want to keep The Castro safe for when you do come.”

The City will discuss this year’s Halloween plans for The Castro at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, at the Eureka Valley Recreation Center at 100 Collingwood St.

jupton@examiner.com

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