While a war continues to rage over Halloween in the Castro this year, one city leader is moving to create a new municipal office that would manage all special events, streamline the permit process for promoters and hopefully avoid any further disorder like that associated with this month’s nonevent.
A controversial ban onthe annual Halloween celebration in the Castro — which has grown into a massive, violence-marred event that attracts tens of thousands of people — has led to debates between city leaders and Castro residents and business owners who say a party in the streets is eminent regardless of The City’s stay-away campaign.
After the 2006 event, at which a gunman opened fire and wounded nine people, city officials decided to cancel the all-night street party and alert people to go elsewhere. About 600 police officers will still be on hand in the Castro this Oct. 31 — a Wednesday — and the county Sheriff’s Department will also be on patrol. There will also be DUI checkpoints on routes to the Castro.
“Anybody that thinks it’s a good idea to invite the whole Bay Area to invade the Castro on a weeknight needs to have their head examined,” said Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom. “It’s time to put public safety first.”
The City has also asked at least 130 Castro businesses to close as early as 6 p.m. on Halloween. So far, 19 businesses have agreed to close early while two others have decided to hold private, ticketed events. Beyond this Halloween, Castro Supervisor Bevan Dufty plans to introduce legislation that would create a special-events office.
“There is nobody with professional promoter experience at the city level,” Dufty said at a recent San Francisco Chamber of Commerce meeting. “I want to have something in place for next year because next year Halloween is on a Friday, so I recognize that we can’t just have a no-go policy in 2008.”
A report detailing the cost benefits of annual city events and what it would cost to create a dedicated special-events office is expected from the City Controller’s office this week.
Marsha Garland, executive director of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce who produces the street festival in that neighborhood each year, said a special-events office wouldbe beneficial.