Spooked by its violent past, the Castro district will not host a Halloween street party tonight.
There hasn’t been such a bash since 2006, the year a shooting injured nine people during the decades-old event.
In 2002, five people were stabbed and 30 arrested at the party.
But in 2007, the popular spookfest, held since 1979, was indefinitely banned in order to keep lawless ghouls from causing trouble.
Similar to last year, tonight’s Halloween in the Castro will be just like any other night in the vibrant neighborhood — except with more costume-clad people, said San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, the district’s representative.
There will be no street closures and police will be strictly enforcing public boozing, Wiener said.
“Over the years, it became too big to manage,” said David Perry of Home for Halloween, a campaign started in 2007 to curb violence and vandalism during the holiday. “The Castro is not an appropriate venue for a street party of 200,000 people.”
In 2007, even the bars closed down the night of Oct. 31. The bars have been open every year since.
Without the street party, the neighborhood has been a much safer place on Halloween, Wiener said. But that doesn’t mean the spirit of the holiday isn’t celebrated, he added.
“Since then it’s been coming back organically, with costumes and more people than normal,” Wiener said. “But it’s not a street party anymore. It’s a neighborhood.”
The last time the neighborhood saw violence similar to 2006 was last year, during a separate annual street party.
The typically peaceful Pink Saturday celebration, held during Pride Weekend in June, was marred after a gunman opened fire into a large crowd at Castro and Market streets, killing a man and injuring two others.
Community members say Pink Saturday differs from the Halloween street party in that it is a neighborhood event celebrating diversity, inviting fewer outsiders looking for trouble.
One benefit of shutting down the Castro’s Halloween bash is that it has encouraged more events around the Bay Area.
“Castro is no longer the only destination,” Perry said.
Castro Halloween history
1948: Castro Halloween starts as a children’s costume contest at Cliff’s Variety store
1970s: Polk Street becomes Halloween hot spot
1979: Halloween party moves to Castro
1990: Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence begin managing event
1995: Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence stop managing event, saying it’s become too big for neighborhood
2002: Five people are stabbed after years of unsanctioned events in which rampant violence, including gay bashings, were reported; city decides to take over
2006: Nine people injured in shooting at street party
2007: Street party banned; bars closed in neighborhood to discourage revelers
2008-11: Bars open at night, but no street party