Heated debate expected for parks law

A rigorous public debate is expected today as Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposal to tighten laws on squatting in city parks goes before the Board of Supervisors oversight committee.

The ordinance would prohibit the construction of natural shelters and ban cooking devices in city parks. Anyone sleeping in the park between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. would also be subject to citation or arrest. The current parks code prohibits sleeping between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“No person shall modify the landscape in any way in order to create a shelter, or accumulate household furniture or appliances or construction debris in any park,” the new ordinance would read.

Newsom proposed the amended ordinance in August following a pledge to clean up Golden Gate Park. According to the San Francisco Human Services Agency, 871 homeless people have been contacted since the end of July. Of those, 53 have been sent to live with friends or family and 170 have accepted housing options.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd sits on the Government Audit and Oversight Committee and said he anticipates a huge public debate on the issue. Elsbernd’s District 7 includes park space such as Stern Grove and Lake Merced.

“I will be supportive of it,” Elsbernd said. “The issue is something that I hear a great deal about from my constituents.”

San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Yomi Agunbiade is expected to argue that the ordinance would broaden the power of authorities to spot obvious encampments, according to spokeswoman Rose Marie Dennis.

“We agree that this might help the complex situation in the park, not just Golden Gate Park but The City’s numerous other parks as well,” Dennis said.

She added that recent efforts to get homeless people out of the park and into shelters have been paying off. On Thursday alone, she said, eight people voluntarily accepted services and only a handful keep coming back.

But not everybody agrees that restricting use of the parks will help the homeless. Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the nonprofit group Coalition on Homelessness said she wonders where people will go when authorities crack down on campers.

“As long as we as a society refuse to provide housing for people who desperately need it, we will always have people sleeping in our parks and streets,” she said.

Supervisors Michela Alioto-Pier and Chris Daly also sit on the oversight committee. Two votes are required to send the ordinance to the Board. The meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. at City Hall.

bbegin@examiner.com

Voice your opinion and vote in our poll at examiNation SF: How do you feel about clamping down on squatters in city parks?

Bay Area NewsLocalneighborhoods

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Health care workers treat a Covid-19 patient who needs to be intubated before being put on a ventilator at Providence St. Mary Medical Center during a surge of cases in Apple Valley, Dec. 17, 2020. Confronted with surging infections, California became the first state in the country to mandate coronavirus vaccines or testing for state employees and health-care workers. (Ariana Drehsler/The New York Times)
In California, a mix of support and resistance to new vaccine rules

By Shawn Hubler, Livia Albeck-Ripka and Soumya Karlamangla New York Times SACRAMENTO… Continue reading

Dave Hodges, pastor at Zide Door, the Church of Entheogenic Plants that include marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms, holds some psychedelic mushrooms inside the Oakland church on Friday, July 22, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Psychedelic spirituality: Inside a growing Bay Area religious movement

‘They are guiding us into something ineffable’

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference at Kaiser Permanente facility in Oakland on Monday, July 26, 2021, where he announced a new state requirement for all state employees and health care workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or face regular, frequent testing. (Jim Wilson/The New York Times)
What to know about new masking guidelines in California

By Jill Cowan New York Times The delta variant is really throwing… Continue reading

Thousands gather in Washington on Aug. 28, 2020, in support of social justice and commemorating the historic March on Washington and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Have a Dream" speech on that date in 1963. Criticism of critical race theory coincided with widespread demonstrations.  (Jason Andrew/The New York Times)
Critical race theory: A brief history

By Jacey Fortin New York Times About a year ago, even as… Continue reading

Most Read