North Beach gives crowd control plan qualified backing

Business owners and residents are cautiously supporting a new city plan to crack down on the North Beach nightlife scene that some say has gotten out of hand.

The City announced Thursday that it would begin a collaborative effort with business owners, state officials and law enforcement to take back the streets in the Broadway corridor from the hordes of people who frequent the area on weekends. In the last year the problems on the street have included underage drinking, public drunkenness, stabbings, robberies and fights, according to city officials and business owners. The problems seem to escalate throughout the night and peak around 2 a.m., when restaurants, clubs and bars close, police said.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin described the scene of more than 7,000 people on the street on a Friday or Saturday night as a “virtual war zone.”

“We’ve said enough is enough,” Mayor Gavin Newsom said. “We want this area to be economically vibrant but at the same time safe.”

Beginning today, the Sheriff’s Department will have vans on site to transport inebriated partiers to jail. The setup will allow the Police Department to focus on patrolling the streets.

Police Chief Heather Fong said officers will arrest anybody drinking in the streets, and police Capt. James Dudley said they will also check party buses, which clubgoers can board around the Bay Area and get a ride to and from North Beach. He said riders who are drunk before they get off the bus would immediately be sent back home.

The Fire Department will also monitor crowd sizes in clubs, and the Building Department will check to make sure businesses in the area are up to code. The focus on cleaning up Broadway will last indefinitely, according to the mayor.

Marcia Garland, president of the North Beach Chamber of Commerce, said she welcomed the new policy but cautioned that businesses should not be hurt.

“My one concern is that we don’t scare away business by a heavy police presence,” she said, adding that she recently spoke with a young woman who was scared more by the police presence than the crowd on her first trip to Broadway. </p>

Entertainment Commissioner Audrey Joseph is happy something is being done, she said, but she will reserve judgment on the new plan until she sees it in action this weekend. Max Young, who grew up in the neighborhood and owns the Bamboo Hut on Broadway, said he fully supports the effort.

“Growing up in this neighborhood and seeing this be a vibrant place to go, I’m hoping we get that back,” he said.

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