Last year’s 4/20 festivities on Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park were more than just peace, love and weed — a park ranger was struck over the head with a bottle during an argument. This year, San Francisco is upping safety measures to ensure a good time for all. (Gabrielle Lurie/2015 Special to S.F. Examiner)

SF agencies aim to snuff out 4/20 side effects

Litter in a tie-dye stained Golden Gate Park. Streets clogged with traffic. Skirmishes with the law.

San Francisco’s public agencies hope to snuff out such issues as The City prepares for Wednesday’s 4/20 festivities when nearly 15,000 attendees from San Francisco and around the Bay Area are expected to flood to Golden Gate Park’s Hippie Hill to celebrate the cannabis holiday.

Though the event isn’t officially sanctioned by The City, the influx of visitors has required San Francisco police, fire and transportation agencies to step in, Board of Supervisors President London Breed said Monday.

The event costs The City anywhere from $80,000 to $100,000 per year to pay for the additional help from city agencies, Breed said.

“There’s no sponsor to hold accountable for the activities that exist on 4/20, but because we as a city welcome folks from all over the world, we are doing everything we can within our capacity to keep the community as safe and clean as possible,” Breed said.

Past 4/20 events have backed up residential streets and led to fights between the area’s merchants and attendees, according to Breed. Public urination and damage to city and private property were also reported in previous years, Breed said.

“It just wasn’t a safe environment as of a result of not being prepared to address the number of people who were not only coming into the
parks but also leaving The City,” Breed said.

Efforts to keep visitors, business owners and residents safe during the holiday will include increased police activity in and around Golden Gate Park, said Park Police Station Capt. John Sanford, adding that police will act “swiftly” if they detect illegal activity or disruptive behavior.

In one of the most serious incidents last year, a park ranger was hit over the head with a bottle during the event, Sanford said. Other common issues include the selling of narcotics, underage drinking and smoking, and physical altercations.

The 4/20 celebrations are also expected to cause major transportation hurdles for drivers and pedestrians traveling in the Haight neighborhood Wednesday, according to Camron Samii, a parking enforcement director with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Road closures are planned for the Haight neighborhood as early as 10 a.m. Wednesday, including closures on Haight, Page and Waller streets between Masonic and Stanyan streets, among others. Only Muni buses will be allowed to pass through the closed streets, Samii said.

“The traffic plan goals for us are to ensure the safety passage of pedestrians and bicyclists in the area,” Samii said.

“We’ll be making sure that people follow the rules and regulations,” he added.

When the cloud of smoke clears late Wednesday, Recreation and Park Department cleanup crews will rid the area of trash, an effort that will likely roll over into the following day. Crews have previously cleaned up more than 10,000 pounds of trash from past events.

In preparation for the thousands of attendees expected to show up to Golden Gate Park on Wednesday, the Department of Public Works is set to install temporary portable bathrooms on Waller and Stanyan streets for public use. Additional recycling, trash and compost bins will also be available for the day.

Daniela Zepeda, a sales associate at the Ashbury Tobacco Center smoke shop, said the cannabis holiday is a boon for business in the days leading up to the event but also comes with a number of issues for stores in the area.

Last year, a fight broke out in front of the smoke shop, causing a window display to fall over, she said. Zepeda added that the crammed streets make it difficult for pedestrians to travel, although crowds tend to stay calm overall.

“When the afternoon sets in, you don’t want to be on [Haight Street] unless you want to partake in the festivities,” Zepeda said.

Street closures and Muni reroutes:

San Francisco Police Department will enforce the following street closures beginning at 10 a.m.:

Haight, Page and Waller streets between Masonic and Stanyan streets

Stanyan Street between Frederick and Oak streets

Shrader Street between Beulah and Waller streets

Oak and Waller streets at Ashbury, Clayton, Shrader, Cole and Belvedere streets

Frederick Street at Shrader Street

Beulah Street at Shrader and Cole streets

During the time of street closures, no traffic will be allowed with an exception of Muni buses. Personnel from SFPD may decide additional street closures as crowds grow for public safety.

Beginning at approximately 3 p.m., the following Muni lines and routes will be affected:

N-Judah, NX N-Express, 6-Parnassus, 7-Haight/Noriega, 7R-Haight/Noriega Rapid, 33-Ashbury/18th, 37-Corbett, 43-Masonic

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