Supe wants to bring plaza benches back

Benches at Civic Center Plaza disappeared overnight about eight years ago to keep the homeless from camping on them. Now Supervisor Sophie Maxwell says it’s time to bring them back.

The plaza plays host to thousands of tourists and visitors and dozens of events each year. It also remains a popular hangout for The City’s homeless population and drug users, said San Francisco Police Capt. Gary Jimenez, head of the Tenderloin Station.

Now, years after a serious city and police crackdown on criminal activity near City Hall, Maxwell said it’s time to give visitors and government employees a place to rest and admire the architecture.

“The plaza is a beautiful place, [where] people could sit and think and look at the beauty around them,” Maxwell said. “There’s a concern about homelessness, but if you put the rest of us in this position because of the homeless, that’s not a good way to run a city.”

Maxwell’s proposal, which was introduced last week and will go before the Board of Supervisors today, specifically calls for benches that are equipped with armrests or a center barrier to make them uncomfortable to sleep on.

Few, if any, homeless people sleep in the plaza or adjacent areas these days, Jimenez said. In addition, police are generally called to the plaza to deal with drug peddlers and others who attempt to sell illegal property to transients — not homeless people themselves, he said.

“If they’re drinking or shooting heroin, we take a zero-tolerance approach. But for people who go there to sit and enjoy the weather — who may not have a place to go — they’re welcome as long as they’re not doing anything criminal,” Jimenez said.

The captain declined to comment on Maxwell’s plan.

The benches would be funded — as with benches in San Francisco’s other parks — by donors who sponsor them to remember loved ones, said Donalda Watson-Walkinshaw, who handles the bench-sponsorship program for the San Francisco Parks Trust.

Donors pay an average of $3,500 to $5,000 for benches in most other city parks — a fee that gets them the seat, a bronze plaque and 10 years of maintenance.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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