End of violence to city’s credit

Despite the predominating forecasts of failure, Castro Street’s unprecedentedly tamed-down 2007 Halloween night proved decisively that San Francisco authorities can do a good job of being party poopers.

After all, what better way to chill down accustomed revelries than having 600 police officers standing around a gantlet of barricades with nothing to do, early closing of bars and restaurants, no entertainment, drastically restricted parking and public transit, plus a stay-away publicity campaign.

Thursday’s Page One headline in The Examiner put it, The Castro’s Halloween turnout was “not quite a ghost town, but … close.” Our reporters estimated that nomore than 2,000 determined but well-behaved celebrants made their way to Castro Street — a ratio of approximately three partygoers per police officer.

Many Bay Area residents carry enjoyable memories of Castro Halloweens gone by, and now lament that yet another unique San Francisco tradition has met at least its temporary demise. We could not agree more.

But the blunt fact is that Halloween on Castro Street had long since devolved from an upbeat, colorful neighborhood celebration into a massively overcrowded regional gawking convention. Most of the hundreds of thousands of attendees in recent years came from the Bay Area suburbs and converged on Castro Street seeking an only-in-San-Francisco experience.

And a too-large troublemaking minority apparently started believing that Halloween among the Castro crowds gave them a license to get drunk and harass gays. The final straw for city officials was in 2006, when a throng of some 200,000 visitors descended upon a street designed for a fraction of that number; and despite the presence of 500 police officers, nine persons were shot by a gunman during the late hours.

So The Examiner sadly concurs that City Hall did the right thing by shutting down the Castro’s big Halloween party. This event no longer fit the neighborhood or served its local community. It frankly did not need to continue as presently constituted.

Still, the official exorcism of Castro Street Halloween undoubtedly leaves a hole in The City’s traditional year-round calendar of distinctive public gatherings. Having snuffed out violence in the Castro for this year, it is now time to plan for the future. San Francisco is supposed to be a town that knows how to have fun, so let’s create a decent annual party in time for next year’s Halloween — which takes place on a Friday and will thus be harder to keep crowds away from.

If no element of the San Francisco community can spearhead a driveto coordinate a public Halloween party that people actually want to attend, the likeliest outcome is that fun-seeking crowds will gradually migrate to the still-open bars in the somewhat gay-oriented Polk Street neighborhood, which is equally unsuited to hold hundreds of thousands of Halloween partygoers.

General OpinionOpinion

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