Castro Debate 6PM Tonight:
Remove Milk Plaza Benches & Homeless?
Controversy over the city-owned Harvey Milk Plaza takes a new turn tonight, away from the battles over the enormous rainbow flag and who has access to it, instead focusing on potentially removing the benches lining one side of the public space.
The Castro Benefit District will debate the benches, and the homeless population that uses them, at their monthly meeting tonight starting at 6 PM at the Bank of America community room at 501 Castro Street.
Several local gay youth service group representatives and homeless advocate are scheduled to attend tonight.
I'm not sure why the CBD has control over the benches, but they do and I believe they paid to install them. There have been complaints from nearby condo owners about homeless folks hanging out on the benches, creating a conflict. I expect the CBD to clarifying how this matter became theirs to deal with, and what role the Department of Public Works may play in this controversy.
The DPW is nominally in charge of all part of the public plaza at Castro and Market Streets, but as we've seen since January with the rainbow flag and pole controversy, DPW has ceded control of those items to the control queens at the private group MUMC, Merchants of Upper Market/Castro. There is no written DPW contract allowing MUMC to illegitimately rule over the public plaza.
How is it two significant parts of this smallish public plaza are controlled by MUMC and CBD, and where the heck does the public fit into the decision-making process?
Those questions, along with many others, will likely be addressed at tonight's meeting, and I will press the CBD leaders to recognize the growing concerns about Harvey Milk Plaza among Castro stakeholders beyond the CBD and MUMC.
In my opinion, there needs to be a few town hall meetings about the plaza issues and related matters in the Castro, such as the competing control between MUMC and DPW and CBD, and making the plaza vibrant, every part of it equally accessible to all, furnished with benches to sit on, and a public space genuinely publicly-controlled.