Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wiener's Proposed Regs for Milk Plaza
Prevent 'Occupy the Castro' Encampment

Last week, District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced an ordinance pertaining to management and control issues for Harvey Milk and Jane Warner Plazas. He explains some of his proposal at his official site:

Our City's parks are governed by the Parks Code, but these plazas are not covered by those rules. This legislation will set basic standards for the plazas so that everyone can enjoy them. For example, the legislation will extend the ban on smoking that's already in existence in parks and other public spaces, will ban camping (as already banned in parks), and will prevent large shopping carts from coming into the plaza. 

Since the legislation has not yet been agendized by the Board of Supervisors Land Use Committee, it therefore is not posted for public inspection. However, an assistant clerk of the board has shared the four-page legislation with me and if you'd like to read it, please send me an email and I'll forward it.

The ordinance reads, in part:

Both plazas play a vital role in the Castro community and act as gathering places for the public and visitors to the neighborhood. With the extensive use of both plazas, the Board has determined that special regulations should apply to the use of these plazas.

While I agree about the role of the plazas for the Castro and larger LGBT community of San Francisco, special unwritten rules already are in place for Milk Plaza regarding use of the flagpole. The Merchants of Upper Market/Castro control that important public structure without a written, transparent process in place that allow for equal access to the flagpole.

Since the flagpole controversy erupted in February, MUMC and the Castro Benefits District have expended much time and resources into solidifying their control and influence over the plazas. Wiener's ordinance, I fear, will move more control of the public plazas out of the hands of the public and give it to MUMC and the CBD through the Department of Public Works.

There's a section of the ordinance that seems to have sprung from City Hall's problems with and disapproval of the Occupy SF encampment at Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street. I read this and hear fear on the part of Wiener, MUMC and the CBD that an Occupy the Castro encampment could take root at the top of Market Street:

No person shall construct or maintain or inhabit any structure, tent, or similar shelter in either the Harvey Milk Plaza or Jane Warner Plaza that may be used for housing accommodations or camping, nor shall any person construct or maintain any device that can be used for cooking.

As if the specific new regs are not sweeping enough, Wiener also proposes the following, bolding added:

The Board of Supervisors urges the Director of DPW to adopt a DPW Order that includes the regulations set forth in this Ordinance and any additional regulations that the Department deems appropriate and necessary for the proper management and use of the aforementioned plazas, such as the posting of signage setting forth the regulations. Such DPW Order shall be adopted after a public hearing and thereafter made available to any member of the public that requests such Order.

Whoa, I'm nervous about granting DPW the power to create "any additional regulations" even with the proviso that they hold a public hearing first. It's terrible enough now with MUMC illegitimately controlling the public flagpole, I shudder to think of how more control will slip from the public and come under private domain.

Mark my word, if this ordinance becomes law, the DPW folks will go through the motions of a public hearing, taking comments from citizens, but the decision will have already been made behind closed doors.

Let's all keep tabs on this bad and unnecessary legislation from Wiener, as it moves through the Land Use Committee before going to the full Board of Supervisors for a final vote.

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