Unable To Solve Homeless Problem, City Will Erect A FenceSeptember 17, 2015
Abruptly fenced-off and padlocked earlier this year, the City now plans to erect a permanent fence around the new McCoppin Hub Plaza and “open space.”
Developed with a mix of permanent seating and terraced pads for food trucks, farmers markets or other community events, the plaza was designed to revitalize a dead space in the neighborhood and to become a “calm, open and welcome” space “controlled by the community.”
According to the Department of Public Works a few months ago, the temporary fencing was simply to allow for a couple of landscaping and irrigation changes, but the plugged-in readers who wondered if the area’s growing homeless population and their control of the plaza were actually to blame for the sudden closure were either prescient or correct.
And according to MissionLocal, the prospective plans for the plaza now include an eight-foot fence with swinging gates or a roll-up barrier which which could be in place within six months and would be kept closed, except during scheduled events or at specific times.
Comments from Plugged-In Readers
Where to begin?
Res ipsa loquitur.
Gute Zäune machen gute Nachbarn.
I am laughing so hard right now
I probably thought it was a good idea to create a plaza between a UHAUL site, a liquor store, the end of a street with lots of cars passing by, and a highway. Maybe with the looming developments (Flax, City College) there will be more community context for this plaza? Still wrestling with this space. Seems like a slightly odd place odd place to sit and relax but maybe better suited for
If the Uhaul was a cafe or restaurant, and they planted wind-blocking trees against the offramp, this would be a popular spot with non-homeless people too. As it is, it’s a predictable failure of urban design (the homeless community was a known factor at this location). A fence might keep out the homeless people but it still won’t attract the more “desireable” crowds. A monument to missed potential.
A dozen or so trees were planted – perhaps by Caltrans – along the freeway ROW, behind the U-Haul property. They’re all still in place. dead. (A quick look at Google Street View suggests they were planted in 2007 and looked alright until mid 2014.) Another case of neglect sure to be blamed the drought.
This space was much better served as the empty dead end street that it was. Back then there were actually food trucks there. But I haven’t seen any there since they built out the plaza. It’s simply a homeless encampment now. Also the empty space was a lot more versatile then what it is now. You could setup a small farmers market, host a movie showing, or live music. No space for any of that now. And once they build the fence (which will most certainly not keep the homeless out) the space will be even less inviting and useable. It’s sad.
agreed. the design tried to accomplish too much. a more sensitive designer would have celebrated the emptiness of the space, and achieve something similar to the proxy site just up octavia. it’s a generational thing, imo – today, the young and savvy designer would do more with less, as opposed to building out the space in full. this landscape design is typical of an obsolete mode of urban design.
+1. Until the citizens of San Francisco choose to enforce decency standards against bad behaviors by the homeless population, situations like the failure of McCoppln Plaza will continue.
This situation could easily have been foreseen. Any one who thinks differently wasn’t paying attention.
Putting a freeway ramp anywhere in a city guarantees this outcome.
disagree. under the freeway is a perfect space for things that don’t need to look “pretty” or sound “quiet” – such as skate parks, music venues, basketball courts, and food truck lots. multiple successful examples in the city, including across the street. i don’t have a car and i am unfortunate enough to live next to a freeway – but even i am optimistic with how we can rebuild our cities. don’t be so negative!
Why in the world would you want to put venues for people in the most unpleasant and unhealthy place in the City?
These areas should be used for storage and little else.
Totally disagree. The whole design was stupid regardless of the onramp. Other cities don’t allow this and they have onramps
Only available for events with Ron Conway?
Public space, public land, leave it open and solve the homeless issues Mayor Lee.
Actually a space reserved only for Ron Conway will be an improvement for the public.
In one Oakland encampment near Bart, the homeless cut the locks off and installed their own.
The people reclaimed the public space and made it their own! Literally.
Better to break up all the concrete and make it a fenced community garden.
agreed. a better “fenced option” would be an urban farm or garden.
Should have built condos.
My understanding is that Supervisor Kim is also working on putting a fence and gate around Golden Gate Park to keep out “unsavory” and “unwanted” people. This has worked well so far for other parks in her district, such as Boeddeker Park.
Piking on Jane Kim aside, McCoppin Hub Plaza in particular is a design failure because it doesn’t meet human scale needs, such as no place to have a drink of water, and no public restroom. It has seating, but where do people go when they need to pee?
The front door of Ex Supervisor Chris Daly’s condo building across the street. Ya’ know when he opened that Bar on Market street (now failed and closed) we noticed he placed a sign on the entrance that “rest rooms are for patrons only”. We had a good laugh…funny how he changed his spots when the homeless wander into his business looking for a place to relieve themselves.
His lasting legacy is the odor in our doorways….O’d Daly…..a splash here and a splash there goes a long way.
And what is Chris Daly doing now w/ the BMR unit on Valencia, while he’s living in Fairfield? Still renting it out to his ‘brother’ & rent gouging?
People should have to give up their unit to someone who needs it when they buy a couple of houses (anywhere). Thank god he’s staying out of SF Politics, or did he take over Jane Kim’s body? Jane is a nut job who’s made a mess of this City, but she’s making the rents go up up up.
Solution for this park are:
– a green space / farm that is locked at night. Outdoor garden center? Flora Grub would make it look great.
– a parking lot (w/ stackers)
– New commercial development
– No more affordable housing, the last one the City signed off on was $900k/unit.
There should be a legacy reunion of SF’s best supervisors. Maybe they can all join together for a super board of supervisors. We can have Daley, mcgoldrick, matt gonzoles, mar, campos, Kim, (I’m sure I’m forgetting some prime others) and maybe peskin can join too and become mayor. Now THAT would be the SF spirit!
Is it clear that the plan isn’t to push all the homeless here and then fence them in?
They aren’t the true homeless, they are street people. They are big time into drugs and drink and wont shelter because they are not allowed in and out. Most of these people can’t get into SRO’s for the same reason.
What does this portend for Oscar Park, our next under the freeway experiment?
“The City”, as in the public officials, know exactly how to solve the homeless problems that is at the root of this issue with the public open space. But the voters won’t allow it in some districts. Somehow, the definition of San Francisco as a place that is welcoming to the disenfranchised has come to mean that anyone can do anything, anywhere they want. Granted, many of the issues surround substance abuse and mental illness, but we know how to deal with that too. The citizen must have the will to accomplish it.
The new plaza proposed in front of the Eagle will suffer this same fate, just as Jane Warner Plaza has in the Castro. But, I GUARANTEE that the new neighborhood square in Noe Valley will not. Why? Ask the voters.
Funny, my first thought would be to ask a topographic map.
Interesting point, I gather you are suggesting that the homeless gather largely in the flatlands? Not my experience, but maybe you are right.
I recall the sight of a homeless vet pushing his overloaded shopping cart up Russian Hill a few years back. He’s the only one I have ever seen wandering above the Shopping Cart line.
JMO–curious why you think NV will be able to avoid this fate for the renovated Square? I live in/love Noe and have this idealistic view of what the Square could become (akin to the town square on Gilmore Girls, for those familiar), but I think we’ve all seen the homeless population both in SF and in Noe explode recently. And the pandhandling seems most aggressive where traffic is highest (predictably). So while I’m cautiously optimistic about what a renovated Square could mean, I’m also apprehensive that a nice new feature like this could get quickly commandeered if not enough people care for it. When I think about some of the vandalism that befell the renovated Dolores Park playground (e.g. broken glass shattered in the kid’s sand box), I can’t help but wonder if SF as a city is actually ready to have and own nice and renovated public features. The laws to protect them exist…but the will to enforce, not so much.
I think that Noe has the ability to organize quickly if necessary and frankly is an affluent community with a lot resources. The space will likely we used often, and will be “programmed” – i.e: farmers markets, music, etc. I could be wrong, but I think this one will work. If it does, it will be because the community devotes the resources. Good luck. NV is a nice. My opinion: figure out a way to close it at night. A good example is Empire Park on Commercial St in the FiDi.
Interesting, I’ve noticed homeless popation increasing in inner Richmond lately. Is there a push to move them from downtown ?
Inner Richmond is “up and coming” with boutiques and design shops. Homeless people follow gentrification because upper/middle class white shoppers give to them. (Not that that’s a bad thing.)
For a fair pulse on the homeless headcount getting pushed out of downtown, I think the “Hairball” (the term that even city officials affectionately use for the unofficial tent city now growing beneath the Cesar Chavez/Hw101 overpass) is a fair litmus test. It almost resembles a mini-Burning Man now, with the semi-permanent structures and characters of all types…
Yeah, that sh!t’s crazy. But there are no nearby neighbors to complain, as it’s somewhat isolated. That is de facto homeless people’s park, but if it gets overrun, then the city will have to crack down. Probably the best we can do is segregation like that- homeless under freeways and away from neighborhood streets. Sad, but even with all the local shelters and non profits, you can’t rehab all, or even most. Since SF is a west coast destination for this population, there is a never ending supply coming in. That’s a liberal city for ya.
I thought the conventional wisdom was that they’re being displaced due to the building going on in places like Mission Bay and Potrero, and the (gradual) refurbishment of mid-Market.
I say fence it off entirely and put something cool inside, like say…Monitor Lizards. The plaza would be an instant hit! Bummer SF is probably too cold for them. Hell.. I’d settle for boring Llamas over whats there now.
Its embarrassing when a city like Houston in the deep red sea of Texas have LESS homeless people than SF, in spite of Houston having a population of 2.2 million to SF’s 830,000.
SF doesn’t have such a huge homeless population from not spending enough money on shelters or services. It has a huge homeless population because the lethal combo of homeowner NIMBYs and anti-development “progressives” has created such a housing supply shortage that nobody except the filthy rich can afford to live here. The crowding out effect goes all the way down the supply spectrum, filthy rich pushing out the merely rich, the merely rich pushing out the upper middle class, the upper middle class pushing out the merely middle class, the middle class pushing out the working class, and the working class pushing the working poor out onto the streets (along with the pre-existing junkie & alcoholic class). Heck, once upon a time, American cities even had privately-owned flophouses (aka SROs) that did a fairly good job of providing housing for single poor men -until the NIMBYs of the day essentially made rooming houses illegal.
You want to reduce homelessness? Triple the rate of housing production in SF and keep that rate going to 10 years.
SF’s homeless population continues to grow precisely because SF spends so much on homeless services.
houston’s got fewer homeless people because they’ve all come to SF where they are more welcome.
homelessness is a national problem, but SF thinks it can solve the problem by throwing more money at it. dumb.
Nice, you beat me to the punch. I was going to suggest the headline “homeless population grows despite excessive progressive spending on homeless services.”
The reason SF has so many homeless is that SF doesn’t criminalize homelessness to the extent done in most cities.
There are only a handful of cities in the US where living on the streets doesn’t automatically make one a criminal.
If homelessness were decriminalized throughout the US, the number of homeless would be so spread out among all cities that they would become nearly invisible.
But we’re too self-righteous, too Calvinistic, too smug, and too fearful to take this step.
Homelessness, sure, make it someone else’s problem.
or we could go the other way, and SF could crimininalize it, like everywhere else, and we could have a more sanitary tourist and resident, friendly city
Maybe, maybe NOT. I’ve always thought that the first and most important draw for homeless in SF is *weather*, mild as hell all year round. (They can’t all live in LA.) That and of course SF’s bleeding liberal heart.
Try being homeless in any city above the mason dixon line in winter cold that will easily kill the unprotected.
One of the reasons, yes. There are a few– weather, like some guy said. Also, the fact that SF is generally walkable, which is a big deal for people who don’t have cars. You could probably say that unwalkability is a cornerstone of every suburban development– keeps out the poors.
So what do we do about it? We can become draconian in punishing the homeless, and slash funding for services. I don’t think it would work very well. It would just become a competition to see which city is most effectively brutal, and SF is unlikely to win.
It’s a shitty situation. No easy answers. The only long-term solution is to get the rest of the country to shoulder more of the responsibility, and why would they do that when they can just dump it on us? Universal healthcare, well-funded welfare programs might make it more financially attractive to provide housing and services, so that other municipalities might be more willing to do so. Likewise improving transportation so that SF wasn’t such an outlier for car-free living.
Homelessness is not “criminalized” in most cities. Yes, some cities have passed or tried to pass laws that have a disparate impact on the homeless, and most of those cities that have actually had such laws on the books have been sued and ended up paying large legal settlements and having to amend their local ordinances. Meanwhile, many cities actually manage to help and reduce their homeless population, unlike SF. In fact, in some states like New York, the laws are far more progressive than those in California and San Francisco.
Article XVII of the New York State Constitution declares the state must provide aid, care, and support of those in need, and the judiciary has ruled this includes, and specifically for New York City, too, the legal obligation to provide shelter to the homeless. New York certainly still has homeless individuals, but the homeless population has been reduced and better sheltered than in SF.
In fact, while NYC must provide safe and adequate shelter to homeless individuals, San Francisco has a (admittedly not well-enforced) sit-lie law on its books passed by the self-righteous “Progressives” voters like you.
SF has a homeless problem for many reasons:
(1) San Francisco has artificially constrained its housing supply for years with perhaps the most restrict development controls in the nation, and one of the most arduous, expensive and drawn out development and permitting processes in the country. So, housing is scarce and very expensive, and it has become more so as the economy has boomed and the development of new housing as not even begun to keep pace,
(2) The weather is generally temperate here year-round, so homeless people are more visible and more attracted to live in the city,
(3) SF is generally spends more public funds on homeless services per capita than most other cities and it has a much higher tolerance for homeless encampments and for “non-conformist” behavior. The money and the “live and let live” attitude attracts to the city homeless people and bohemian/eccentric individuals who are more likely to slide into homelessness either by choice or because they are mentally ill and drug and alcohol addicted,
(4) San Francisco has a large, well-funded and well-established homeless advocacy industry which depends on keeping and maintaining a large homeless population. Yes, many people who volunteer or work in the not-for-profit services sector truly do want to help get people off the streets (and off of drugs/alcohol and into appropriate mental health treatment) and living an independent lifestyle (when possible), but there are also a number of outspoken individuals in this field who just want to fight to have homeless people left alone to their own devices, no matter the consequences. They would rather homeless people die on the streets than have the problem of homeless resolved since it would mean they would either be out-of-work or without the power or influence of a crusader for a cause.
There have been plenty of studies and books written on root causes of homelessness and effective remediation. A more recent work that was researched right here in SF is by Dr. Robert Okin, who has an impressive pedigree in dealing with mental health issues and has spent years talking to and working with homeless people:
Helping the homeless is very achievable given the will – effective programs center on these three pillars, which I’ll quickly summarize:
1) Provide safe shelter – a home. SROs and shelters as we typically provide them are NOT safe shelter, and not desirable to most of the homeless. You won’t solve the problem unless you actually meet their needs, and these don’t.
2) Intensive casework, i.e. having a social worker keep regular contact with the person to ensure their well-being while they recover from being on the streets.
3) Giving them a purpose. Maybe this is a job. Maybe it’s a pet. Maybe it’s art. People who are denied a purpose and invalidated as human beings suffer awfully. This is true for everyone, it just happens a lot to homeless people.
These things work. They are proven to work. They’ve been done before, elsewhere. Other “solutions” either don’t understand the problem or just push it somewhere else and make it worse for someone else, which should be considered unacceptable (Is it moral to clean our water by polluting someone else’s? Really think about it). It just takes effort / resources / money / will.
Unfortunately, as some people point out, we also can’t solve it in a vacuum lest we attract the homeless from everywhere here and overwhelm our own system. It needs national attention. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We could be leaders. Start at least by reading up on this stuff, and see how you feel about it.
What ridiculous crap! “Affordability” is not the issue for 90% of the people living on the streets.
FACT – There is an established link between housing affordability and homelessness. Its been examined academically in peer reviewed literature, in particular by the late Johh Quigley, the Donald Terner Professor of Affordable Housing & Urban Policy at UC Berkeley (Haas School, Goldman School & UC-Berkeley Dept of Economics). As housing markets become less affordable, even by modest amounts, homelessness materially increases.
FACT: Houston does indeed spend on money on homelessness. In fact, over the last 5 years, Houston nearly halved its homeless population through the implementation of Continuum of Care supportive housing policies and services, similar to what SF has been doing for years.
FACT: Houston does not have the general housing affordability issues market-wide that SF has. Houston is also far far more free-market in its approach to housing development in terms of allowing supply to meet demand.
So contrary to the twin belief of SF’s special snowflake status and the myth that SF is providing homeless services to such a differing degree than other cities such that its a “homeless magnet”, the reality is that SF’s incredibly restrictive housing supply policies across the entire SF housing market is a core reason why we have a homelessness problem. A problem that is repeated in similarly supply restricted urban markets around the country – LA, San Diego, Boston, NYC, etc.
FACT: Santa Barbara is as expensive (if not more so) than S.F., but does not have a comparable homeless program, and as it happens does not have a comparable homeless population (per capita) than S.F. Santa Monica, OTOH, is has less expensive housing than Santa Barbara, but has a generous homeless program like S.F., and the palisades park and pedestrian mall areas are overrun by homeless (when we lived there, my mom refused to visit again based on the number of aggressive homeless in the area). Whereas just up the coast there’s equally expensive communities such as Malibu, which do *not* have generous homeless programs, and do *not* have large homeless populations.
There are some (some, very few) people who are homeless merely in the literal sense of the word that they can’t afford a home. But most of the people on the street – and clearly most of the filthy, aggressive, ranting people who degrade our City’s quality of life (and safety, and tourist economy) – are *not* in that category.
Instead of anecdote, I have offered a reference to actual academic, peer-reviewed studies. You know – science.
But since anecdote trumps science on the Internet, look here today in the SF Chronicle – rising rents pushing the working poor out onto the streets because rents are too unaffordable (because NIMBYs keep the Bay Area from building enough housing).
@HuskyDown–While housing affordability most likely affects homelessness, it seems unlikely that additional market-rate housing would reduce the homeless problem here. People living on the street aren’t there because they couldn’t find a suitable rental for $3,500/month.
“Affordability” is a relative term but the rents being charged for new-construction market-rate housing would not help people living on the streets.
There is next to no support in these comments for non-market-rate housing in San Francisco, which would be a big help to people who are teetering on homelessness. Merely suggestions to relocate the homeless so that they become *somebody else’s* problem.
Homelessness is a complicated problem…actually a symptom of political economy that doesn’t work for a lot of people. The “solutions” being proposed in these comments would do nothing to solve the problem of homelessness (i.e. helping them get off the streets).
Most of SF’s homeless population were never in homes in the city and wouldn’t be no matter how inexpensive they were. These people are mentally ill and/or addicted and come to the city or stay because of the same attitudes that allow parks and open spaces, expensively renovated for the general public, to become their turf. To many city residents simply don’t mind San Francisco as urban zoo and don’t plan to stay past their 20s anyway or, if older, are the kind of “progressives” who want a convenient petting zoo of society’s rejects.
Yet another example of how our continued inability/unwillingness to meaningfully tackle homelessness diminishes everyone’s quality of life.
A common space is now an empty space.
Sell the land to a resi developer and light the bike path dog leg with enough LEDs to burn out retinas if you look at them for too long.
No “community gardens” are giveaways of public property to a select few connected people. Noe Beaver Mini park was ruined 30 years ago and now no one can use it.
I was thinking of Noe Beaver Mini Park too. I lived around the corner when it opened. It was also quickly taken over by the homeless.
And it is a terrible idea to take an empty lot and surround it by a fence. The homeless will claim it, and then nobody else will set foot in the place because then you feel caged with the homeless (thus, completing the circle of it becoming “owned” by the homeless).
If they want to re-purpose an empty lot, they need to not fence it in, and include some features to make it welcoming to the general public, such as playground equipment, basketball court, etc. And do not include a bathroom. Sad, but that is a sure way to turn it into a homeless residence.
I suspect the thinking is that with a fence they can lock out the homeless at night, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s no big deal to have a homeless guy or two hanging out on a park bench or on the grass. But you don’t want to create a space that scares away everyone but the homeless.
We need to classify and deal with mental illness and drug addiction as separate issues. Then we will find the resources to deal with the truly homeless.
I think it’s worthwhile to ask why this is failing but the castro plaza hasn’t. Not that it’s without problems, but as far as I know no one’s trying to close it off and shut it down.
I think this was better as a dead-end street than it will be as a fenced-off ‘park’.
I for one consider the Castro plaza fairly “failed” – I usually feel pretty gross when I walk through there, and FSM knows I’ll never sit down on anything there, given some of the other unclad / etc. rear ends that grace that plaza. And beyond that, it’s always felt incredibly half-assed to me – those planter boxes seem a poor method of stopping an errant car, for example, and seem very slap-dash.
Sounds like there’s no community involvement, IMO.
Sometimes no community involvement results in something better.
Not often that I can get a Casablanca and Roy Rogers reference into the same blog entry:
I’m Shocked, Shocked to find there is no earlier comment of “Don’t Fence me In”
Have a great weekend.
How about 3′ spikes everywhere, and we can just call it art.
Or fill it w/ catus, w/ a drip irrigation system. This way no fences are needed, and we either get a ‘nice’ green space or a public sculpture.
Here’s the Facebook page to support the fence. The profile picture is a few guys shooting drugs in the park.
Aahhh 2bad! Gonna miss it smelling like piss 24/7. Thankfully, i can get my fill 1block down…in any direction 🙂
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