[Hpn] article manufacturing consent for Ferry plaza homeless sweep

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 06 Jun 2001 13:09:02 -0700

Mayor Willie Brown's press officer is apparently a one-trick pony. This is
the same MO used to manufacture public consent to sweep UN Plaza a month

Homeless drawn to waterfront

Despite millions spent on park, camp discourages tourists, lunch crowd
Ilene Lelchuk, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, June 1, 2001
©2001 San Francisco Chronicle


San Francisco spent $50 million beautifying its famous gateway by the bay,
yet the first thing commuters and tourists see when they step through the
historic Ferry Building is a growing homeless camp with tents, barbecues,
drinking and public urination.

Curtis Franklin says the makeshift camp where he sleeps is one of the few
places in the city where police didn't roust the homeless. Here, across from
the ferry terminal and a few blocks from the Bay Bridge, Franklin has one of
the best views in San Francisco and says he feels safe.

"Sometimes I sleep at 15th and Brannan in a lot, but (police) harass you.
You have to keep moving, moving," Franklin, 62, said as he stuffed his bed
roll into his shopping cart yesterday morning.

But businesspeople and tourists alike stay away from the grassy lawn and
benches in the park known as Justin Herman Plaza South.

Getting a window seat at the adjacent One Market Restaurant has a whole
different value when the park is full of people down on their luck.
Yesterday, the view from the upscale restaurant included a yellow and green
one-man tent, men sleeping on benches next to their shopping carts, and
benches filled with personal belongings and covered with blue tarps.

"The most difficult part is we waited so long to get this view of the
waterfront back, and now it's been tainted with the park," said manager
Larry Bouchard. The waterfront was obscured for almost three years during

The city has been renovating the Ferry Building, its new Harry Bridges Plaza
and, across the street, Justin Herman Plaza South to revive an area once
marred by the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway. The freeway was torn down
after being damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

The project -- mostly complete with the large, granite Harry Bridges Plaza,
two six-story Millennium Towers that shoot light beams 600 feet skyward, and
palm trees lining the Embarcadero boulevard -- has been called the new city

Renovation continues on the aging Ferry Building. And a private group of
residents is raising money to build a pavilion in Justin Herman Plaza South
to house a large pipe organ that the city acquired in 1915 for the Pan
Pacific Exhibition.

"Here we have the front door to the city, and we've spent millions fixing up
the area, but no one is paying any attention to maintaining it or cleaning
it," said resident Jim Haas, who is heading the pavilion project.

Justin Herman Plaza belongs to the city's Recreation and Park Department,
which contracts with a private property management company for maintenance

Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Becky Ballinger was surprised to
hear about the growing homeless camp.

"I didn't know that," Ballinger said. "I will get someone down there to move

Police officials said they hadn't stopped enforcing the law there, despite
what homeless campers told The Chronicle.

"If they are setting up encampments, they are violating the law, and they
are going to be subject to arrest or citation," said police spokesman
Sherman Ackerson. "If they haven't been approached by police officers, they
simply have been fortunate up to this point."

Loitering isn't against the law, but camping, drinking in public and
sleeping in a park after hours are.

Homelessness is a perennial and political problem that liberal-leaning San
Francisco hasn't found a palatable way to solve. Officials at City Hall have
historically vacillated between cracking down and turning a blind eye.

The new bayfront camp may be partly a result of recent police enforcement in
United Nations Plaza and China Basin. But homeless advocates wonder what
good another sweep would do.

"So now they pop up somewhere else and they become the focus instead of
looking at how we've lost low-income housing, . . . we've had SSI (Social
Security) cuts, and we still don't have a living wage," said Paul Boden with
the Coalition on Homelessness. "The issue becomes: 'Oh they're visible
again, so let's stamp them out.' "

Chris Cash, 40, said he had been sleeping in the park for about seven months
and noticed in the last month that more people had adopted it as their home,
too. At night, the benches and stairs are filled with men and a few women,
he said. 

The weather is nice there, Cash said. A church group brings free food on
Sundays. And he uses the municipal self-cleaning bathrooms, when they work,
paying with the free tokens the city gives to homeless people.

E-mail Ilene Lelchuk at ilelchuk@sfchronicle.com.

©2001 San Francisco Chronicle   Page A - 21

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