SAN FRANCISCO: Castro Merchants Remove Benches At Harvey Milk Plaza
After two years of complaints about aggressive panhandling and public drunkenness by the homeless, merchants in the Castro District have removed the benches from Harvey Milk Plaza. The benches, some had claimed, allowed people to violate San Francisco's controversial law against lying or sitting on public sidewalks.
The removal decision was made Monday by the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, the community group that paid $40,000 to install the benches in 2010 and has been discussing their adverse impact on the plaza for months. The group paid $18,000 more to remove the benches, said Andrea Aiello, executive director of the benefit district. The plaza sits at the heart of the Castro neighborhood, above the Castro Muni Station, which provides panhandlers with a steady flow of passers-by. In the past month, Aiello said, more and more transients had been gathering on the benches. The board's decision was applauded by some walking by Friday morning as the seats were taken out. "It's about time," said Dan Glazer, owner of the nearby bakeshop Hot Cookie. "They pee, they defecate, and they leave their garbage there. They have no respect for the plaza or for Harvey Milk and what he meant to our community."Harvey Milk Plaza has long been the traditional Castro meeting point for activists and public rallies or demonstrations. The city's Board of Supervisors recently made it illegal to camp there, but police only enforced that rule when complaints were made. Preliminary discussions are underway for a complete remodel of the plaza.