Homeless people living in Golden Gate Park "sadly" persist, Mayor Ed Lee said, but he suggested that a proposal to close parks after midnight could help the issue where previous efforts have failed.
Lee's comments seemingly conflict with the message being sent by Supervisor Scott Wiener, who introduced the legislation to close parks between midnight and 5 a.m.
Wiener has attempted to cast the proposal as one to curb crime — not homelessness. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, an influential advocacy group representing interests of the homeless and service providers, has decried it as nothing but an anti-homeless measure that will lead to criminalizing poor people without a home.
Wiener reiterated Monday that, "The primary purpose of the law is to address vandalism and other crimes that occur overwhelmingly at night in the parks."
Wiener said the mayor and everyone else are entitled to have their own perspective on what benefits may come from the law, adding that there are laws already on the books that make it illegal to sleep overnight in the parks. Lee referenced the pending law in a written response to a civil grand jury report on homelessness in Golden Gate Park.
After describing Golden Gate Park as "the jewel of San Francisco's park system" and how "in one day, a visitor could enjoy a museum, participate in a recreational activity, or simply meander through open space," Lee wrote: "Sadly, homeless encampments continue to exist in the park."
In 2006, Lee said, there were an estimated 200 people living in the park, but city government's "aggressively" attempting to remove homeless people from the park had, within five years, decreased the park's homeless population to "50 dwellers with seasonal variations."
"Despite this recent successful trend, current estimates reveal that this population decline has plateaued," Lee said.
Looking ahead, Lee said, The City is dedicating "at least one outreach worker" from the Homeless Outreach Team program and improving the tracking and information regarding the homeless people encountered there.
He concludes his remarks by saying, "Finally, proposed legislation is pending at the Board of Supervisors that would standardize park closure hours through the entire Recreation and Park Department system. If adopted, a clear closing time would be established for Golden Gate Park."
The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Supervisor Mark Farrell, is expected to undergo a public hearing before the board's Land Use and Economic Development Committee later this month or in early October.
City officials have discussed closing parks at midnight in the past, but the idea fell by the wayside amid a political backlash. It remains unclear whether there are the needed six votes on the board to approve the time restriction.