Alcohol controls sought for Lower Haight area 

Following a rash of gun violence in the Lower Haight neighborhood, a prohibition of any new liquor-selling stores is being considered as one tactic to curb the ongoing crime.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the Lower Haight, has drafted legislation that would prohibit any store that would sell alcohol for off-site consumption from opening up along Haight Street between Scott and Webster streets.

Mirkarimi said a shooting Tuesday morning and another one on Sunday highlights the need for such a measure.

The legislation was approved Wednesday by the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee, and will go before the full board for a vote on Tuesday.

Mirkarimi said the legislation is "one more prong in helping improve the public safety and tranquility of that neighborhood."

There are eight stores selling alcohol in the four-block area targeted by this legislation. These stores would still be allowed to operate if the prohibition is enacted.

The Police Department has come out in support of the legislation. "We found that not only in the Lower Haight, but in the Fillmore and Western Addition, that people tend to hang out in front of these liquor stores and become a public nuisance dealing drugs or stolen property," said Officer John Gallagher, of the Northern District Police Station, which patrols the area.

Gallagher said prostitutes and drug dealers often use these types of stores as cover. "A radio car drives up, they run inside the store and buy a soda or something and officers can’t do anything," Gallagher said.

Gallagher added that the legislation would save the department resources since every time a license to sell alcohol comes up the police will show up at the hearing to fight against it.

Mirkarimi acknowledged that alcohol is not the biggest cause of violent crime. "It’s illicit drug activity as well as turf wars that spawn random violence, but I believe a number of measures like this can have a cumulative approach in helping reclaim troubled neighborhoods," he said.

"I don’t think putting more liquor stores in will help the neighborhood. I’m for [the prohibition]," said Oliver Goss, chairman of the Lower Haight Merchants Association.

Goss said prohibiting new liquor establishments could also help diversify the kinds of businesses in the Lower Haight, which in turn could improve the neighborhood.

The legislation, if approved by the board, would sunset in three years, and could then be renewed or discontinued.

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