San Francisco's Ferry Building merchants complain of homeless invasion 

Merchants at San Francisco’s Ferry Building say they have noticed an increase in homeless in the area — some of whom have been troublesome for business — since the demolition of the Transbay Terminal.

At a meeting Thursday afternoon, the building’s head of security told merchants that multiple stay-away orders have been filed recently for transients who have been bothering customers.

Business owners griped about an uptick in loitering, panhandling and theft of items and money out of tip jars. They complained that even the bathrooms have been messier due to more people using the facilities to clean up.

The Ferry Building has been a model of San Francisco’s transformation. The previously abandoned building reopened in 2003 to house offices, restaurants and a marketplace specializing in boutique goods and local foods.

Not far away, another transformation is also under way. The City began demolishing the old Transbay Terminal located at First and Mission streets in September. More than 100 homeless people were known to use the building as shelter, and have since been displaced.

“After the Transbay Terminal closed, people scattered around South of Market,” said Bob Offer-Westort of the Coalition on Homelessness. “The City really failed to take advantage of an opportunity to house the people who lived there.”

Offer-Westort said he hadn’t noticed a surge in homelessness at the Ferry Building, but ask any merchant there and there’s a story.

One woman, known by several merchants as the “Pigeon Lady,” has upset customers by licking windows and tables, and then throwing trash into the Bay. At Peet’s Coffee, tips for the workers have mysteriously gone missing. One tip jar was found in the urinal of the Ferry Building restrooms.

Lalé Shafaghi, manager of Stonehouse California Olive Oil, said she noticed a spike in transients around the building, but that it had leveled out recently.

“We do have a lot of transients that come through the building,” she said. “Most follow the rules like everyone else. They use the bathrooms, of course. We have a lot of samples, and they come by for a few. Usually it’s not a problem unless someone starts screaming or bothering customers. Then, security is always good about responding.”

Police were unable to pinpoint the exact number of complaints in the area by press time, and the building manager did not immediately return calls for comment.

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Brent Begin

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