Despite encouragement from their cultural icons to "smoke weed every day," some among San Francisco's pot-crazed population still prize a single day of the year as their a high holiday. The traditional 4/20 revelry of Hippie Hill in Golden Gate Park, however, has in past years been one toke over the line, with police vowing nearly every time to crack down on the event. Particularly grievous were the brawls of 2013 and costs of last year, which were $100,000 in total including cleanup costs, SFMTA costs, and extra costs to police.
But this year, with 4/20 falling squarely on a Monday (last year it was a Sunday, in 2013 a Saturday), Sgt. Ron Meyer of SFPD's Park Station expects that the difference will be palpable.
"We anticipate that it would be smaller being that it's on a Monday, at the beginning of the week... but it could just turn out to be a longer weekend." He puts last year's attendance at 15,000 to 20,000 people, and estimates between 5,000 and 15,000 attendees this go round.
Since its focus is illegal drug use in a park, the event isn't sanctioned or organized, and no one is footing the bill for cleanup. "As far as the garbage," says Meyer, "Well, it's an ongoing problem. We will be putting out additional garbage cans, and the Department of Public Works will also be emptying the city garbage cans frequently during the day. Still, most of the garbage tends to be in the park itself."
There will be cans in the park as well, Meyer clarifies. It's possible, with recent calls to action to clean up parks like Dolores and For Mason, that good samaritan pot smokers will prove their merit. "Online, on Facebook, there's been a lot of talk about cleaning up after messes." Also, if you were planning a cook out, or hoping to sell beer or anything else, be warned." We're going to attempt this year to deny access to illegal food access, and put a few more people in charge of that.
Though there's a new Captain in charge of Park Station, there won't be drastic changes as a result. Incoming Captain John Sanford Jr. will work with outgoing Raj Vaswani, who moves to the Bayview, on Monday.
Last year,Supervisor Breed was fairly clear. After the event, though she thanked police for their efforts, she wrote then that "We cannot leave this burden solely on their shoulders next 4/20."
Before last year's event, this was her statement:
San Francisco, as always, welcomes celebrants with open arms, but this Sunday there will be boundaries to keep the community safe, and there will be no tolerance for anyone using 4/20 as an excuse to harm our parks or neighborhoods.
- There will be increased law enforcement presence both uniform and plainclothes—including Juvenile Probation Officers—in the Park, upper and lower Haight, and surrounding neighborhoods with a strict enforcement approach to all code violations.
- Parking is very limited in the area, and there will be Parking Control Officers (PCOs) ticketing and/or towing vehicles parked illegally in any way, e.g. on lawns or in neighbors’ driveways. PCOs will also be deployed at busy intersections to keep traffic and transit moving.
- Unpermitted booths and concessions in the Parks will not be allowed. Such enterprises will be immediately cited and removed.
- Traffic control officers, SFPD, and Muni will be on hand in the afternoon to help move visitors out of the neighborhoods quickly and safely. Muni will reroute buses off Haight Street between Stanyan and Masonic to avoid delays.
If our neighborhoods and parks are expected to continue hosting a large gathering, without an organizer or any resources beyond those provided by the taxpayer, we must all be vigilant in ensuring the event is safe, clean, and responsible.