After several weeks of tug-of-war between residents of the street called Clinton Park and nameless protesters who did not like their solution to homeless gathering on their street, the city's Department of Public Works moved in Monday to remove a set of 24 boulders.
Several of the boulders were pushed off the sidewalk and into the roadway of the one-way alley for the fourth time on Sunday, prompting city workers to decide enough was enough. As KPIX reports, the removal took about 30 minutes, and it prompted DPW Director Mohammed Nuru to give a small press conference on the matter. Also, the story has gone national now.
"The sidewalks are not places for people to camp and they’re not places for people to sell drugs,” Nuru said, per KPIX. “So we really feel very proud of the neighbors and will support them in any way we can.”
Nuru said the boulders, which were paid for and installed by a coalition of Clinton park residents about a month ago to deter what they said was rampant drug dealing, are now in city custody. And he suggests that the city will now help in coming up with a new plan to address the issue of homeless people and others gathering and camping on the small street.
"The problem is they were not big enough," Nuru said of the boulders, and the Examiner was quick to quote him. The next step may be larger boulders, or another "landscape plan" that involves something "more permanent."
Homeless advocates and many city residents saw the installation of the boulders as a hostile act, and an example of "anti-homeless architecture." DPW explained that the residents who installed them did so within city codes, putting them in the "furniture" zone of the sidewalk where they did not block the walkway.
Nuru confirmed that some neighbors were getting harassing emails after the story went viral in the local media. "There was some kind of bullying," he said, per KPIX.
As Heather Knight writes in the Chronicle today, the debate over the boulders has lacked nuance from the start. "It seems we’re now supposed to shrug at open-air drug dealing, public drug use, discarded dirty needles and sidewalk violence," she writes. "Don’t complain — that would make you anti-homeless." She notes the hundreds of 911 and 311 calls made by residents prior to installing the rocks, with some reporting late-night noise and partying, and homeless people with meth-induced psychosis residing on the sidewalk and sometimes "brandish[ing] weapons."
DPW is apparently now working with the neighbors to come up with this more permanent solution for discouraging camping and loitering, following what Nuru confirms were "hundreds" of complaints by residents about the issue. And, no doubt, whatever the next solution is will be somehow protested or vandalized as well.