As the sex worker controversy roils Capp Street, the district’s supervisor Hillary Ronen has unveiled legislation hoping to legalize sex work, though it really just asks the state legislature to do it.
This past weekend was the first weekend of barricades on Capp Street, which hoped to clamp down on johns soliciting sex workers from their nonstop parade of conspicuously slow-moving cars. By most accounts, this has not worked. Mission Local spoke to a Capp Street resident who said “drivers pushed them aside, or in some cases, completely drove over them.”
When the issue made news in a KGO report about Capp Street residents’ complaints of an uptick in sex work on the street, the district’s supervisor Hillary Ronen told the station she might introduce legislation to legalize sex work to avoid messes like what we see on Capp Street. And on Tuesday night, Ronen took a step toward making good on that promise.
Statement calling for the Legalization of Sex Work: "None of these strategies deal w the underlying issues & reality that sex work happens in San Francisco & everywhere in the world. It is time to recognize this & move towards decriminalization & ultimately legalization." 1/3 pic.twitter.com/iDaqw7OalL— Hillary Ronen (@HillaryRonen) February 15, 2023
“There has been a prostitution track on Capp Street in the Mission, for decades if not a century,” Ronen said at Tuesday night’s board of supervisors meeting. “Over the past few months, the situation has gotten out of control. All along Capp Street, from 17tth to 24th [Streets], dozens of women stand out in the cold in the middle of the street soliciting johns from sundown to sunrise. This is on a narrow, fully residential street where kids and parents are trying to get a good night’s sleep.”
“Music booms all night long, there is bumper-to-bumper traffic and much worse, neighbors witness pimps beating sex workers, and there are sometimes gunshots,” she said. “The situation has become extremely unsafe.”
Ronen’s legislation does not create a “red-light district,” as some previous local reporting has indicated. In fact, it’s just a resolution asking the state to step in and do legalization for us. According to a statement from Ronen’s office, the resolution says “Todav I am introducing a resolution asking our State Delegation to introduce a bill to legalize sex work.”
And she’s seeing red over those reports of a so-called red-light district. “I have never suggested setting up a ‘red-light district’ in San Francisco. Though you have probably seen dozens of articles suggesting that we’re considering that,” Ronen said Tuesday night
“Sex work happens in San Francisco, and everywhere in the world, in every city in the world,” Ronen added. “It is time to recognize this, and move towards decriminalization, and ultimately legalization and regulation of sex work."
Here in the U.S., Nevada and Rhode Island have decriminalized sex work. According to Ronen, “Legalization helps combat trafficking, improves working conditions for sex workers, reduces violence against sex workers, and makes it easier to stop underage and unhealthy practices in this line of work.”
“This is a long-term strategy, this is not going to happen tomorrow,” she admitted. “I’m under no illusion this will happen overnight, I’ve been heartened that the state has decriminalized several sex worker practices over the last decade.”
Ronen also acknowledged, “It will take years to set up a regulatory scheme to do it the right way.” That’s not debatable. What may be debatable is that even if sex work is legalized or decriminalized, whether that would even drive the phenomenon off Capp Street.