By STEVE SALDIVAR
On an early Wednesday afternoon, two men hurled dice up against the sidewalk on Garfield Square at 26th and Harrison streets. The dice rolled until one of the men dug into the pockets of his brown Dickies and pulled out a roll of dollar bills. One more roll of the dice. The man surrendered his money.
Three children coming from school stepped over the game, but no one bothered to stop. The game paused for only the few seconds it took a police car to roll by. It was a scene Connie Weber, a Mission District resident since 1939, has watched before.
“You get off the bus and you have to jump over their cards. It’s gotten to the point that they are just hanging out. I had the police go up to about 20 of them. We have to put up with this and it bothers me because most of us in the Mission are Latin and nobody seems to care.”
“I’ve talked to some of them and they all seem to say their name is Jose,” said Weber. “How could there be so many Joses?”
The worst of having men hanging out on the street, she said, is the public urination that goes on. Not even the recent rain washed off the stains on the side of a garage door in the Virgil Street alleyway.
Day laborers have said they are not the ones to urinate in public or hang out playing dice. They blame it on the boleros or drunks. Regardless of who it is, the longer it goes on, the greater the tension between Weber’s Inner Mission Community Association and the day laborers, according to Weber and Rene Saucedo, Community Empowerment Coordinator for La Raza Centro Legal that runs the Day Laborer Center at 3358 Cesar Chavez St.
The Center has a bathroom there, but it closes at 1 p.m. Workers can use the Garfield Park restrooms from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
”Beyond that, there aren’t many others,” said Saucedo. “For that many workers there really aren’t that many accessible bathrooms.”
Saucedo walks along Cesar Chavez Street Wednesday mornings to remind day laborers about the issue. “We talk to the workers about their rights but also about their responsibilities,” she said.
Hector Valdez, coordinator for the Day Labor Center, said the city used to give the center tokens for the laborers to use in paid public restrooms. Valdez said he didn’t know when the coins stopped coming or where they even came from—possibly Healthy San Francisco, he offered.
He added that it might be a good idea to find out if the tokens could be resumed.
Mission Loc@l called Healthy San Francisco, but Bob Menezes, director for marketing and communications, said they never gave out tokens. The Department of Public Works was another possibility, but it has yet to return phone calls.
Meanwhile, Weber’s Inner Mission District Community Association and the Day Labor Center have no plans to meet. “We’ve had so much resistance from some residents. Until we can get neighbors on board then, unfortunately, we’ll continue to have public urination,” said Saucedo, who has attended different community meetings.
“Most residents understand that these people are trying to live and work in harmony. What we don’t appreciate are people who make blanket statements about people not having the right to be in the neighborhood and try to criminalize them. We cannot participate in any of that.”
Although the coordinator recalled frustrating meetings, she said she would be happy to meet with the Inner Mission Community Association again.
“Providing bathrooms to workers should not be controversial,” said Saucedo.
“Why is it so controversial?”