Looking into a fenced off McCoppin Hub. Photo by Daniel Hirsch.

Since late last week, McCoppin Hub on Valencia Street has been completely fenced off. According to the Department of Public Works, it will be closed for three weeks to repair damage caused by vandals. However, neighbors familiar with the open space, think there’s other issues at play: pushing away the homeless who use the park.

Public works spokesperson Rachel Gordon explained that since the park’s opening in August, vandals have destroyed the sprinkler system, ripped copper wiring out of the plaza’s light fixtures, damaged the concrete, and stolen plants. And that’s not the end of it, she said. The plaza’s electrical box has been broken open and vandals have tapped into it for electricity. McCoppin, she added,  also needs a “deep cleaning.”

“We knew it was going to be a challenging area, but the great news is that neighbors really want it,” said Gordon. “As long as the neighborhood uses it and doesn’t destroy it, it’s a great space.”

Neighbor Jessi Reid, who walks by McCoppin twice a day, doesn’t buy the official word. In an email to Mission Local, Reid wrote she “100 percent thinks that McCoppin is shut down because of the large amount of homeless people that have occupied it since its opening.”

Since the plaza’s opening, 311 call data indicates there’s been more than 200 calls from McCoppin Hub related to graffiti, garbage and other issues. About six of the them specifically note homeless encampments.  Gordon says that while there’s been some behavior issues in the park, the temporary closure is entirely due to maintenance. “Our issue is vandalism,” said Gordon.

“The park wasn’t ‘very damaged’ at all,” said Reid, though she had recently seen the sprinkler system go off  and flood Valencia Street. “Any graffiti that McCoppin Hub had (which honestly wasn’t very much at any given point) was taking care of by a cleaning crew the next week.”

Gordon said the public space has had a series of deep cleanings and maintenance, but the repairs are beyond the scope of what public work’s staffers can handle, so the department is bringing in a contractor to fix the issues. The scope of the repairs also require the park’s closure. The cost of repairs are budgeted to be below $20,000.

“We shut it down last week, put up fences, and we hope it will be done in three weeks,” said Gordon.

But in the first seven days of the closure, those construction crews haven’t showed up say the plaza’s neighbors. Public work crews should be getting to work Thursday, explains Gordon.

“There hasn’t been any construction, or anything for the whole week,” said Steve Anderson, who lives near McCoppin.

Over the last several days, neighbors and fans of the park a have been mostly incredulous or confused about the closure on social media, noting that the plaza frequently has cleaning crews working there, so why close it now for even more cleaning. Commenters speculate that the fences went up to scare away the homeless communities who had been staying in the park.

“Using “deep cleaning” as an excuse for its closing is ridiculous,” wrote neighbor Mark J. Murphy on McCoppin Hub’s community Facebook page. “Having just spent nearly nine months to construct this 40′ x 90′ space, and it’s only been open a few months, to also have to address ‘other maintenance’ issues all feels like a way to keep out the homeless who have been spending time there. WHY HAS NO WORK BEEN DONE THIS ENTIRE PAST WEEK?”

“I am extremely uncomfortable with the temporary fencing – it isn’t needed, and looks as if it is trying to keep the homeless out,” said Reid. “I am not comfortable with a space that is supposed to be for public use, being handled the way is has since opening. As nice as the area now looks, and I think we can all agree that it is great to have another public park, the way McCoppin is being handled is not okay.”

“There are things that need to be addressed,” said Gordon, stressing that crews should finish their work by April 22, if not sooner. “It’s temporary, we’re not fencing off the public or trying to keep anyone out.”

In terms of avoiding vandalism in the future, she said that public works is working with the Office of Work Place and Economic Development to bring more events and people to the plaza.

“The buzzword is activation. It’s a challenging area, but bringing more people to the area brings more eyes on the street,” said Gordon. “When more people come into area and celebrate it, as opposed to destroying it, then there’s some success.”

While McCoppin has hosted events in the past, such as those organized by the People in the Plaza project, some neighbors say that it was more successful as a space before the plaza was redone, when it was a more versatile, open space.

Standing beside McCoppin, which was part of the $9.3 million SoMa West Improvement project, Steve Anderson said more food trucks and events occurred before the plaza was finished. On Wednesday afternoon, the vandalism described by public works department wasn’t readily apparent. There was at least one piece of noticeable graffiti and some minor scratching from what looked like skateboards. Anderson felt irked by the currently fenced off public space.

“Two million dollars, for this?” he asked dismissively.

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Daniel Hirsch is a freelance writer who has been living in the Mission since 2009. When he's not contributing to Mission Local, he's writing plays, working as an extra for HBO, and/or walking to the top of Bernal Hill.

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  1. Ralphie and others– your comments are very thoughtful. I was originally excited about this place, but it has turned out terribly. It is lewd and dangerous, as well as just disgusting, major drug abuse. My family and I ride our bikes through it every day, sadly, and don’t have a realistic alternative. I think it is worse in the day time than at night or early morning, so I don’t think a nighttime gate is the answer, but rather shutting it down altogether. It has been nice having the fence up. I am sorry I didn’t know about the police meetings on this.

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  2. As a resident in the area, the last few days with the fence have been quiet, clean and safe.

    I support the idea of a gate, if this is an indication of how it will change our park.

    In November 2013 I was part of Activate McCoppin, an initiative started by David B. It was a great effort, we strived to have an event as many nights/days as possible. David did an awesome job showing our neighborhood the possibilities the park can be used for. Here is what I noticed as being a volunteer and the reasons why I support the gate:

    1. It was a full time job for David + volunteers to put on the events. People in the Park has done some events in the area, but events need to be done all day everyday to really keep the space alive. To have 1 event a week is a great start, but it’s not enough to send a message to encampments that this is a frequented area and not a place to setup their tents.

    2. Our neighborhood isn’t like the Hayes parklet or Castro. The Hub isn’t much of a destination. People don’t come here to have brunch, do some shopping or relax. It is more of a transit area where you walk/bike through to get somewhere else. Until we have more commerce in the area, the majority of people in the park tend to be homeless.

    3. The park has more problems than just being dirty. It is dangerous. if the Hub were simply dirty with homeless, I could ignore it. I’ve seen men pooping openly, it’s gross, but pretty common in the city. It was when I saw a man with a hatchet (an actual ax) chasing a man that changed my perception. Of course I called the police but the man hid the ax before the police arrived. Violent events of this nature are common.

    From these above observations there are only 3 solutions I can see. Ideally solving the homeless problem would be the best…but I’ll leave that one out.

    1. Really come together as a community to volunteer to put on an event everyday/night to reclaim our park. Even if this happened, it’s hard to get people to come. Look at when off the Grid is there, they have trouble getting people to come…and that’s a popular event at other locations!

    2. The city hire a guard for the Hub. The gated parking lot under the freeway has a gaurd, why not an open space where there is known danger?!

    3. Given the 2 above I think the easiest solution and cheapest for now is a gate that is locked at night.

    If I were just a passerby I would also probably say no to a gate. From an outsiders perception a gate probably does sound disgusting to gate people out. As a resident who deals with this shit (literal shit too), a gate would be a welcome solution to our park. Until our area is a place where people want to hang out like the Castro/Hayes or there is a real solution for homelessness, a gate is our best option.

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  3. I think McCoppin Hub has been a failure, but you know I haven’t heard ANYONE suggest otherwise, including the people who run it and wanted it in the first place. But you know what, a lot of things fail early on. Business fail, does that mean nobody should ever open another similar business in that location again? Do you really think there’s no way it could possibly work?

    OK, it wasn’t implemented well, lessons are learned and many people I know in this neighborhood are well within their rights to say “I told you so” because they did forewarn about these issues.

    I’ve only seen two solutions listed above:
    1. Have more events
    2. Fence it in

    The reality is this, it’s a good idea to have a cool community space in the area. Look at that area in Hayes Valley which is pretty well used and really nice. But Hayes Valley hasn’t been inundated with homeless people for some reason. These spaces can work you just have to figure out how to make them work.

    I’m on the local mailing lists and I see a lot of crap flying around, a lot of aggression and very little people trying to work together to find a solution.

    I’m pretty good at complaining, but I also try to find a solution at the same time. How about some of you open a line of dialog with the people responsible, help them find solutions to the problems and work together, I’m honestly sick of listening to people moan and have zero interest in having constructive discussions on how to fix it.

    Note: This is not just in relation to the article but also to do with all the emails circulating the neighborhood.

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  4. I rode my bike through here just last Friday afternoon, and I can say that there was a contractor in the park using the sprinklers in full. Watering, in a drought, in the warm afternoon sun, plants that looked full and replanted recently. The issues have been fixed quick I must say, because if you are reporting this story today, and I seen a full set of sprinklers working and no graffiti in the park a week ago – there is more going on than meets the eye. In fact, my first thought was, “Eww they closed this great public space!” Then I thought, “I’d rather have it closed off from everyone, than only open to homeless who have occupied and peed all over it.” – Which is to say, if regular people have never been able to use it due to the homeless people using it and peeing on it (I never saw damage or graffiti) then Id rather not have anyone be able to use it.

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  5. SFPD Community Meeting Wed 4/15: 6:30pm-8pm At the Red Cross Building (1667 Market St at Gough). Please join the meeting next Wed with our SFPD Captain Defilippo and reps from City agencies. This is the opportunity to talk about McCoppin Plaza with public leaders in person. Even if you can’t get there right when it starts, come anyway — strength in numbers!

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  6. I don’t get the hysterics from the residents. No one wants a fence but in an area where someone will steal a broken bike wheel, it’s hardly surprising that the park was heavily vandalized. It will continue to be vandalized sadly. Nevertheless it’s just a bit laughable that someone thinks that the city put up a fence just to keep the homeless out. If it’s still there in 2 months then we have a problem.

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