Rendering of one option for fencing McCoppin Hub Plaza. The fence's final design has not yet been finalized. Image courtesy of San Francisco Public Works

After years of community meetings to get McCoppin Hub Plaza just right, plans have been set in motion to fence in the year-old space whenever it has no planned event.

Though it will likely take six months or more to put up the fences – the designs have not yet been finalized – Supervisor Jane Kim said at a community meeting Tuesday night that her office had heard loud and clear from neighbors. While the city works to address its homelessness problem, she said, fencing the plaza makes sense to keep homeless people from loitering and littering there and vandals from causing damage.

“It’s a new space and we’ve heard with much detail about some of the hiccups,” Kim said. “For the past two months, our office has been moving forward under the assumption that fencing [would be installed].”

Prospective plans include an eight-foot fence and a variety of gate configurations, with either swinging gates and a roll-up barrier, for the two wide slanted driveways.

The gates would be kept open during events like movie nights, farmers markets, or craft sales. An assigned neighborhood steward or an engineer from the city’s Real Estate Division would open and close the gates either at all other times, or at predetermined hours.

Several neighbors had long wanted a fence, and were growing impatient with the fact that none had yet been erected.

“I think it’s great that you’re trying to activate it, but just put up the fence,” said Stephen Henry, who lives on Elgin Park.

“It’s one thing to have the space,” said another neighbor, “but I think it’s just a draw. It’s attracting people who bring blight to the neighborhood.”

But opinions at the meeting were divided on the issue.

“I walk past McCoppin Hub every day and I have never once felt unsafe” said Jessi Reid. “These are humans. Where are they supposed to go? This is a utility for the public. They are part of the public.”

Her comment was met with a round of applause.

Vanessa Gregson, a neighbor who also works for the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research association (SPUR), worried that fencing the plaza where homeless people gather would simply push their encampments out in front of the fence, onto the sidewalk.

Additionally, “if you make a public space less accessible, people will be less interested in using it,” Gregson said.

Henry, a neighbor who was eager for a fence, said he had been under the impression one had been included in the approved proposals for a plaza at McCoppin Hub.

Lynn Valente, executive director of People In Plazas, an organization dedicated to hosting events in McCoppin Hub and other public spaces, had a different recollection of how things had worked out. She said the original plan for the plaza had been to build a community garden, which would have been fenced, but that more recent plans for a concrete plaza as an open space for events had dropped the fence idea.

Valente said she hasn’t seen many neighbors out at the events on McCoppin Hub Plaza and overall they have not been as well attended as expected.

One neighbor attributed low attendance to a lack of information.

“We’ve been on Twitter, on NextDoor, on Facebook,” Valente said. “I think we’ve done our due diligence.”

Still, after a quick poll from a city employee, only about a third of those living in the neighborhood knew about events at McCoppin Hub.

Part of the vision for the plaza as a public space was to have food trucks from Off The Grid set up shop there like they used to on some weekends. The trucks were so highly anticipated that Robin Havens, from the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, said the design of the park was amended to better accommodate them.

But the food trucks aren’t showing up. Ken Rich, also from Haven’s office, said repeated requests for Off the Grid to send some trucks to McCoppin have been unsuccessful because the trucks can simply make more money at other locations. 

Carlos Muela, the owner of SoMa StrEat Food Park, said he had hesitated to send trucks to McCoppin under the impression that it was Off the Grid turf.

“If you or someone else can get in there, you have our ears” Rich told Muela. “Call us tomorrow morning. Please, do that.”

Unless new programming steps in, there’s a good chance McCoppin Hub will stand empty, and therefore fenced, most of the day. Events in public spaces tend to dwindle in the winter months, said Havens.

But the future of the plaza isn’t set in stone. If a community group comes forward to take on management, the space could be turned into a community garden with the addition of some more raised planters and some volunteer caretakers, city staff said.

To really make the plaza viable as a public space, it should be surrounded by more residences, and used by neighbors like any other park, said neighbor Robin Levitt.  But that would require the removal of the neighboring Uhaul rental and freeway overpass, he said.

“I’m ambivalent. I understand the desire for a fence, but it’s a shame that there would have to be a fence,” Levitt said. “For the short term, that’s the only thing that can be done right now.”

Kim said the city and neighbors would discuss further at which hours to fence the park. Most likely it will be fenced at all times except for planned events, but there is the possibility of experimenting with closure times, keeping the gates open during the day, for example, and shutting them at night.

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  1. This is life the diverse life in an urban setting, has been and not going anywhere soon, what you want is in the suburbs. Try Walnut Creek.

  2. HAHAHA. they spent so much time and money to fix that thing (also removing parking and narrowing the bike access) and now they will just block it off.

    guessing they transient folks will go to division st as that area between mission and potrero looks like it did 20 years ago once again. nasty.

    1. But the parasites have rights! Rights to our tax dollars! Rights to throw rocks at cars, scream at children and smear feces wherever. Who are we to judge. Some of them can’t stop taking drugs. Some of them won’t take the ones their supposed to. Some of them can’t get jobs because of the simple fact that they’re criminals! What has this world come to? If you’re working full time to pay your $5,000 a month rent you should be totally fine with your neighborhood swarming with these creatures who gave up on their humanity long ago. Get with the program fascists!

  3. That is absolutely deplorable! I am so angry right now! Where do I even start? A fcuking fence around a public park to keep out the homeless? You’re all not locals, are you? Recent transplants? Well, you all should be ashamed of yourselves! I know I sure am!

    These people who are complaining, do they ever even go to the plaza? I’m a neighborhood resident. I live around the corner on Woodward Street and I use that park at least once each day, often I’ll use it throughout the day and night. Well, I’m there all the time and I’ve never seen the complainers from the article.

    Listen, I can understand your frustration with the homeless using the park because sometimes, some bad apples treat it disrespectfully. They do that everywhere! But, even within the homeless community, people like that are not the majority, not by a long shot.

    There are many reasons a person might find themselves without a place to live, like losing a job, being evicted, having mental health issues, getting arrested, parents found out they were gay and kicked them out, domestic abuse, laziness, the list goes on for all of forever. And once a person is actually experiencing homelessness, obstacles that used to be relatively easy to overcome, like finding a job, addressing their health issues, etc. instantly become nearly impossible. Not only do homeless people have all that to deal with, then they’ve also got to struggle against the increasing criminalization and stigmatization of just being homeless in the first place, and we haven’t even mentioned all the other struggles homeless people face every day, like how am I going to eat? Where can I sit down without getting shooed away? Where am I going to sleep? Am I going to be safe as I sleep or is some random person or people going to run up and start beating me while I sleep? It happens way too frequently! So, yeah, you should not only be ashamed of yourselves, you should also be tarred and feathered and displayed to the public in that park to make sure you are actually humiliated. Humility is a good quality for everyone to have! And then we’ll kick you back out of the park on the threat of arrest.

    Plus, did you see the pictured rendition? The proposed fence makes the “Open Space” look more like a zoo than a welcoming public space. Like, either, the people inside its barriers are incredibly fearful by nature or they’ve been captured by some alien race and are now on display for others to gawk at on the planet Suck My Balls..

    Here, I’ll even start off the brainstorming process for you. Here’s an alternative to your fence idea: Instead, why don’t you install solar panels atop the light posts, etc. that collect the solar energy by day and use it to power the lights at nighttime? That would help reduce our neighborhood’s carbon footprint getting us closer in line with traditional San Francisco Values. We might also use that free energy to power a WiFi hotspot providing FREE internet wireless internet to the people enjoying the park. The panels might even generate enough energy to feed some back into the power grid, further reducing our negative impact on this, our only planet.

    Think about it, with the effects of climate change accelerating as fast as they have been, it might just be a few short years until you find yourselves homeless, yourself!

    So, yeah, on that note, here’s MY PLEDGE and my CALL TO ACTION:

    I, Sister Dharma Gettin’, acting of my own accord and compelled by the conscience of the various personalities existing inside myself, do verily make this promise to you, those callously trying to privatize an already existing, San Francisco public space.

    If you erect a fence around the McCoppin Hub Plaza, eliminating or restricting free, public access to it, because you’re trying to expel the transients who are also a part of the public, as soon as that fence goes up, so will my tent! I will protest with a Live-In for as long as it takes you to remove the fence.

    Should you erect a gate around the plaza, I will erect a “tent city” around the hub! I will not be alone in my efforts for long. Within minutes of pitching my tent others will start to join me. Believe that.

    Find Another Way!

    (Secret for Success: In your new plan to address the problem, try using a little compassion and a little empathy in your process. Pretend both those qualities are translated into colors and made into two, unique, spectacle lenses. When looking through those spectacle lenses, all your perceptions will be filtered through the colors of empathy and compassion. It’ll be easy!)


  4. Now if they could just get rid of the skate terrorists who break the law with impunity and stake all over the sidewalks in the area.

    1. The skate park that you complained about is heavily used making it a great success and worth the money. They are not terrorist, disrespectful youth maybe. You are living in an urban setting where life is not like the suburbs, that is what makes it great.

  5. “We’ve been on Twitter, on NextDoor, on Facebook,” Valente said. “I think we’ve done our due diligence.”

    in other words, I spent about 2 minutes posting a few lines on a couple different websites. This is due diligence? I’d hate to have that person as an employee or coworker.