Jose Coronado Playground at 21st and Shotwell streets will soon be getting new trees, signage and resurfaced athletic courts — but the sex workers, johns and pimps that neighbors have long complained about are unlikely to leave anytime soon.
Captain Bill Griffin from Mission Station said the prostitution is not as “linear” as citing loiterers around the park. And it became clear at a community meeting Wednesday night, attended by some 40 neighbors, that the longstanding issue is also not as easy as planting a tree, resurfacing courts or adding signage — all of which the Fix-It Team plans for Jose Coronado Playground.
The team is a coordinated effort among city departments and led by a liaison from the Mayor’s Office.
The acacias surrounding the park will be removed in 30 days, said Sandra Zuniga, the Mayor’s Office liaison. It will be replaced with other trees that are yet to be determined.
Gary McCoy, policy and community affairs manager at Parks and Rec, said that in the next few weeks they will install new signs listing rules and regulations, and in the coming months the department plans to resurface the park’s athletic courts. He also said the department is “exploring” options for replacing the existing fencing around the park with “black metal” fencing.
“The police department has said it would be able to better coordinate with Parks and Rec once signage is up,” McCoy said.
While these improvements will make the park safer, the sex workers on Shotwell Street will likely remain.
“It’s not quite as easy for us — it’s hit and miss,” said Griffin. “We come out, we do enforcement actions, and the next day we’re right back to where we were before. So that’s a little more complex.”
“How are we going to tackle the man problem?” asked Andrea Scarabelli, referring to the pimps and johns who hang out on Shotwell between 17th and 22nd Streets.
Residents are part of the solution, said Justine Cephus, an assistant district attorney assigned to the Mission District. They must call the station to report sex-worker activity. Every call is “logged, recorded, and documented.”
“I personally know from my own experience how frustrating it can be to feel like there’s no response,” she said, while noting every call can help her office build a case.
“So please don’t give up calling,” she said. When asked later how these calls were used to build a case, Cephus said she would have to get clearance from the press office to explain further. (We will add her response once that clearance comes through.)
Carolina Morales, an aide to District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, said her office — in partnership with the city’s Department on the Status of Women and the police department — secured funding for a sex-work intervention team.
At some point, a van and outreach workers will be riding around the neighborhood from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. to prevent women — especially minors — from being exploited.
Morales did not specify how much funding was secured, how large the team would be, and when precisely the van would start its work.
Others, like Joyce Ferman, who lives on 21st and Shotwell streets wondered if the police could deploy foot patrols in the area. She knew they were being deployed around the 16th and 24th Street BART stations, she said, but what about Shotwell Street?
“If we had someone foot patrolling Shotwell street between 22nd and 17th — that’s where all the evil stuff is going on,” said Ferman.
“There are a lot of people who want foot beats,” Griffin said, explaining that despite Police Chief Bill Scott announcing a quadrupling of foot patrols in the Mission, they are still both limited and in high demand.
On average, he said, he has a total of six officers working two shifts in the Mission, which also includes the Castro. “I don’t have a limitless number of officers.”
He said, however, that more bike patrol officers could be the answer. “You cover more area, and I think you’re going to see that,” he said. “I think it’s reasonable.”
At times, the crowd grew so eager Griffin could not finish his sentences. At one point he asked: “What’s the solution? Is it parking cops down here in the middle of night? Is that what I need to do?”
“Yes,” said many in the room.
A homeless encampment surrounding the park has also become a problem, residents said.
“I really haven’t seen any visits [by the Homeless Outreach Team],” said Shawn Case, who lives at 21st and Shotwell streets. “I’m just wondering if there are visits right now and, if not, will they be starting?”
Randy Quezada, from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, enumerated the work they have been doing in the Mission and said the park is a mixed area “with people who are hanging out and not necessarily camping.”
“We have been able to connect with those people, and with people who have accepted services at the navigation center,” he said adding, “There is still work to be done.”