The arrival of two dozen anti-homeless boulders on Clinton Park, a quaint residential street near Market and Dolores at the cusp of the Mission, has been met with varying degrees of outrage and acceptance in recent days.
Yet the question remains: Do these rocks actually deter homeless encampments? Or are they simply a symbol of anti-homeless meanness?
“I don’t think this is totally going to work — it’s going to backfire a little bit,” said Audrey Soule, a resident of the block. ”It’s going to be this great camping hangout because there are awesome rocks to sit on.”
Soule and her partner, Rob, live further down the block. They were not part of any effort among residents of the street to install the boulders to deter homeless individuals from camping there, but they supported the effort. Their neighbors reportedly installed the boulders two weeks ago.
“What I had noticed is the campers are still squeezing it in here,” Rob Soule said. “Then it forces people to walk all the way around the sidewalk.”
Standing near the new boulders, Phillip Bulicek, who is homeless, agreed with Soules. These rocks are inconvenient — but not a real deterrent. “They take up space the tent can take,” he said, explaining that tents will be pitched anyway. “It actually taking up space a person might be able to use.”
“I would like to see [San Francisco Public Works] take these boulders away like they take people’s tents away,” he added.
That’s likely not going to happen.
San Francisco Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon told the San Francisco Chronicle the boulders did not violate city code.
She told Mission Local her department had no plans to remove them and “is looking at options to sanction them.”
Residents of Clinton Park, in fact, may have been inspired by Public Works itself, which installed anti-encampment boulders at the tangle of bike paths and freeway overpasses at Cesar Chavez and Bayshore in December 2017. It’s unclear if they’ve been working.
This is the City literally putting up 25+ boulders to keep homeless people out of public space.
This is Clinton Park in the Mission.
— sam lew (@samklew) September 24, 2019
Mark Brumley, a resident of the block, was sitting on one of the boulders Wednesday afternoon. While some of the nighttime activity has become a little quieter, he said, “This is just a band-aid that’s just gonna get torn off.”
He said he heard his neighbors had spent several thousand dollars on the boulders. “That money could be spent trying to help the homeless people instead of trying to deter them,” he said.
Bryan Gambogi also sat on one of the boulders and agreed: “This is what you do to keep pigeons away — not human beings.”
Jeremy Lane, who described himself as homeless but housesitting for a friend on the block, said he could understand the frustration of residents here, as it has been a stop for many “disturbed individuals.”
But “clearly it’s not a solution,” he continued, explaining that if campers don’t try to squeeze in, they’ll go somewhere else. “It’s not a solution — it’s a bit of a ‘fuck you.’”