The temporary fence at 24th Street BART Plaza
The temporary fence at 24th Street BART Plaza. Photo by Carolyn Stein.

How do you combat 24th Street BART Plaza’s illegal fencing? With fencing, apparently. 

“Temporary” fencing has been erected with the stated intent of keeping out the illegal vending, trash, graffiti and crowding that has become commonplace at the plaza over the past year. The fence, however, is a band-aid solution, and is slated to only stay put for 60 days. After that, Supervisor Hillary Ronen expects her proposed longer-term solution, a new street vending law, to finally be enacted, and ostensibly protect the plaza from its present issues.

But until then, the “nightmare” on the plaza needs to be addressed, the supervisor said. The “chaotic” situation has especially escalated in the past few months as drug dealers congregate and illegal vendors have threatened legitimate merchants and community organizers who are monitoring the area. 

“It’s just reached a point where it’s dangerous and so problematic, that we want to disrupt and recalibrate,” Ronen said, who asked BART to put up the fence this week. “The best way to do that is to prevent people from hanging out in the plaza in the coming months.” 

The fences will not prevent BART riders from using transit, according to BART board member Bevan Dufty. But the barrier — rising some six feet high, and zig-zagging hundreds of feet on its perimeter — will also not allow any wiggle room for potential merchants in the future. Calle 24 Latino Cultural District, the nonprofit organization working with Ronen and BART on the street conditions, warned legal vendors about the change yesterday, and will help them find new vending locations today. 

A woman selling tamales is pushed to the sidewalk as the fence around 24th Street BART plaza is put up. Photo by Carolyn Stein.

“The way I see it, this is the next step in really helping our vendors and making sure everyone in our community feels safe, not just certain groups,” said Susana Rojas, the executive director of Calle 24. “We’ve been telling anybody who is willing to listen to us that we have education and solutions. The legislation will [take effect] once the permitting system is in place.”

Meanwhile, Ronen and Calle 24 are waiting for her street-vending law to get off the ground. The legislation, which was introduced in March and made effective by mid-June, created a new permit for street vendors that Public Works staff and police officers will inspect and use to enforce legitimacy. Any street vendor in the Mission or Civic Center plazas who fails to show the permit, or proof of ownership of their goods, could have their goods confiscated. Vendors may also be fined or asked to leave by Public Works staff or police officers. 

Rojas was out on Wednesday morning talking with legal vendors, many of whom were pushed to the sidewalk as the fence was being put up. Some expressed concern that they had nowhere to go. 

Milagros Lopez, a jewelry vendor at 24th Street, told Mission Local that she was happy that the fence went up. “It’s good for me, because it’s more safe,” she said. “A lot of people don’t respect the [BART Plaza] private property.” 

In the middle of talking with Mission Local, however, Rojas informed Lopez that tomorrow the city will come by and tell her that she has to move. Lopez was outraged. 

“Why [doesn’t the city] let me stay here? Who can help me?” Lopez said to Mission Local. “I’m a single mom. I’ve been here for eight years. I don’t want to have to start over.”

Another vendor, who only gave her first name, Gabrielle, expressed similar disappointment at the thought of moving. She, along with Silvia Urquilla, sells tamales on 24th Street. The two women feel that there aren’t any other safe places to go for their business. They have also been working to get a permit, but have faced many obstacles due to the restrictions around selling food. 

Gabrielle used to walk up and down Mission Street between Otis and Geneva streets selling tamales. In 2017, however, she started selling her food near the 24th Street BART station.

“I don’t know where to go,” she said. “If I move somewhere else, will [the city] ask me to move again?” Needing help to pack up her tamale cart and two plastic chairs, she decided to stay along the sidewalk until being replaced by the fence.

Dufty appears optimistic that the fence will work. During the pandemic, Public Works donated a shorter fence to prohibit congregation, and few folks hung out on the plaza. Generally clean conditions persisted when Unidos en Salud, the UCSF and Calle 24 collaboration, stationed Covid-19 testing hubs there. 

What’s the hold-up on the street vending law? Public Works has not finished creating a permit system, meaning none of the consequences for illegal vendors can be enforced, said Ronen. 

A woman walks through the fenced off BART plaza to clean the area. Photo by Carolyn Stein.

“Believe me, I’m beyond frustrated with the delay, but a brand-new permitting system and a brand-new portal takes time to create,” Ronen said. “I had thought we were ready to enforce the law at multiple points, but then were told we needed to do something else. My frustration is through the roof.”

Ronen suggests the permitting system will be ready by August.

In the meantime, Ronen said police officers will attempt to prevent crowded sidewalks by enforcing street-safety laws that require six feet of space on public walkways for the disabled. Over the past few months, dozens of residents, business owners, and Muni riders complained about the congested and littered sidewalks on Mission Street. 

Another fear is that illegal vending or crowding will simply migrate to the 16th Street BART Plaza. Both Dufty and Ronen admitted this might occur, and both said they would monitor the situation. 

“If we have to, we’ll take similar steps to reset 16th Street,” Dufty said. 

“I think the process is frustrating,” Rojas said. “But most important is our community is being taken care of — from the most vulnerable, to everybody else.”

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Intern reporter. Carolyn grew up in Los Angeles. She previously served as a desk editor for her college newspaper The Stanford Daily. When she's not reporting, you can find her going on an unnecessarily long walk.

REPORTER. Annika Hom is our inequality reporter through our partnership with Report for America. Annika was born and raised in the Bay Area. She previously interned at SF Weekly and the Boston Globe where she focused on local news and immigration. She is a proud Chinese and Filipina American. She has a twin brother that (contrary to soap opera tropes) is not evil.

Follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaHom.

Intern Reporter. William moved to the Bay Area from Nashville to pursue a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley. He's covered police reform in Oakland and also investigates correctional officer misconduct at the Investigative Reporting Program. You'll mostly see him behind a camera. Follow him on Twitter @WilliamJenk_

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  1. I rode 14 Mission Muni bus yesterday morning (July 28) and saw vendors, legal or not, congregating outside of the fence almost to the brink of sidewalks. How did the fence make the area safe or cleaner as the bureaucrats claimed? Trash still strewed around, and vendors pushed to the sidewalks are blocking pedestrians to have to walk on the side of road.

  2. The Barricades at 24th street Mission have made the situation worse, the vendors haven’t left and are now encroaching further on sidewalk, making it more difficult to walk in that area, it would be a nightmare to leave them up permanently.
    I know this is a difficult situation, but so far passing new ordinances and building barricades are not working, couldn’t a couple of beat cops patrol the place every couple of hours? The vendors are not dangerous people, how hard is it to police the area properly, barricades and regulations will not be effective and will punish the residents who are using the area as it was intended.

  3. Creo que desde hace tiempo tenían que hacer eso , ahora ya se podrá caminar tranquilamente por esa área , aplaudo eso .

  4. Terribly stupid idea.

    Stamp out the vibrancy of the district with gates and closed access.

    I’m livid

    1. I am livid that you’d describe the utter nightmare that has become of 24th and Mission as “vibrancy.” Maybe you haven’t had to wait for a transfer there for 30-40 minutes, stewing in the stench while huddling with other bus riders in fear of the inevitable crazy that’s going to stagger under the shelter.

      The city is making the right choice.

  5. All of those Mission St. plazas need to go. They’re a scum magnet that keeps the whole area down.

  6. Why is it a problem for street vendors. The spot is not even as bad as it sounds. Been that way for years. Street vendors are not the problem don’t get it?

    1. “The spot is not even as bad as it sounds. Been that way for years.”
      That’s just blatantly untrue.

  7. If only Rojas and the Calle 24 mafia focused their energy on supporting a clean and vibrant 24th Street. Instead, they turn a blind eye to the graffiti and mayhem while focusing resources on questionable vendors.

  8. This is some BIG time bullshit. The street vendors are a positive aspect of living here in the Mission. It is strongly reminiscent of street vendors in plazas in Europe and other parts of the world. We ought to be providing additional resources to keep it clean and safe, sure, but locking people out of public spaces is obscene.

    1. I’ve never seen fencing operations tolerated on sidewalks in Europe. Vending in European cities is highly regulated.

    2. They *were* a positive aspect. Most of them are gone now. I went by there last week and the piles of trash were worse than ever. There was no room to walk around the “vendors” were taking up all available space selling power tools and lego sets. Really rude guys giving you hostile stares just for walking past. When was the last time you were able to buy a churro, or stand anywhere near one of those plazas without the smell of piss and worse. I used to catch the 67 back up to Bernal Hill every weeknight, no I won’t go anywhere near the place if I can avoid it.

      If the city has a plan to get rid of the illegal sales and clean the place up that requires a temporary fence I’m all for it. If it’s permanent, well, maybe waiting for the bus won’t be such a disgusting experience.

  9. Yeah, bad idea. It’s summer time. “Cure shouldn’t be worse than the disease,” as some assholes have said, but in this singular instance I have to agree. I pass thru the 24th plaza on the way to and from work. This morning, no fence, this evening, a fence. I was confused, so thank you ML for the info . The street vending scene has gotten out of hand, I must also admit. But get folks out there to enforce the need for permits, installing these anti-human fences is a galling and dystopian sight. If u can’t get the permit process in order, city government, don’t do this fence thing instead. It just reminds me of the fact that playgrounds in the mission were closed for like 2 years because of the “pandemic.” Very anti human. These fences also feel anti human and, like I said, dystopian. Screw you hillary Ronen, very disappointing and I’m not sure if this was the smartest solution.

  10. Walls don’t work!! This is Trump level of BS in SF. Let ppl sell things in the Mission. Street entrepreneurs!!!! I’m disgusted. Even if some of the items were stolen from tourists, or items were stolen from CVS’s, or even home burglaries, these ppl deserve a place to sell their items and to make a living wage in SF.

    1. “Even if some of the items were stolen from tourists, or items were stolen from CVS’s, or even home burglaries, these ppl deserve a place to sell their items and to make a living wage in SF.”
      No. The items are not “their” items. They are stolen. Thieves do not deserve to make a living wage in SF. Nor do drug dealers. We have laws for a reason. Selling stolen goods is against the law.

    2. I’m sorry I had to re-read your post, Lauren, because it caused me to lose brain cells. Stolen items are illegal. Those people are the scum of the earth. Our city let’s them get away with way too much. They can rot for all WE (the rest of SF) care. If you care so much, let them steal from your home and they’ll happily resell it to you

    3. Entrepreneurs? Have you BEEN to the BART plaza lately? It’s a cesspool of drug addicts selling stolen goods. Wake up and smell the coffee.

    4. Such an open heart – I look forward to your throwing open the doors to your home for these ‘poor’ oppressed people to acquire and sell all your worldly possessions!

  11. WTF??? Ronen said. “I had thought we were ready to enforce the law at multiple points, but then were told we needed to do something else. ”

    We all need to call Bullshit on this. She is saying that there is no law on the books to stop illegal vending. In other words, it’s perfectly legal to sell shit on the street currently and that is why she “CANNOT” enforce the law.

    BIG FAT LIAR! There is a law on the books already and she is CHOOSING NOT TO ENFORCE the current law as it stands. Hilary you a weakling and we all see it.

    For those that are allowed to currently sell legally; the ones who went through the legal process, paid fees, etc… are now being punished because our city leaders don’t want to enforce the rules that are already in place. Shameful….

      1. Seconding this. Don’t understand the Ronen hate. She’s the best thing to happen to the Mission in years.

      2. Read the article, what did I miss? In order to be a street vendor in San Francisco, you have needed a permit for decades. Ronen is lying when she says “we thought we were ready to enforce the law”. Laws existed before she took office. She is choosing not to enforce existing law. I call her a liar because she is making it sound as if she had no idea laws existed that she could enforce. If she’s not lying, she is one of the dumbest people in the city and I don’t think she’s that stupid.

  12. Campers,

    What a terrible, terrible, terrible idea !!

    Catty-Corner and all around, the BART property is strewn with discarded clothing and mattresses and I know cause I walk it when I go to buy Kitty Litter and bleach for Clarion Alley which I’m going to do after I smoke one more bowl of medicinal strictly pot.

    Leave the legal vendors on the prime real estate and put the Pirates who cannot afford a permit … use the Free Space for Pirates tables like Ronen’s people were able to set up behind the Armory for a practice run that had great response but Yuppie autos forced them out or something and no such problem in alley directly across from La Boheme, Robert Crumb and Dance Brigade’s Cafe.