a map with blocks on it.
Design of dead end signs and barricades on Capp Street. SFMTA

More blockades to ‘Red Light’ streets coming to the Mission

The San Francisco Police Department’s pledge last fall to Capp Street residents to crack down on sex work has apparently proved insufficient. As a result, drivers will soon have limited access to Capp between 19th and 22nd streets. 

Preliminary designs from Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s office, which spearheaded the plan, show that yellow “Dead End” signs will be posted at the north end of each block, warning anyone who turns onto Capp at 19th, 20th and 21st streets that they will encounter a barricade at the end of those blocks. Water-filled barriers at the south end of those blocks will force drivers to make a U-turn. 

Ronen’s aide, Santiago Lerma, said that the plan targets those “cruising up and down the block,” soliciting sex workers, to “make it less convenient.” 

Lerma added that SFPD Assistant Chief David Lazar promised to deploy motorcycle cops to Capp Street on Fridays and Saturdays. Until now, Lerma said that increased police deployment on Capp Street wasn’t happening on weekends, when it was most needed. 

District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement that 14 people given citations for solicitation since November have been referred to neighborhood courts, an alternative to the criminal justice system for certain low-level infractions. 

“Johns referred to neighborhood court are expected to abide by the agreements they make with community members, including going to john school and pledging to not repeat their behavior,” Jenkins said, referring to restorative justice programs where they discuss the impact of their crimes.  

How long the motorcycle unit, with officers from across the city, will be deployed in the area on weekends is unclear. 

Capp Street has long been known as a place frequented by sex workers and their clients after dark. Nearby Shotwell Street also had a similar reputation but, after a pandemic lull, the sex trade on Shotwell never quite came back — perhaps because Capp has better lighting, or because Shotwell became a Slow Street. 

“The Capp Street resurgence began as we started to emerge from the pandemic,” Lerma said. “We were just looking for different solutions to try to disrupt the sex trade on Capp Street.” 

Residents who have been frustrated with the situation on their block, Lerma said, are on board with the plan. He hopes the barriers will be erected this week. 

Ambassador rollout delay 

A plaza with vendors on top of the plaza and two bus stops.
The 24th Street BART Plaza at 12:19 on January 31, 2023. There were six to 10 unpermitted vendors around the perimeter of the BART entrance. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

The dozen community ambassadors, promised to patrol the Mission District, aren’t coming as soon as previously thought. 

Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s office announced around Thanksgiving that the new ambassadors — intended to make the community feel safer, answer questions, and usher along loitering drug users — would be rolled out by January

Mission Local has learned that the Office of Economic and Workforce Development is still taking applications from organizations competing for the contract to run the ambassador program. 

The request for proposals went out in late January, and proposals are due on Feb. 22, according to the project’s timeline. The program is expected to begin on or after April 1. 

For now, police officers and workers from Public Works and the Department of Public Health continue to patrol the plazas to ensure compliance with a new street vending permit system. 

Since permitting went into effect last fall, Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon told Mission Local that 21 notices of violation have been issued between 16th and 24th streets. And last week, the SFPD’s Burglary Unit arrested individuals allegedly selling stolen goods at 16th and Mission streets. 

While the unpermitted vendors leave when officers or DPH workers are in the area, they return once officials have left. 

Sheriff’s oversight board moves forward

After an ongoing impasse at the sheriff’s oversight board regarding how to hire their future chief investigator culminated last month in two board members deciding they would begin recruitment themselves, the board finally decided on Friday to move forward with the city’s human resources department. 

Since the launch of the new civilian oversight board in August, 2022, its members have been conflicted over whether to contract a recruiter or use the city’s human resources department to recruit and hire the inspector. Tensions rose among board members but no real movement was made on the issue until last week. 

Board members Xóchitl Carrión and Julie Soo, in early January, proposed they would write up their own job description for the Inspector General position, to get the ball rolling on a stalled process. Late last month, they held a one-and-a-half-hour special session to hear public comment on “community qualification considerations” for the job. 

No one called in. 

At last week’s meeting, the board finally voted unanimously to send the draft job description to the HR department, which will now take over the recruitment process.  

Five-O fallout continues 

Something strange has been happening between San Francisco’s two law enforcement agencies since a social media spat last month. Even if you don’t follow law enforcement in your spare time, you may have seen the ads from the sheriff’s department union, calling for more police officers in the city. 

What does one have to do with the other, you may ask?

The crux of the feud lies in who gets to work the airport. Currently, the SFPD Airport Bureau handles law enforcement at SFO. But, last month, the sheriff’s department union criticized the police department in a tweet for not accepting sheriffs to work at the airport, despite an SFPD staffing shortage. 

The police union countered in a series of tweets that sheriffs do not have the right training to work at the airport, and that staffing shortages have also seriously impacted the sheriff’s department. They began with a post titled “Shedding Light on SFDSA’s Bizarre SFO Job Begging.” 

An initial back-and-forth on Twitter and Facebook took place in mid-January but, in the February newsletter, police union president Tracy McCray penned a condescending “open letter” to the sheriff’s union president, Ken Lomba. In it, she suggests that police are more urgently needed than sheriffs, and that sheriffs could apply to become police officers. Emergency 911 calls, McCray wrote, are “higher priority than checking driver’s licenses” at the hospital.   

A sponsored tweet by the San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association, the sheriff union.

“If you’re worried about getting through the training. Don’t,” McCray continued. “I am a Field Training Officer, and I would be honored to take you on and help you work your way to earning a SFPD star. All you have to do is ask.” 

Ads paid for by the sheriffs’ union are still running. They include a petition to bring police from the airport to the city to “fight crime” and to “increase public safety” — and turn over the airport to the sheriff’s department. 

Follow Us

REPORTER. Eleni reports on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim more than 10 years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

Join the Conversation


  1. How about you solve the whole problem by legalizing sex work?

    Any while you’re at it, legalize so-called “drugs” as well.

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  2. Because City Policies do not allow SFPD to enforce soliciting laws on the books, all that is left, is to address soliciting as “a traffic hazard” & involving MTA & the Sheriff’s Office to do so. So stupid, but who am I to question City Hall??? I only pay high property taxes & pkg tkts, if I block the sidewalk to drop off groceries to walk up flat.

    Another way to address the nuisance, permanently, is to remove the sex workers to a 100% commercial zone, like Bayshore or Industrial, in the Bayview.

    Just get Code Enforcement out here, to enforce the code. Capp St is zoned Residential. Sanctioned prostitution is a commercial activity & should be practiced in 100% Commercial or Industrial Zoned street, so it does not conflict with residential uses: sleeping, having one’s driveway not used as pick/drop off etc.

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  3. Hmmm seems like forcing drivers to make a u turn would not be a problem for those cruising for prostitution as their goal is to spend time driving on Capp st.

    This foad closure would directly impact regular drivers during the day on Capp st such as workers, shoppers and visitors who are using Capp st as an alternative to bussy Mission st.

    TLDR: This is a bad idea that wont stop prostitution on Capp st. Since prostitution is not a crime in SF

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  4. Rise your hand if you want a red light district on your street. Maybe we should send the workers to Wiener’s street since he wrote the law to protect them he should volunteer his street.

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    1. Prostitution has been happening on Capp and Shotwell streets since back in the 90’s, likely earlier.

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    2. Well, Haney obviously just went to Amsterdam because now he’s all into open “coffee shops” (i.e., safe consumption sites for pot and hash). A’dam is considering relocating the red light district so maybe he and weenee can have a talk about all things the Dutch capital has that we should have too. Wish they’d start with bike infrastructure, though.

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  5. What about the SFPD that cruise the sex workers on Capp? Do these new street closures apply to them too? Lol.

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  6. So, Ronen’s office really thinks the best way to mitigate sex work is to block streets at the intersection, forcing people to make u-turns? This, apparently, is the quality of leadership and problem-solving that we’re all stuck with and unfortunately have to rely on.

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  7. By now I would have expected SFFD to block this. Their response to virtually every project in the city that changes road configuration, use and access is hyperbolic projections of dire consequences if not immediate nay-saying that scuttles the proposal entirely.

    SFFD has repeatedly gotten in the way of bike infrastructure projects. They insist with literally zero evidence that bike lanes are a danger to public safety and increase emergency response times (even if ambulances drivers enjoy parking their vehicles in them while they chill out and drivers can use the space to move to the right to clear the road).

    SFFD has fretted nonsensically about the Golden Gate Greenway Project between Jones and Leavenworth as if creating a wide, car-free space will somehow prevent emergency crews from a getting to a fire.

    SFFD (with SFMTA as their shill) insisted that closing an alley to through traffic to create a kids’ recreation area during the COVID lockdown would be exceedingly dangerous to public safety, impede emergency crews and be a logistical nightmare for them.

    They don’t give a shit (or even acknowledge) that upscale enclaves like the cable-car only first block of Powell Street, the French Quarter-esque Belden Place, the two blocks of Maiden Lane, and even the less successfully gentrified Mint Plaza have not resulted in mass casualties and the incineration of whole city blocks. Certainly, the (unfortunate) popularity of Pier 39 over the past half century has demonstrated that crowded pedestrian plazas do not make SFFD’s job impossible.

    SFFD repeatedly intervened in the development of a proposed public parklet that would create play space during COVID, slowing that emergency public health project by many months. At the same time, they were utterly indifferent to the illegal storage of liquid propane gas at private “shared” spaces hastily installed by restaurants or inside the restaurants. As best I can tell, SFFD didn’t even balk when Captain Chad Law told me and dozens of others working on the kids’ space parklet, including many city employees, that Mayor Breed ordered SFFD not to enforce the fire code at parklets.

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  8. Campers,

    Just wrote this over on my site but it deserves a broader audience on the Matter of Sheriff’s Oversight Power Grab.

    Keep in mind that basically this thing is one elected officials staff looking over another elected officials domain and seeing a chance to grab some.

    Kinda like Russia in Ukraine but not so violent.

    1 of 11,585
    Soooo, SF Human Resources will choose Power-Grab Sheriff’s Commission

    h brown
    7:54 PM (2 minutes ago)
    to Bulldog, h, me, matt, Rich


    S.L.U.G. was a great idea perverted by Mohammed Nuru and Willie Brown.

    I was there.

    It was a job for cons just outta the joint and sounded great.

    Planting trees and shit like that would chill them and bring love from the people.

    When this Miller lady introduced Mohammed to Willie, Brown quickly realized that he could use Mohammed’s ‘gardeners’ as Election Goons to tear down Gonzalez signs and shit like that.

    They showed up at a Gonzo/Gavin debate and put the fear of a Southern Baptist God into the people who showed up to watch or, for goodness sakes, carry a Gonzalez sign.

    So, story goes on.

    Complaints are made (from me amongst others) and the Con/Gardener group is disbanded and Mohammed was w/out a job.

    For about five minutes til Willie’s 3rd Director of Elections in 2 years announces Newsom is the winner.

    Willie insists Mohammed’s Enforcers get City employment and to push the thing along he makes Nuru second in charge at DPW where he terrifies people in Staff meetings so much that they had to put Ed Lee over there to control him.

    So, we got a job for the Leader of the Band.

    What about his crew ?

    Well there’s I think just under twenty of them and HR did shit like you never saw in your life to get those guys City jobs.

    It ended with firing City Workers whom Willie had kept as legally ‘Temps’ but had worked and were expert and they beat the shit out of Mohammed’s gang on first San Francisco Department of Human Resources test.

    So, with a bit of encouragement from Willie, SF Human Resources rewrote the test to be weighted heavily favoring the part where the ex-con get’s interviewed by Mohammed or something like that.

    That,s the HR department they just handed choice of Chief Investigator on the new Power Grab of another elected officials realm …

    They’re crooks and not to be trusted.

    Let’s go back to us Voters and delete this unneeded commission !!

    Go Niners !!


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  9. Campers,

    Notice no input from Police Chief.

    That’s cause SFPOA speaks for the Office of Chief of Police.

    The POA controls everything from how many sheets of toilet tissue to NO on Foot Beats and you won’t see any regular Foot Patrols in tough parts of the Mission.

    POA has even pretty much killed Patrol Specials who are older than SFPD and devoted to the one thing that every citizen wants to see and that is cops on foot walking in front of their doors and businesses and who knows the bad actors and where they live.

    In short, we need an elected Police Chief if we are to have actual Reform such as mandatory Foot Patrols (I don’t meet 5 guys walking abreast like Super Heroes … I want 2 cops with billy clubs who knows the drivers on 14 Mission.

    The Mayor can put this Charter Change on the Ballot with a signature and assure at least one bright shining Legacy.

    Board needs, I think a simple majority.

    Failing those obvious options it can go before the voters directly ?

    Hell, I don’t know.

    We all know this doesn’t work.

    I have been disgusted to read the Press coming out of POA for 40 years.

    Hey, I taught mentally disturbed Middle Schoolers and I have two degrees to prove I know the field and these cops at SFPOA write like, ‘Severely Emotionally Disturbed’ 14 year old students.

    Let’s encourage Breed to Pull their Fangs.


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  10. Remember when Hillary Ronen hyperventilated that her commitment to defunding the police and replacing them with an unarmed public safety service was not just lip service?

    Wouldn’t prostitution nuisance mitigation be a perfect candidate for non-cop or non cop-centered interventions?

    The issue here is not sex work per se, the issue is incompatible commercial activities in a residential neighborhood at all hours of the night.

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      1. That will be in addition to more police. Ronen made the same pledge to the Marshall community, that she’d go for more cops and more cleaning to mitigate the cabin village.

        She did this using the doctrine of public engagement prejudice, assuming that residents are conservative homeowners who want more policing to “clean up the neighborhood.”

        Nobody asked for more cops at the meeting. We’ve seen the “work.” Most of us would be happy if Ronen legislated away the SFPD containment policy which pushes the city’s filth into our neighborhoods instead of offering more whack-a-mole “services” to mitigate intentional disservice, money laundering through overtime and make work.

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