Locals call for change at troubled Castro District plaza

Police say they've received an increase in complaints about bad and sometimes illegal behavior in the neighborhood.

Neighbors say a lot of the problems are concentrated at Jane Warner Plaza at the corner of Market and Castro, a transit hub filled with locals and tourists.

"The police have been here twice. It's escalating. It's unfortunate," said Jason Larochelle, the manager of Hearth Coffee, located just steps from the plaza.

At 4 p.m. Monday afternoon, police officers responded to a 9-1-1 call of a domestic dispute involving a homeless couple.

Neighbors said the argument it turned physical at the plaza. They say fights are a common scenario.

"It's an unfortunate waste of space," said Larochelle.

Hearth Coffee just opened in December, but Larochelle said he already has seen a deterioration.

"It's a really great spot. It was once a really nice gathering spot. Now it's kind of transitioned," he explained.

"The spirit of the city is acceptance and tolerance. I feel like it's been that way for so long, and maybe that's shifting," said Lisa Ann Nikkel, who lives in the neighborhood.

She said she's from Colorado and appreciates the diversity of the Bay Area.

Some say a shift in attitude may be due to the increasing number of homeless people who are coming into the area.

"The plaza is open to everyone. It's the behavior. It's just the street behavior that's unacceptable," said Dainel Bergerac with the Castro Merchants Association.

At Jane Warner Plaza, neighbors say the problems include menancing dogs, drug dealing and litter.

The man detained by police involving the domestic dispute incident – who gave his name as Jason – told KTVU the homeless are being unfairly blamed.

"There's a lot of people who aren't homeless that garbage everything. Like after they're done with the bar, after the bars are closed, and they come out here and throw their trash and the homeless get blamed for it," said Jason.

He said he and his girlfriend stay at a homeless shelter, but spend the day at the plaza. He denied that their dispute was physical. Officers arrested his girlfriend for domestic violence.

The domestic dispute was brought up at a community meeting Monday night to address the problems at the plaza.

"I can't tell somebody sitting on the sidewalk to get out of here," said Police Captain Daniel Perea with the Mission Station which oversees the Castro.

The police say because the plaza is designed to allow people to sit and enjoy the area, the sit

lie ordinance does not apply.

City leaders acknowledge there are no simple solutions.

"To just equate homelessness to bad street behavior and the two are not the same thing," said Supervisor Scott Weiner.

Solutions being discussed at the community meeting included power washing the plaza more frequently and new legislation designed to keep people from damaging the plaza such as prohibiting them from strewing their belongings on the landscaping.