San Francisco removes 'anti-homeless' boulders from neighborhood

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The City of San Francisco has temporarily resolved a battle over boulders placed in one neighborhood to keep homeless people from sleeping on the sidewalk. 

On Monday San Francisco Public Works crews hauled away two dozen boulders placed along a one-block sidewalk on Clinton Park, a residential side-street near Market between Dolores and Guerrero streets.

They were placed there a couple of weeks ago and in the last 10 days have been moved four times. 

"We've had people push them out onto the street which has made it unsafe," said Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru.

It all started in early September when neighbors pitched in $200 each to buy the boulders and line the sidewalk with them to deter people from setting up tents and doing drugs. And it worked. 

Then some neighbors began getting threats. 

"They were getting emails. Some kind of bullying. Just feeling there was a lot of pressure being put on them," said Nuru.

Many of the boulders ended up in the street pushed there apparently by those who felt the barriers were morally wrong.

A proponent of the boulders who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation said, "The people vandalizing the boulders are no better than the people they are trying to defend." 

The controversy has seemingly come to an end. 

Feeling it wasn't worth the bitter blowback, the residents asked the city to remove the rocks, while they come up with an alternative plan. 

The city's public works department said in a statement:

The alternative plan isn't set in stone yet. 

"That could involve having larger boulders. It could involve some kind of landscaping plan," said Nuru. "For now just to put things at rest. We are in possession of the rocks and we are at the drawing board coming up with a new solution." 

Many homeless advocates empathize with the neighbors' frustration. But say boulders are no solution.

"There has got to be a better answer than putting up these boulders to block people," said Greg Aherne who lives in a different neighborhood. "That's not how we do it in SF. We are more accepting. We find a better answer here." 

But with the boulders now gone, some residents are concerned.

It is not clear where the people who used to crowd the sidewalks went, but many neighbors expect with the boulders now gone, they will come back.

"The worry is how will it be the next several days or weeks. Will we be able to walk down the street or not," a resident said.