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Ordinance Targets Parking Lots Near San Francisco Nightclubs

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People at a nightclub. (CBS)

People at a nightclub. (CBS)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Violence associated with San Francisco nightclubs has forced restrictions and closures of certain venues. But three San Francisco elected officials on Thursday announced proposed legislation they hope will improve safety outside clubs and encourage a healthy entertainment industry.

Several violent incidents in 2010 — including a February fatal shooting outside Suede in Fisherman’s Wharf and the slaying of a German tourist six months later outside a private party near Union Square—drew the ire of neighbors and law enforcement, resulting in legislation that placed burdens on nightclub owners.

But part of the problem, according to the proposal’s sponsors, is that violence occurs in unattended parking lots near clubs when revelers head home for the night.

In front of Club NV at 525 Howard St. in the South of Market neighborhood Thursday afternoon, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, Supervisor Scott Wiener and City Attorney Dennis Herrera outlined the plan that would place more responsibility on owners of garages and lots near entertainment venues.

Chiu said that the owners of such parking operations often profit from nightclub activity “but are not doing their part to make sure that our city is safe.”

The proposed legislation will require that all commercial parking garages and lots submit a security plan when applying for their annual permit and will place minimum security requirements on those owners whose lots and garages are within 1,000 feet of an entertainment venue.

The security plan would need to address visibility for drivers and pedestrians by improving lighting at the lot or garage. Locations within 1,000 feet of clubs would be required to have an on-site security person or attendant working until 3 a.m.

Herrera said he learned through discussions earlier this year with club operators, business owners and entertainment promoters that the nightlife, entertainment and restaurant industries are vital to ensuring that San Francisco remains an international city.

Wiener, who in February of this year called for an economic analysis of the industry, agreed, saying nightlife “is a critical industry” in terms of the city’s cultural and economic health.

His district includes the Castro, where Pride Week celebrations were marred by gun violence and attacks at the neighborhood’s Halloween celebrations resulted in the demise of that event.

The proposal, Herrera said, “strikes a fair balance” between club owners and parking operators because it encourages members of the entertainment industry to continue their “good work” while asking parking operators to be a part of the solution in curbing violence.

“There are times when you just have to work together to advance the city,” Wiener said, also referencing how Chiu and Herrera—who are each candidates in the ongoing mayoral race—worked together on the proposal.

“We can’t just expect (the club owners) to solve all those problems,” Wiener said.

The legislation would not be toothless, Herrera said. If it is passed, the city attorney’s office would be able to seek civil penalties against those parking operators who do not comply with the requirements.

“Today’s proposed ordinance is one of the tools to protect the safety of all patrons, the vast majority of law-abiding entertainment businesses that comprise one of San Francisco’s most vibrant economic sectors and their neighbors,” Herrera said Thursday.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Chiu and Wiener, is not the first ordinance introduced by Chiu that addressed nightlife-related violence.

In September 2010, Chiu introduced legislation requiring party promoters to register with the city’s Entertainment Commission in an attempt to curb unregistered promoters whose events had sometimes attracted violence at or near the venues where events were held.

The proposed parking-related ordinance is expected to be introduced at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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