SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — San Francisco is working to keep clear a popular camping spot for the homeless by having crews place huge boulders on areas under the Highway 101 interchange at Cesar Chavez St.
The streets and ramps beneath 101 on the edge of Potrero Hill is the area known as the “Hairball” because it’s such a confusing array of routes for drivers, who often mistakenly find themselves driving onto Potrero Ave. or Bayshore Blvd. instead of 101 or Cesar Chavez. It’s also been a popular place for the homeless to set up camp for decades, until the city cleared the encampment last month.
As first reported in Mission Local, boulders placed just off the roadway in different sections of the Hairball are the deterrent the Department of Public Works Deputy Director Larry Stringer hopes will make it a hard place for the homeless to set up camp.
“The boulders was an idea that we thought we’d try,” Stringer told KPIX 5. “This is an experiment. We’re trying something different, kind of see what happens.”
It cost $10,000 to put the boulders here. Stringer believes it is money well spent.
“We would spend that amount of money in a day, definitely in a week, because of the amount of time we were spending over there cleaning up the encampments,” said Stringer.
Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on Homelessness says the city is missing the point with moves like this.
“It’s just another do-nothing type response to homelessness,” said Friedenbach. “I would say it’s not a good use of city resources.”
Friedenbach said it’s yet another band-aid approach to a bigger problem. Many of the homeless displaced are still camping here, but the public works department argues something had to be done in the short-term.
“We understand it’s not their fault for being there, it’s not by choice,” said Stringer. “But there’s also a balance for the public as a whole – safety-wise, health-wise, what’s good for the safety and the public right-of-way.”
Homeless advocates say the strategy only makes the homeless move down the street just past the boulders. The city says it will continue to place more boulders in the area to send a stronger message.
Stringer indicated there were no plans to put boulders in other areas of the city where homeless people set up camp, saying the solution is specific to the unique layout of the Hairball highway exchange and underpasses.