SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The large boulders that mysteriously appeared on a San Francisco street meant to drive away homeless tents and drug dealing were trucked away by the city on Monday.
It took about 30 minutes to haul the boulders away Monday morning. And while they are now gone, the city says something will take their place.
“You know the rocks are a symbol of what’s going on in the city,” said Edward Chmelewski. “The rising frustration of residents, and a problem that seems to be intractable.”
If San Francisco did need a symbol for the seemingly endless, Sisyphean struggle unfolding on city streets, the rocks were that. Installed by residents of Clinton Park, they quickly became a lightning rod for criticism.
“To do this, to put these boulders here, it’s not the San Francisco way,” said Greg Aherne. “We’re more accepting and that’s not right.”
The criticism, it turns out, had even become threatening.
“That is true, they were getting emails,” explained Mohammed Nuru, Director of San Francisco Public Works.”There was some kind of bullying.”
So the neighbors behind the rocks asked the city to put them in storage and the city obliged. On Monday, Nuru took an unequivocal stand with those neighbors and their rocks. He says a stronger, more permanent solution for the street is in the works.
“The sidewalks are not places for people to camp and they’re not places for people to sell drugs,” Nuru said. “So we really feel very proud of the neighbors and will support them in any way we can.”
The director referenced the complaints filed by neighbors–they say hundreds of them–about tents that served as part of drug operations.
“I think the people that are upset about this, who are moving rocks, are in a way sort of blaming the victims,” Chmelewski said of the neighbors on Clinton Park. “They make complaints and the same issues, same problems, keep happening over and over again.”
So the rocks are also something of San Francisco Rorschach, a psychological test allowing residents to project their own thoughts on the issue at large. But even among those who disagree on the rocks, there is a shared sense that this episode, if nothing else, shows patience in the city is wearing out.
“That’s a last ditch attempt,” Aherne said of the boulders. “That’s a desperate attempt and there’s gotta be something better.”
“Frustration,” said Chmelewski. “I think there’s frustration on this street and throughout the city.”
There’s currently no word on what the new anti-tent installations look like. Public Works says planning with the neighbors is already underway.