Supervisor Scott Wiener this week introduced legislation restricting public nudity in some public spaces while allowing it in other appropriate spaces. Specifically, the legislation would prohibit display of genitals and buttocks in city plazas, parklets, sidewalks, streets, and public transit. The legislation contains a blanket exemption for street fairs, festivals, and parades. Thus, nudity will still be permitted, for example, at Folsom Street Fair, Dore Alley Fair, the Pride parade, and Bay to Breakers. The legislation has no impact on nudity at beaches or on private property.
California state law does not outlaw public nudity and only bans â€ślewdâ€ť behavior, which the courts have interpreted to exclude the simple fact of being naked. Berkeley and San Jose have enacted local prohibitions on public nudity. San Francisco currently bans nudity only in parks, port property, and restaurants but nowhere else.
The proposed ordinance resulted from a sharp increase in public nudity in the Castro, including an almost-daily ad hoc nudist colony at Jane Warner Plaza at Castro and Market and frequent nudity on the streets of the neighborhood. Over the past year, a growing number of gay and straight residents, small business owners, and others have called for restrictions on public nudity in light of this extreme situation.
According to Supervisor Wiener: â€śWhile most people in San Francisco, myself included, have no problem with occasional public nudity, weâ€™ve seen a shift in public attitude because of the over-the-top situation at Jane Warner Plaza and elsewhere in the Castro. Until recently, public nudity in our city was mostly limited to various street festivals and beaches as well as the occasional naked person wandering the streets. Whatâ€™s happening now is different. Jane Warner Plaza is the only usable public space in the Castro and serves as the neighborhoodâ€™s town square. Use of this small but important space as a near-daily nudist colony, while fun for the nudists, is anything but for the neighborhood as a whole. This plaza and this neighborhood are for everyone, and the current situation alienates both residents and visitors.
We are a tolerant neighborhood and city, but there are limits.â€ť
Supervisor Wiener stressed that he did not rush to introduce this legislation, instead waiting to see if the situation in the Castro would resolve itself without the need for a ban. â€śUnfortunately,â€ť said Supervisor Wiener, â€śthe nudity situation in the Castro, rather than running its course, has gotten more extreme. Many in the community have reached the end of their rope.â€ť
Cleve Jones, a long-time Castro resident and labor, LGBT, and HIV advocate, expressed support for the legislation: â€śEvery day thousands of people from every neighborhood travel through the Castro and Market Street intersection on their way to shop, go to work, attend classes, and visit friends and family. Visitors from all over the world come to see the Rainbow Flag, the Castro Theater marquee, Harvey Milkâ€™s camera store location, the GLBT History Museum and the many other wonderful features of the Castro. Like most San Franciscans, I am proud of our cityâ€™s diversity and multi-cultural heritage. One of the ways we make diversity work is by showing sensitivity and respect for all people, and sometimes that requires compromises. Iâ€™m all for designated clothing optional spaces for my nudist friends, but the middle of one of the busiest intersections in San Francisco is not the appropriate location for a nude beach.â€ť
Andrea Aiello, executive director of the Castro/Upper Market Community Benefit District, which maintains public spaces in the neighborhood, echoed those sentiments: â€śThe Castro belongs to everyone, and our public spaces need to be for everyone. The nudity situation at Jane Warner Plaza has dramatically shifted the vibe of that space and made it an undesirable location for many Castro residents and visitors. This plaza, like our neighborhood, needs to be for everyone, not just a single group.â€ť
Terry Asten Bennett, president of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro (MUMC) and owner of Cliffâ€™s Variety, also expressed support: â€śOur neighborhood businesses rely on our residents and visitors to survive, thrive, and create jobs. The occasional naked guy walking by was not a problem, but the sharp increase in public nudity in the neighborhood, particularly at Jane Warner Plaza, has had a negative effect on the neighborhood. While some may love the spectacle, it undermines business in the neighborhood and makes it unwelcoming to many. The situation is untenable.â€ť
Dennis Richards, past president of the Duboce Triangle Neighborhood Association, stressed the mixed-use nature of the Castro area: â€śOur neighborhood has gay and straight residents, many neighborhood-serving businesses, residents with kids and without kids, visitors of all stripes, and three elementary schools. The neighborhood is for everyone, and while the Castro has always been and needs to remain edgy and forward-thinking, the level of public nudity here has gone well beyond that. Itâ€™s become obnoxious and unwarranted.â€ť
Public nudity in San Francisco has been prohibited in parks (Parks Code section 4.01) and on Port property (Port Code section 3.1) for many years, and Supervisor Wienerâ€™s legislation would extend that ban to other public spaces. The legislation adopts the long-standing penalties in the Parks Code, with infraction tickets for the first ($100) and second ($200) offenses in a twelve-month period. Unlike the Parks Code and Port Code, which provide for a mandatory misdemeanor charge for the third offense, Supervisor Wienerâ€™s legislation allows for either an additional infraction ticket ($500) or a misdemeanor citation for third and subsequent offenses within twelve months. According to Supervisor Wiener: â€śThe goal here isnâ€™t to punish people but rather to get them to put their clothes on.â€ť Conviction for violations under this ordinance would not constitute a sex offense for purposes of the state sex offender registry.
The legislation adopts the provisions in the Parks Code and Port Code exempting children under 5 from the restrictions.