Homeless Campers' Tents Confiscated During Freezing Weather

Jim Herd
One tent fewer in Golden Gate Park
Yes, we get it -- San Franciscans complaining about the recent chill in the air is a bit like a veteran of the Monaco armed forces fulminating about hard times in the corps. The mere act of water freezing during the winter is not a novelty in other parts of the world.

And yet, if you're wandering around underdressed and sleeping out of doors, it's plenty cold enough to do damage. There's a reason your tired, your poor, your huddled masses are huddled -- it's cold out there. Last week, four homeless people in Santa Clara County froze to death.

Sleeping in San Francisco parks has long been illegal -- and a recent Scott Wiener ordinance created a uniform citywide ban on visiting city parks between midnight and 5 a.m. (debate over that proposal veered into the ethereal realm of parsing the difference between sleeping in a park and being in a park while sleeping). But, despite the spate of weather-related homeless deaths -- and, in fact, just as it was happening -- San Francisco Park officials were confiscating homeless campers' tents.

The above scene was documented on Thursday, Dec. 5 by ace photographer Jim Herd in the shadow of the Conservatory of Flowers.

That seizure, according to Herd, sparked the following interaction between a man and a woman who had formerly been occupying said tent:

Her: "The tent's gone? They took the fucking tent?"

Him: "I tried to stop them."

When asked if the Recreation and Parks Department has any guidelines about removing or confiscating tents during sub-freezing weather, spokeswoman Connie Chan merely quoted Park Code Section 3.12, which forbids camping in the park.

Queried further about whether this code was, in any way, eased during lethally cold weather, Chan noted that, "overall, you're not permitted to camp in the parks, you know what I mean?"

Well, that couple certainly does.

SF Weekly's query about the total number of tents removed or confiscated from city parks in the past 30 days is pending.

Update, 2:20 p.m.: Chan says that an estimate of "10 abandoned tents" were removed from the city's parks in the past month. The definition of "abandoned" is somewhat malleable, and it's not certain if the tent seen above in the back of the truck counts.

Chan also notes that three tons of illegally dumped detritus is removed from the parks -- every week.

Jim Herd
"They took the fucking tent?"

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When, not if the City is destroyed in the "Big One" will it still be illegal to sleep in the city parks?

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