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Poll: Should the City Fence the Homeless Out of Plazas?

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Troubled SoMa public space soon closed to the public

There are many proposed solutions for the city’s homeless problems: more housing, more treatment, more funding, more tough love. The latest proposal is a fence around a troubled plaza.

That’s the plan for McCoppin Hub, the public square near Market and Valencia Street, where the city has mulled a deterring encirclement for nearly a year now. Local blogger Michael Petrelis snagged some Department of Public Works documents that indicate that just such a fence will be in place by Labor Day.

"We expect the contractor’s proposal by July 29," says Public Works. The proposal is a bit more difficult and elaborate than you might expect, since it involves some not insignificant changes to the plaza infrastructure, including a small amount of demolition.

The whole affair is rather embarrassing. Just two years ago, the city touted McCoppin Hub as a centerpiece for community and activity at the dead end portion of Valencia.

Instead, locals complain that it’s a lure for drug use and nuisance crimes. The planned eight-foot barrier would be opened for public events, but locked up the rest of the time.

There would appear to be a built-in contradiction here: If the plaza is a public space, the public should presumably have access to it. "Installing this fence will not only keep the homeless out, it will keep all the rest of us locked outside too," the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence complained in an online petition circulated last year.

And of course, homeless rights advocates are quick to argue that shutting people out merely moves the problem around.

Still, neighbors seem to have limited patience for the don’t-fence-me-in crowd, as their vocal complaints throughout last year are what sparked the fence initiative in the first place. Indeed, according to Hoodline, some people have been asking for a fence since the plaza first opened.

So what do you think? Should the city throw up the gates? Or does the public’s right to public property beat all?