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Giant Pride-colored rock outside Castro restaurant sparks controversy

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Eatery’s Zen aesthetic mistakenly slammed as anti-homeless tactic

Earlier this month, Izakaya Sushi Ran, a Japanese restaurant on Market Street in the Castro, painted the giant rock that sits in its sidewalk alcove rainbow colors in observation of LGBTQ Pride.

The restaurant even dubbed itself “home of the rainbow rock” on its Instagram account, so proud was it of the colorful accoutrement.

But not everyone appreciated the display. Last week, the Coalition On Homelessness circulated a picture of the installation on Twitter along with the sarcastic observation, “When you wanna look inclusive but hate homeless people.”

The tweet, which has since been deleted, gathered ire around the internet. However, this observation turned out to be much ado about nothing, as the Coalition later conceded in a series of tweets that the large stone is, in fact, part of the restaurant’s Zen-inspired aesthetic.

The rock has been sitting on the sidewalk for years, and only started attracting new attention thanks to its multi-hued paint job.

“Ya’ll, we made a mistake! While rocks r a common [part] of anti-homeless architecture, this particular rock is NOT. It’s a Japanese garden,” said the Coalition On Homeless. “Izakaya Sushi is a valued member of the community and is supportive of its homeless neighbors. We apologize [and] offer deep appreciation to the staff.”

Restaurant management also says that homeless people sometimes sleep in their entryway after hours without disturbance.

Many private and public bodies in San Francisco resort to anti-homeless architecture, like spikes or large obstructions, to discourage homeless residents from sleeping or sitting in likely spaces, particularly on busy thoroughfares like Market Street.

Seemingly decorative rocks in unexpected places really are a common means of driving out the homeless, often situated under bridges or other spots of likely shelter. In 2017, the city attempted to discourage tent encampments under SF freeways by moving large rocks into prime spots.

As the design blog 99 Percent Invisible points out, critics argue that such measures “move problems around, forcing homeless populations, for example, to occupy more dangerous areas with less public visibility” without actually solving the problems of homelessness.