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Nudity Ban Effective Feb 1. Pending Lee’s Signature

By Daniela Przybyszewska

The days of seeing legally naked people on the streets of San Francisco are over. With exceptions, of course.

On November 20th the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 6 to 5 and the ban on public nudity was approved in a tumultuous meeting that included the disrobing and detaining of a group of protesters.

District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener said he introduced the ordinance as a result of numerous complaints he had received. According to him, the number of nudists has increased over time and many residents and business owners in the area are far from thrilled.

The nudity situation in the Castro has become extreme,” said Wiener, pointing out that in the last two years it has reached a peak. Some say that the ban against public nudity is a violation of the right of free expression. But the Supervisor disagrees.

Displaying one’s genitals on a public sidewalk, plaza, or bus isn’t free expression. It’s behavior, and it’s appropriate to restrict it. My legislation is very narrow, not only in the body parts covered but also in its broad exemption for street fairs and parades. It also has no effect on people’s ability to be nude on beaches,” Wiener stated, stressing on the fact that his legislation strikes a reasonable balance for public nudity in the city.

The question is why now? Public nudity has existed in San Francisco for many years, but it has never been an issue. Recently, according to Wiener, some residents started to voice their concerns and displeasure. His explanation is that the city hasn’t seen this level of exhibitionism before.

The Castro used to have random and occasional public nudity in the neighborhood, and few cared about it. The extreme, seven-day-a-week public nudity we’re now seeing is recent, which is why the complaints are recent,” he said.

Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association (EVNA) President Alan Beach agrees. He points out that at the beginning public nudity was amusing to him, it was something that could only happen in San Francisco. But when the number of nudists started increasing, more tourists began to come and take pictures of them and there was even national media coverage. According to Beach, sometimes at Jane Warner Plaza the number of naked people would be up to 16 and he found this to be too much of a concentration.

I would also be unhappy if the Plaza was taken over by girls scouts or cheerleaders; if they were constantly taking over the stage, I would be uncomfortable with that,” stated Beach, arguing that the practice has become less about nudism and more about exhibitionism. And he recalls that the first more serious complaints started back in 2009 as a result of this exhibitionism. “They started wearing cock rings. Some of the guys getting themselves partially aroused, that’s when it actually became a problem. A cock ring is designed to keep you aroused. You are not being a nudist anymore, now you are being an exhibitionist and this in my opinion is a violation of the law,” Beach explains saying that the whole situation has gone too far.

Beach also points out that although many think that the loudest complainers about the ban are the rich businesses in the neighborhood, the facts are different.

It was more the gay people on our board who thought that this has been enough,” he said, explaining that he himself is a little torn about the ban. Beach points out that he likes the fact that he lives in a city where something that unique could happen even though some people go too far.

Castro Community Benefit District Director Andrea Aiello also believes that this exhibitionism has to stop. “The situation has become extreme and over the top, so legislation had to be passed to clarify what behaviors are being appropriate and what behaviors aren’t.” Aiello states that most of the people who live in the neighborhood are for the ban on public nudity.

Despite some beliefs that the ban could possibly change the character of the city, Scott Wiener disagrees.

The extreme and regular public nudity we’re seeing is quite recent, two years old at the most. The current situation is not the spirit of San Francisco. Rather, it’s a caricature of the spirit of San Francisco. The Castro, and San Francisco generally, will continue to be a tolerant, accepting, interesting and diverse city,” he said.

Nudity in public places will be subject to fines. Under the new ordinance, a first-time violator will be charged up to $100. A second violation within the same year would be up to $200 while a third would cost up to $500 or up to one year in prison.

Nudists have already sued the city over the ban, and pending Mayor Lee’s signature, a judge will consider whether to block the law at a hearing scheduled for Jan. 17.