Sunday, June 3, 2012

The discreet security guards of Union Square

Figures in red vests, the Union Square Business Improvement District's "Community Service Ambassadors," look after the uses of public space in San Francisco's Union Square. So do city police, and so do maintenance staff known in the BID as "taggers." That's an "ambassador" pictured in the background, in front of the green taxicab.

The diners in the foreground were at the Emporio Rulli food kiosk, where we picked up our takeout lunches for Friday's Lunching in Public picnic on the wonderful 1 Kearny roof terrace.

Today I've been glancing over the BID's April Operations Report. Inter much alia, it states, "...There were also 558 issues with Sit/Lie in the district, and ambassadors offered services to these folks, while letting them know of the laws." (Actually, per the tallies farther down, e.g. page 16, I think the correct number of times people were warned not to sit on the sidewalks was only 371.)

The report captions a picture of a busker with drums: "870 Market St. Non-compliant unpermitted performer." Irony seems implied, but in light of the further captioned photos starting Page 26 under "Transient Issues," possibly not.

On Page 10 we learn that in April there were 2843 "Tourist & Merchant Interactions" and, separately, 1083 incidents of "Public Assistance." The graph on Page 12 breaks down the "Public Assistance" into nine categories. All nine in fact refer to interference with some frowned-on activity by a member of the public: "Aggressive Panhandling," "25 MPC Issues" (that's the Municipal Police Code "trespassing" statute, mainly used for sleeping in doorways), "Trespassering [sic] & Loitering," "Drunk & Disorderly," "Illegal Vendors," "Noise Complaints & Street Musicians," "Mentally Disturbed," "Indecent Exposure," and "Demonstrations."

At the Emporio Rulli kiosk at the east end of the square, the wait staff hover around the outdoor enclosure with its cafe tables. Inside the handsomely Old World kiosk itself, the sense of security is such that half-full wine bottles are right out there on the counter.

How it works. No surprises. Just, this is how it works.

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