Undressing in public will likely no longer go unpunished in San Francisco, as the Board of Supervisors voted by the barest of margins Tuesday to ban public nudity.
Derided by nudity defenders as an attack on personal expression and supported by others who’ve had enough of seeing those who let it all hang out, the legislation bans genital exposure on all city sidewalks, plazas, parklets, streets and public transit.
Supervisors Scott Wiener, David Chiu, Mark Farrell, Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu and Malia Cohen voted in favor of the measure while Supervisors Christina Olague, Jane Kim, John Avalos, David Campos and Eric Mar opposed it. If the proposal passes a second reading and is signed into law by Mayor Ed Lee, a supporter, it will take effect Feb 1.
Wiener, the sponsor of the proposal, admits he was reluctant to take the step of banning public nudity, but that the issue has evolved beyond the presence of a few naked guys in the Castro and is a growing problem that generates more complaints from his constituents than homelessness or Muni.
“It’s no longer a quirky part of San Francisco, it’s seven days a week,” said Wiener, who represents the Castro. “Many people in the neighborhoods are over it and want to take action.”
Yet some supervisors argued that since the nudity problem was primarily contained to the Castro, a citywide ban wasn’t needed.
“I question whether this rises to the level that it should be a priority,” said Campos, who worried about police resources being diverted from violent crime to naked men and women.
Olague and Avalos said they were concerned about the restriction of personal freedom.
“Sometimes there’s a little weirdness about how we express ourselves, but that’s a great thing about San Francisco,” Avalos said.
But Wiener said the slippery slope argument shouldn’t apply.
“I don’t agree that having yellow hair is the same as exposing your penis at a busy street corner for hours and hours,” he said.
The legislation exempts nudity at private beaches, private property and permitted special events – like Bay to Breakers or the Folsom Street Fair – and doesn’t apply to children under 5 years old.
Violators would be fined $100 for the first offense and $200 for the second in a 12-month period. Convictions under the proposed law wouldn’t result in a sex offense, but a third offense could bring a $500 fine or a misdemeanor.
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