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San Francisco removes boulders put out by residents to deter homeless

Dan Simon/CNN

Boulders put out by a group of San Francisco neighbors to deter homelessness and drug dealing have been removed by the city, Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru said Monday.

The neighbors raised more than $2,000 through Facebook for 24 boulders, which they put on the sidewalks after they said the city wouldn’t help them.

Nuru said the boulders were removed because in the past few weeks people were pushing them into the street, which he said is very unsafe. His agency was responsible for pushing the rocks back onto the sidewalk, and he said it became a daily occurrence and wasted city time.

Nuru also said the neighbors were getting calls from homeless advocates and were receiving hate mail.

“We’re at the drawing board now. We’re definitely going to look at some of the things we have learned,” Nuru said. “It could be bigger boulders, it could be some kind of landscaping, it could be something different, but we’re going to work with the neighbors on something they want.”

The boulders are being held at a public works facility, Nuru said, and the agency is working with neighbors on the cost of the rock removal.

City spokeswoman Rachel Gordon had said last week the city didn’t plan on moving the boulders, and she said officials were actually looking for ways to sanction them so they could remain in place.

Nuru said Monday he agrees with the neighbors’ approach and that their initiative to protect their neighborhood was a great partnership with the city, but it was a temporary fix to the problem. He said homelessness is a challenging problem for not just San Francisco, but the entire West Coast.

“We’re talking with our colleagues all over the place,” Nuru said. “This is a unique solution and it actually seemed to have worked.”

Neighbors had mixed feelings about the boulders, they told CNN. Some said they thought the boulders should have been bolted down, while others, such as Greg Aherne, said they thought the rocks sent the wrong message.

“I believe there is a better answer than blocking that sidewalk. I don’t like drug use and I don’t like homelessness, but forcing these cats into the street is not the answer. That’s not the way we do it in San Francisco. We’ve got to find a better answer,” Aherne said.

“It shows how desperate we are. We don’t know what to do. So we put up rocks — we put up boulders on our sidewalk — it’s not right.”


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