SF nudists told to put their pants on

Oct 4 2012 - 1:40pm

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco may be a let-it-all-hang-out kind of city, but a city supervisor has a message for the nudists who parade their wares in the city's plazas and sidewalks: Put your pants on.

Supervisor Scott Wiener this week proposed legislation that would ban the exposure of genitals or buttocks on all city sidewalks, plazas, parklets, streets and public transit.

Nudity would remain legal at street fairs, festivals and parades -- and thus, the Folsom Street Fair, Bay to Breakers and the Gay Pride Parade could remain as flesh-filled as ever. The legislation also wouldn't affect nudity at public beaches or on private property.

At Jane Warner Plaza at Castro and Market streets on Tuesday, the clothed sun worshipers were mostly relieved to hear that the Castro district's famous "naked guys" could soon be forced to be just regular, pants-wearing guys. As many as a dozen nudists gather almost daily in the neighborhood's town square.

"To me, it's uncivilized," griped Lawrence Snyder, a 70-year-old retiree who likes to read the newspaper at least once a week in the plaza. "Even the cavemen wore a little bit of fur, a little bit of leather."

There was one naked guy in the plaza at lunchtime on Tuesday. He arrived in business clothes, stripped down to his shoes, socks and sunglasses and ate a pasta salad.

Despite his very public display at one of the city's most crowded intersections, he declined to give his name for fear his boss or co-workers would find out how he spends his lunch hour.

"I don't see a reason for banning it," he said. "People who don't want to look just turn the other way. Most people just walk by like I'm a streetlight."

Most, but not all. A group of Korean tourists giggled and took photographs of each other in front of the naked guy, saying in halting English that they would never see such a thing in their country.

"It's amazing! He has a lot of confidence," one said.

But like Fisherman's Wharf, some attractions that are popular among tourists just don't translate to residents. Wiener said public nudity is the top complaint among his Castro district constituents. He said he actually hears the most complaints from gay residents.

"Some people say this is not what we fought for," he said. "Being able to expose your genitals at Castro and Market is not the goal of the LGBT civil rights movement."

Last year, Wiener passed legislation known as the "skid-mark law." That law, which passed the Board of Supervisors unanimously, requires nudists to place barriers between their bare bottoms and public chairs or benches, but many Castro residents complained that didn't go far enough.

"I thought it would work itself out, but unfortunately it didn't," Wiener said. "It's only gotten more extreme and over the top. A lot of people in the community have reached the end of their rope."

He said he has seen the naked guys publicly wearing genital jewelry designed to stimulate arousal. He's heard reports from others that the naked guys have publicly engaged in sexual touching and charge tourists $5 to take pictures with them.

The Mission Station police who patrol the area have said they've received an increasing number of complaints about public nudity, but that they can't do anything about it unless there's associated lewd behavior. Currently, San Francisco bans nudity only in parks and restaurants and on port property.

The only option a fed-up resident has is to file a citizen's complaint and testify in court that they were personally offended by the nudity, which Wiener said never happens.

Under his legislation, a naked person would receive a $100 fine for the first offense and a $200 fine for the second offense in a 12-month period. A third offense could result in either a third infraction ticket with a $500 fine or a misdemeanor. A conviction under the proposed law wouldn't constitute a sex offense. Nearby Berkeley and San Jose have similar bans on public nudity.

Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday that he supports Wiener's proposal.

"I can understand people like sunbathing, but let's have a level of balance here," he said. "On behalf of kids who shouldn't really have to view this, and on behalf of parents that walk their kids to school, we're going to create those balanced constrictions."

(San Francisco Chronicle staff writers John Cote and John Wildermuth contributed to this report. Heather Knight is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: hknight(at)sfchronicle.com.)

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, www.scrippsnews.com.)


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