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Posted 7:00 am
October 19, 2012

Supervisor Wiener's nudity ban would strip San Francisco's culture

From Bay to Breakers to Folsom Street Fair and SF Pride Parade, people flock to the city to see what San Francisco’s culture is about. It’s fairly safe to say there’s nothing like an SF party once the clothes start coming off.

However, in the last year, city Supervisor Scott Wiener has begun to crack down on the city’s public nudity policies. In November 2011, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed one of his legislations, San Francisco Penal Code 1070.1, prohibiting nudity in restaurants and on public benches. Wiener — who represents the Castro, Noe Valley and Glen Park neighborhoods as a part of District 7 — introduced new legislation Oct. 4 to ban nudity on streets, plazas, parklets and public transportation.

Wiener created the legislation to protect innocent bystanders from the exposure to genitalia, and although the intention has great value, the idea of controlling where someone can get naked needs to be revisited.

If you’ve visited any of San Francisco’s events, you’re more likely going to pay attention to a fire truck’s blaring sirens or a homeless person’s rant than a naked individual walking down the street. As a San Francisco native, I’ve encountered my fair share of public nudity at a very young age, from the countless events around the city and I’ve never felt uncomfortable seeing men or women exposed. I’ve always believed nudity is synonymous with freedom and self-love and it is evident in those who express it by letting it all hang out.

In San Francisco, nudity is prohibited in public parks, on benches and if used for sexual purposes. For example, flashers and those engaged in sexual acts are in violation of the law. On the other hand, nudity in California is legal as long as it’s not done in a sexual demeanor. California Penal Code 647(a) states, “a person violates when he/she solicits anyone to engage in or engages in lewd or dissolute conduct in any public place or in any place open to the public or exposed to public view.”

Wiener thought about proposing the ordinance earlier in his political career, but believed the issue “would run its course and that the legislation wouldn’t be necessary, but it did not and instead it has gotten more extreme,” according to his website. After receiving complaints from his constituents about the increasing number of nudists congregating at Jane Warner Plaza on a daily basis, Wiener decided it was time to address the issue again.

I am in favor of banning nudity on public transportation for sanitation reasons. Each time I sit down on a Muni seat, I should not have to worry about whose cheeks were on it last. I don’t even want to imagine standing on a crowded bus or train. Other than that, the ordinance is utterly ridiculous because it allows the city to regulate what individuals can do with their own bodies, which should never happen. Nudity shouldn’t be controlled by law.

In this age where people are insecure about their body weight, why not learn from nudists who believe in being comfortable in their skin, and thus exposing all of it? Not only should public nudity continue to be legal, but it also should be respected and embraced. Public nudity is not sexual, it’s liberation.

  • eddie

    I agree. I wrote Weiner about this, saying that a blanket ban was not the answer, but he disagreed saying that anything less would not be effective

  • david

    i disagree with you completely. i live in the castro and i believe for some of these men it is sexual. one of the more vocal of the naked guys who lives in miraloma park even has a website offering so many minutes of viewing “risky public sex,” for something like $19.95. i am not offended by nudity, but seriously it has gotten out of hand. i don’t need to see men waving their genitalia at me morning, noon and night. i can’t even go to the store to buy a loaf of bread without some guy trying to put his junk in my face. i think it’s wonderful noemy that you think nuidty is wonderful. why don’t you speak with david campos and try to get a nude plaza at 24th street and alabama. i’m sure all those hardworking mexican men and women will love seeing all the old, fat naked white guys sitting around all day naked!

  • Russell Mills

    Eddie: I urge you to write to the other supervisors, too. Wiener is not interested in your views. He’s already made up his mind, and he has lied about the situation in the Castro in order to demonize the nudists and turn the public against them.

    Supervisor contact info is at:
    http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=1616

  • Russell Mills

    David: You have misrepresented the situation in the Castro. First, nobody could possibly have “put his junk in your face” while you were walking down the street. And none of the nudists would have done that even if you were sitting down.

    Second, the guy who sells videos of “risky public sex” didn’t film his videos on Castro Street as you’re implying. I’ve seen his work, and it consists of two types of activities: non-sexual footage of naked people in public places, and sexual footage at outdoors locations where there are no unwitting spectators present (such as the Folsom Street Fair). So your complaint about the videos is irrelevant to the issue.

    Third, your remark about trying to get a nude plaza on Alabama Street is senseless. Would you tell a gay person who is fighting for equal rights to “try going to Iran and ask for equal rights”? If you did, you would leave people scratching their heads in puzzlement.

  • Pete Sferra

    Excellent article! In response to David, the vast majority of “urban nudists” are good and respectful folks like my wife Laura and me. In the several times we’ve roamed around nude in the city we’ve received just one negative comment. Most people are indifferent but a good number engage us with warm comments. One mother with two young children smiled as we passed her and said “Beautiful day for a walk!” Another young woman actually thanked us for being “the kind of people who help to make San Francisco unique and special”. We don’t do it for the reactions, but the overwhelmingly positive comments have been reassuring.

    There will always be the few who push it too far, but they will be there whether nudity is legal or not. The law is already quite capable of handling lewdness, as well it should be. But to “criminalize the human body” is just plain wrong, especially in San Francisco. Passing this law will make San Francisco “just like every other city”. Is that what the citizens really want? My sense is that folks here are proud of the tolerance shown to alternative lifestyles of ALL kinds, whether they personally believe in them or not.

  • Kevin

    I live and work in the Castro, just two blocks from the plaza where the nudists tend to go, and the naked guys don’t bother me. I love that I live in a City that has a live-and-let-live attitude. Really, “only in _____” is an expression that gets overused, but one that tends to be more apt for San Francisco than anywhere else.

    Sexual activity is already illegal under state law. The police are well aware of that state law, according to SF Gate articles from several years ago, and originally tried to use that law as a basis for arresting nudists. I’ve never seen any sexual activity occurring, but if it were to, existing law can and should be enforced — and I have no doubt that police would have no hesitation in doing so. New legislation is not needed.

  • corona heights bear

    i live in the castro and i support wiener’s ban 100% and from my conversations with my neighbors, they are in complete agreement with me. the fact that these nudists are over the hill and out of shape and in deperate need of attention does not bother me. the fact that they are even naked in public does not bother me. but the fact that they act like complete jerks does bother me. i agree with david: the nudists need to take their cause to the other neighborhoods. i wish we could live in a clothes-free world but it’s not going to begin with this small group of jerks that have taken over and disrupted the neighborhood. the nudists should take what they have learned from the castro experiment and take it to another neighborhood. maybe they can have more success in another neighborhood, but they have burned their bridges in the castro big time.

  • Pete Sferra

    To “Corona Heights Bear”, I am always sympathetic to anyone’s concern over bad behavior but shouldn’t that be dealt with on an individual basis? The vast majority of “urban nudists” are responsible folks who treat the neighborhoods with respect and who find offensive behavior just as ojectionable as you do. My wife and I feverishly support community businesses, typically buying both lunch and dinner (clothed of course!) on our visits and we give our money to all manner of eager shop owners as well.

    The Castro has long had a reputation for being particularly tolerant of alternative lifestyles and this, of course, is why the nudist phenomenon seems to have blossomed there. But it’s not the only area where you’ll find nude folks strolling around. We’ve enjoyed time in the Haight and a few surrounding neighborhoods and as I mentioned earlier have had just one negative comment (among MANY positive and enthusiastic ones). If this ban is defeated, you will likely see nudists shifting more of their activity to other areas.

    I do respect your feelings and believe you when you share that your neighbors agree with you. That said, a great many people who have no vested interest in public nudity have been expressing the opposite sentiment and the common thread seems to be that a draconian all-city ban is far too high a price to pay to solve what seems to be more of a neighborhood problem.

    Scott Wiener has claimed that the perceived nudist congestion in Jane Warner Plaza is the primary catalyst for this controversy. Though just how “congested” the Plaza has become is open to debate, responsible nudist leaders (and there are many) are eager to build bridges and be seen as a positive element of the community. These leaders have offered to educate their ranks and try to effect some positive change (a process that has already found significant success). After a Eureka Valley community meeting where relatively little opposition was voiced, Wiener told several of them (and me as well) that he was willing to take some time to see if self-policing could improve the situation. He put that in writing (to me anyway) just a few days before going ahead with the total ban. That doesn’t sound like a man who is in any way looking for a “middle ground” that would beneif the maximum number of his constituents. Isn’t that what a supervisor is supposed to do?

    There are MANY “compromise” solutions that would ease the perceived issues some might have in the Castro (not least of which would simply be to ban nudity in the Plaza itself). Apparently, none of these “win-win” solutions are viable in Wiener’s mind and the only answer is the eradication of a group of people that he and his supporters have deemed to be “unacceptable” on the streets of the city. Is that what San Francisco wants?

    Just for the record, I’ve had a good many citizens approach me at recent rallies and they believe that basic civil rights are an important part of San Francisco’s make-up. Among many other issues of choice, they support our right to decide what to wear on a warm afternoon. Isn’t there a solution to this dilemma that doesn’t require the city to take backward steps? I certainly hope so because this law, if passed, will help to significantly diminish San Francisco’s enviable record of accepting ALL diverse groups of people.

    • Thatsthewayitis

      You hide behind lots of words. It is offensive behavior, period. Just go back to your backyard with this behavior.

  • angela

    Forgive me for my irreverence, but I think the nude guys are offending people because – having seen them – they are a glaring reminder of death, old age, and sickness. I wish the mothers with their baby strollers would come back to the neighborhood.

  • Carlos M Chapa

    If nudity is immoral for many, many people (including myself), they should just ban it. Yet I don’t know if this will happen because (honestly speaking) San Francisco is known for its “diversity”: A large gay population; a huge number of satanic cult members; and money, lots of money (surprised?).

  • Pete Sferra

    Carlos, the problem is . . . who gets to determine what’s “immoral” in a free society? You find the unclothed human body to be immoral, others celebrate its beauty. I guess that’s what the “diversity” you mentioned is all about.

    And Angela, I’m sorry the only thing nudists remind you of is “death, old age, and sickness”. That’s sad. The mothers with strollers are still out there. My wife and I have seen a number of moms with kids and none of them have seemed the least bit upset by our presence. Maybe they’ve got a different perspective on things.

    • Thatsthewayitis

      or maybe you are so deluded that your behavior is acceptable that you didn’t notice that they were offended …

  • Pete Sferra

    Carlos, your short list of what constitutes “diversity” is clearly troubling on several levels, none of which I need to elaborate on. What I would like to say is that the last item on your list . . . “lots of money” . . . is an all-too-common driver behind actions like Scott Wiener’s proposed ban on nudity. The idea that a relatively small group of influential citizens could take a neighborhood concern they have and turn it into a controversy that may result in a city wide ban on something that’s been a part of the San Francisco scene for years is pretty scary. I hope this legislation gets derailed for a number of reasons and I’d feel the very same way even if I wasn’t a nudist.

  • bruno tosci

    pete sferra: boy, are you self deluded? you think the ban against public nudity is being driven by a”small group of individuals” and and all the mothers and their babies out for thier stroll just love running into you? what planet are you from? let me put it to you straight. you broke the social contract. you tried to create a new paradigm. you picked the most tolerant neighborhood in the city. and guess what, you got your ass whipped. the majority of the gays don’t like you. even real nudists are disgusted, by you. the castro beat up city hall and the police department to please make you go away and now you pleading for your case here trying to tell us that all the old ladies and babies love seeing you. grow up. you lost the case. the legislation will go through. you are a pervert, nothing less. end of story.

    • Pete Sferra

      Bruno, I resisted responding to your comment largely because of the hateful way you closed it. You do not know anything about me, other than that I enjoy the freedom of not wearing clothes on a warm day, wherever the law and local customs happen to allow. If that makes me a pervert in your mind, I feel very sorry for you. San Francisco sets the bar for tolerance of alternative lifestyles and this is true of the entire city, not just your neighborhood. With that said, I feel compelled to clarify a few points.

      I never said anyone “loved seeing us”. What I said was that we have encountered a good many people who have treated us warmly and who have conveyed a remarkable attitude of grace and tolerance, something San Francisco has long been famous for. And whether you care to believe it, some of those folks did in fact offer encouraging comments. They clearly place value in their city’s willingness to accept groups that may be “different” from the mainstream.

      “Urban nudists” have most certainly tried to create a new social paradigm and I tend to believe that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, such social evolution always brings hate-mongering detractors. Perhaps sometime you could elaborate on just why a responsible individual simply choosing to enjoy a (legal) nude stroll warrants such vitriolic disdain from you and those “many” who you claim agree with you. And maybe you can take the time to explain how my wife and I roaming around the town nude cause any harm to you or anyone else?

      Clearly you’re one of those who is offended by naked people in public and I respect your right to feel that way. I’m not sure whether you’re angrier at nudists in general or the handful of “bad apples” who probably caused most of the unrest in the Castro but it’s really sad that a solution cannot be found where everyone can share the streets peacefully. As much as it pains me, I tend to believe you’re probably correct when you say Scott Wiener’s legislation will pass, city politics being what they are. He is a very influential and driven man and his neighborhood concern will likely precipitate a sweeping city-wide ban for everyone. So rest easy, Bruno, it’ll soon be safe to walk the streets and not see folks like us who are deemed “unacceptable” by people like you.

      And while we’re at it, let’s talk about “people like you”. Your mindless assertion that gays don’t like us and even “real” nudists (presumably the ones who, like you, believe “our kind” should remain in isolated walled “colonies” away from society?) are disgusted by us speaks volumes to your own prejudice. My guess is that you’re not basing this on any genuine research but for the record, a recent scientific poll (with a 3 percent margin of error) posed to San Francisco residents the statement “I am offended by public nudity”. Over 48 percent of responders STRONGLY disagreed, while a further 17 percent mildly disagreed! This means over 63 percent of your fellow citizens have no issue whatsoever with nudists sharing the streets with them, and most of that 63 percent strongly believe in their right to do so. I guess the “gays and nudists” you’re authoritaively speaking for must fall in the other 37 percent, eh? Oh, and before you dismiss this data you should know that the study was performed by a highly respected national organization.

      So there you have it. My two cents worth, and maybe a few pennies more. Scott Wiener’s nudity ban will probably come to pass. It will eradicate the nudists that you loathe so much, but it will also serve to diminish San Francisco’s enviable reputation as a bastion of tolerance. That’s a shame.

      • Thatsthewayitis

        Nudity in public is not social evolution. Pete Sferra’s wordy dialogue continues to ignore the simple fact that this selfish behavior is offensive to others. Period.

    • Russell Mills

      Bruno Tosci, you are mentally ill. Nothing less. End of story.

  • Pete Sferra

    Please forgive my questionable math (never one of my strong points). 48 plus 17 would actually constitute a 65 percent approval rating, not 63.

  • Eva Romo

    As someone that has lived , worked , and raised kids in the Castro district ,I support those brave men and women who have given us the freedom to be who we are , and what makes this city great. To create a total ban on nudity would be intolerable and shameful.
    In the past year I have never seen any lewd acts or sexual misconduct in Jane Warner plaza . I have spent many afternoons walking by and have never seen anything close to lewd. Yes, maybe the men aren’t all buff and in there early 20′s ,but when does being old and saggy constitute being repulsive and lewd! Like I overheard one bar owner/ manager telling a police officer outside a Castro bar, “There would be no need for a ban if they were all better looking”. Nude is not Lewd. Being lewd is a crime and as a society there is no place for it.
    The issue I believe is that those that are offended, are offended because the nudists are older and some are a little saggy!.
    I have enjoyed a few afternoons at the plaza, and both times I observed a naked man sitting alone and reading. What I did observe, were homeless and a drunken man yelling out profanities and panhandling. So what is the real issue? As it is , our city supervisors have banned free grocery bags. Now nudity! What’s next?!!!!!! Outlawing sodas? Greasy French fries? Kissing in public? Stop the insanity!!!
    San Franciscans, wake up!!!

  • Eva Romo

    Please speak up! This has become a very political issue. It is politically motivated . It has created a lot of buzz for Scott Weiner. He has been quoted and interviewed on Fox news, all major TV and cable networks and was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, all about this issue! Not bad for someone that has higher aspirations than city council
    man! What’s next? Scott Weiner for mayor!!

    Mr Weiner. How can you be in support of the truly LEWD behavior at Folsom( not by all, but by some) and against non lewd behavior (by none) in the Castro? I am confused and baffled by your legislation. Does the city tolerate lewdness at Folsom and Dore, because 400,000 people attend and millions of dollars in tax revenues are generated?

    Confused? Me too!!

  • Pete Sferra

    Eva, your two posts REALLY moved me and I wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for so eloquently sharing your feelings!

  • Eva Romo

    This is about civil liberty! Freedom, justice
    and the civil rights of all minorities.
    Mr Weiner,
    If you were to run for office in any other city( with the exception of Key West and Palm Springs) you wouldn’t stand a chance, no matter what your platform was . A gay and Jewish man, running for political office in Alabama, Mississipi, Kansas, or Ohio wouldn’t stand a chance of winning. Why is that?
    This is exactly what makes the Bay Area special. We are open minded ,accepting and tolerant. Thats why i chose to raise my 2 kids in the Castro.
    Respect the wishes of the minority. Stand up for civil liberties and you will be remembered !
    What will your legacy be? One that proposes legislation based on lies(cock rings?)
    By the way , your ban on free grocery bags will lead and has lead to an increase in shoplifting and crime!

  • Thereyago

    This is a simple issue. If someone wants to be a nudist, there are private nudist clubs where they can exercise this desire in the company of those who share similar desires. In public, however, this should not be allowed. Why should I have to explain to my children why that person(s) is walking around without any clothes on? The opinions expressed below are similar to those from gun owners, who insist on declaring “their rights”, without any consideration of others. Want to walk around nude? Do it in your own backyard, or at a nudist club, or a nude beach, or in a place where it is expected and/or allowed. Don’t just do it wherever you want, and then cite your “right” to do so. I have an equal right to walk around without seeing you naked, and public sentiment seems to support my right more than yours.

    • Thatsthewayitis

      There ya go, Thereyago! Well stated.