San Francisco to consider banning public nudity

San Francisco

Pedestrians stop and take photos of the participants of the NUDE IN event near Castro Street Plaza on Sept. 24, 2011. Photo by Hang Cheng / Special to Xpress

Daring to be bare might result in a hefty fine following the introduction of proposed legislation that could ban public nudity in San Francisco.

The legislation has been brought on by the influx of nudists spending their afternoons at the Jane Warner Plaza at the corner of 17th and Market streets.

Scott Wiener — supervisor of District 8, which includes the Castro — introduced the legislation Oct. 2 following a recent increase in public nudity and a number of complaints.

Despite nudity currently being prohibited at parks and restaurants, this legislation would stretch that ban to include nudity in public spaces such as streets, sidewalks, plazas and public transit systems. Violators would be fined $100. If caught again within a year, the fine would increase to $200 and a third violation could result in a misdemeanor. Still, nudity would continue to be permitted at parades, fairs, festivals and public beaches.

“I thought this was something that would come and go, but I’ve been hearing complaints about (nudity) every day and something has to be done,” Wiener said.

Previous to the introduction of this legislation, the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance commonly referred to as the “skid mark law” last year, which Wiener also drafted. It requires nudists to put down a pad or towel when sitting down in a public shared space.

Rich Pasco, founder and coordinator of the Bay Area Naturists, believes that passing the new legislation would violate certain freedoms.

“I’m not sure what Wiener’s intention is here, but the government has no business in setting dress codes,” Pasco said.

Bay Area Naturists is a collective of nudists who believe in the wholesomeness of the human body and living out their daily lives clothing free. They are in support of making more space available for nudists.

“We don’t need to be making laws, we need to be designating certain areas for acceptable nudity,” Pasco said.

Pasco has been a participant in the annual Bay to Breakers foot race for the past 12 years. He said he has always received positive feedback and hardly any complaints while running nude.

“People will say ‘Go, naked people, go!’ but a vast majority of the general public don’t really care,” Pasco said.

California does not presently have a law in place that bans nudity, although the indecent exposure law results in a misdemeanor if violated. Indecent exposure is also known as public indecency and requires sexual intent or a lewd act in combination with exposure of genitals.

“Jane Warner Plaza serves as a town square in the Castro. Use of this small space as a nudist colony is fun for the nudists, but not the neighborhood as a whole,” Wiener said.

Those who frequent the area tend to agree.

Mark Mornin a customer service representative at ROLO, a shop located on Market Street, works just a stone’s throw away from the plaza.

“I’m tired of it. I think there is a time and place for nudity, like the Folsom Street Fair and such, but it’s just not an everyday thing I want to see,” Mornin said. “Customers come in all the time with shocked faces and I honestly think it’s bringing down our neighborhood.”

Jeff Cope, a senior philosophy major at SF State, believes the ban contradicts San Francisco’s character.

“If this isn’t the place where you can bare it all, I don’t know where else you could,” Cope said. “It’s a freedom we have here in San Francisco to live and let live.”

The proposal was pushed to the City Operations and Neighborhood Services Committee Oct. 2 for review, and then passed along to the Board of Supervisors.

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