Thursday, August 9, 2007
The Great Pumpkin will skip San Francisco this year.
City officials said Wednesday that there will be no official Halloween celebration anywhere in San Francisco in October - not in the Castro neighborhood, the traditional home of the event, and not at a parking lot near AT&T Park, which had been considered as an alternate site.
"There will be no party," said Audrey Joseph, president of the city's Entertainment Commission.
Officials had been quietly working on plans to snuff out the Castro event, where a shooting last year injured nine people. The goal had been to instead hold a large outdoor concert near the ballpark. But the concert promoter has pulled out of the effort, and there is not enough time to find another, Joseph said.
But officials are still trying to prevent any festivities in the Castro. On Wednesday, Supervisor Bevan Dufty sent a letter to 110 owners of bars, restaurants and stores in the Castro, asking them to close shop on Halloween night to discourage partygoers.
The Halloween event was marred by violence last year after the shooting near the main stage on Market Street. Another person was injured as the crowd fled the area. Dufty and other city leaders had already been concerned about violence at the event, including the potential for attacks on members of the city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population.
Halloween traditionally has been a major community event - sometimes referred to as the "gay Christmas" - but Dufty said that era has passed.
"It's not a holiday in the Castro. It's a night in which the neighborhood is overrun by people who come to gawk, not celebrate, and unfortunately it turns into gang night out in the Castro," he said.
To quell the Castro event, which draws several hundred thousand people, no roads will be closed, no barriers will be erected and no portable bathrooms will be set up, Dufty said. Police will be out in numbers akin to last Halloween, but they will be patrolling with "zero tolerance" for anyone breaking the law, he said.
Dufty has commitments from five businesses in the Castro to close on Halloween night, and he will try to persuade more to do so at a community meeting in the neighborhood next week.
One business that will close that night is Café Flore, one of the neighborhood's most well-known establishments.
"It's normally a big-money night, but it's just too crazy," said Doug Forrester, who manages the cafe, which is a few yards from where the shooting occurred last year.
The city is working with the Convention and Visitors Bureau to encourage people to support business that agree to close by patronizing the establishments on other nights. The city also wants to promote private events at museums and other locations. The city also plans to hire a public relations firm to put out the message within a 100-mile radius that there will be no large, public event in San Francisco.
City leaders had hoped to offer an alternative event to the Castro. The popular singer Pink had given a verbal commitment to play a show at the other venue, and there also were plans for a motocross event there, along with DJs and other bands.
But the promoter the city was working with on the event, Big Billy Inc., decided the Halloween party would be too much to handle, as it is putting on the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park earlier that month.
Also, neighbors in Mission Bay, Potrero Hill and other areas around the ballpark had complained to the city that they had not been consulted on the plans for the concert near their homes.
Castro area residents have similarly complained about the lack of public involvement in Halloween planning. After last year's violence, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Dufty announced they would convene a task force to analyze the problems and organize a 2007 event.
That task force never met because it was unanimous among city department heads - and residents who contacted those departments - that there should be no Castro Halloween, thus eliminating the need for a task force, said Nathan Ballard, Newsom's spokesman.
Despite that opposition to a Castro Halloween, some residents in the area do think the party could go on with more planning.
"Other cities do this kind of thing all the time, and you don't hear about excessive violence, you don't hear about gay bashing," said Alix Rosenthal, who unsuccessfully challenged Dufty during his re-election campaign last year and made the Halloween event a central issue. She said she thinks that the city has not put enough resources into the event to make it successful.
And Café Flore's Forrester said he is curious to see how many people still show up in the Castro.
"It's going to be interesting, to say the least," he said.
E-mail Wyatt Buchanan at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page B - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle