420 Day in the Haight Ashbury

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By Joey Cain, HANC Board

img 6630 420 hippy hillThe annual celebration of pot known as "420" Day held on April 20th came to the Haight Ashbury again this year. Both the City of SF and the Rec and Parks Department were much better prepared than in previous years to handle the tens of thousands of participants who flooded into the neighborhood for it. In fact, some might say there was a bit of overkill in the street closures that were in effect. 

Street closure overkill?

Haight Street from Masonic to Stanyan was closed from about 10 a.m. to around 7 p.m. and both Waller and Page Streets were shut down as well, something that does not even happen for the Haight Street Fair which draws many more folks than the 420 celebration. Stanyan Street from Page to Frederick Streets was also closed all day long. It was definitely not a day to be coming to the Haight in a car!

As the crowds started to leave what is the holy ground and high point for the event attendees, 4:20 pm on Hippy Hillimg 6654muni loading after 420 in Golden Gate Park, Muni seems to have had added many more buses to move folks out of the neighborhood. There were at least 12 Muni staff people working all day long at Masonic and Haight and a sizable contingent working the N Judah stop at Parnassus and Cole as well. Coming to the event by Muni proved challenging. I rode an N Judah from Fourth and Townsend about 2 pm that day and by the time we reached Powell Street it was packed and no one could get on for the rest of the trip until it reached the Cole Street stop. The next run was scheduled 13 minutes later. I have been told the surface buses were no better.

Trash collection on both Haight Street and in the Park was better organized this year, with at least one local Medical Marijuana Club providing volunteers to pick up garbage during the event in the Park. However, lots of trash was left in the Park. While some cardboard temporary trash containers were put out, many more would have gone a long way towards solving the problem.

The Rec and Park department seems truly clueless on how to deal with events that are unplanned and have no profit motive organizer for them enforce their "pay to play in the public parks" policies with. If you know are going to have 40,000 people show up for an unplanned event, you provide port-a-potties and garbage cans. The widely media quoted $10, 000 that it supposedly cost the park to pick up the garbage could have been better spent with some intelligent planning by Rec and Park.

Most merchants on Haight Street had a terrible day business-wise, with all the street closures and the media warnings about how crowded the area would be. The one upside is that the event publicizes the Haight Ashbury nationally which will only helps draw tourists to the area which will pay off in future business for the merchants.

Racially-diverse crowds

I go to many public outdoor events in the City and one thing that struck me was how racially diverse the crowds were attending 420. It obviously speaks to the cross-cultural appeal of pot.

Credit should go to Supervisor London Breed for pushing Muni to improve service this year. Let's hope next year she can get the street closures cut back a bit and push Rec and Park to get its act together.

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