Issue:  Vol. 47 / No. 42 / 19 October 2017
 

City officials detail Halloween plans

NEWS


m.bajko@ebar.com

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The city may not be officially hosting any Halloween events in the Castro this year, but come October 31 residents of the city's gay neighborhood are likely to think otherwise.

Parking restrictions will be in effect along the area's main thoroughfares. Police barricades will be positioned at various intersections should the streets need to be shut down. And more than 500 police officers and sheriff's deputies will be stationed in the Castro, said to be the largest contingent of safety officers ever deployed to deal with the mayhem associated with Halloween.

Police and fire officials said this week they need to have the safety measures in place in case people do not hear – or simply ignore – the city's message that there will be no Halloween street party in the Castro this year.

"Although the city is not going to have an event in the Castro we need to be sure we have the resources if people do show up," said Police Chief Heather Fong.

Mayor Gavin Newsom's administration is banking on a Bay Area-wide marketing campaign to spread the word that people should either stay home Halloween night, or if they do decide to come into San Francisco, to plan to attend events outside of the Castro.

By early September city officials hope to have a budget in place and contract signed with a public relations firm to handle the messaging plan. The city's Convention and Visitors Bureau will also be highlighting Halloween events throughout the Bay Area for people to attend on its Web site, in e-mails, and through press releases to various publications and media outlets.

"We know we have a targeted audience we need to reach with the message that there is no Halloween in the Castro and that there will be nothing there for anybody to come and see," said Martha Cohen, an aide to Mayor Gavin Newsom, during a press briefing Tuesday, August 21.

The briefing came five days after a meeting with business owners and residents of the Castro at which city officials were criticized for having few answers to how they would deal with those people who descend on the neighborhood expecting to find the annual street party. City Administrator Ed Lee said department heads and city administrators learned roughly four weeks ago of the decision to officially cancel the Castro Halloween event and have been meeting ever since to implement the change.

"Once the decision was made, for lack of a better word, canceling or not having a regional party in the Castro on Halloween we have been meeting to get a plan ready," said Lee. "Communication will be key in order to let people know there is no regional party."

Some ideas being considered on how best to advertise that message include working with regional news outlets, radio stations and Web sites; handing out fliers to commuters on the region's various public transit systems; and stationing electronic message boards around city streets alerting motorists to the fact that the Castro Halloween party has been canceled.

The city has asked businesses in the Castro to close early on Halloween to deter people from going to the neighborhood that night. As of this week only 11 out of the 110 merchants approached by the city have committed to doing so. City officials said they intend to visit storeowners in the coming weeks to personally ask them to shut down.

Residents of the neighborhood who host parties that evening are also being asked to keep their guests indoors and not to invite in strangers off the streets.

Unlike last year, city officials will not be enforcing a set curfew on Halloween night. Fong said a curfew would only be needed if the Halloween crowds become so large that the police have to close down the streets.

"We will have to see how many people are out there," she said.

One idea not on the table, as of yet, is declaring a state of emergency to force businesses to close that night and keep people away from the area. Lee called such a step an "extreme measure" and one the city would first need to consult with the city attorney's office to see if it is a viable option.

"We are not even close to being there yet," said Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White.






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