San Francisco Nudity Ban Moves Ahead

Monday, Nov 5, 2012  |  Updated 10:25 PM PDT
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Bay to Breakers 2012

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Scenes like this would become less frequent in San Francisco if the ban is approved by the full board.

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A proposed ban on public nudity in San Francisco was approved unanimously by a committee of the city's Board of Supervisors Monday despite many opponents who came clothed to oppose the legislation.

The board's City Operations and Neighborhood Services committee voted 3-0 to send the ordinance to the full board. The legislation, introduced by Supervisor Scott Wiener, would prohibit the display of genitals or buttocks in plazas or parklets in the city, as well as on sidewalks, streets and public transit.

Nudity is currently allowed in public spaces in the city as long as there is not lewd conduct associated with it.

Wiener has said he felt the legislation was necessary to address a burgeoning nudist population showing up regularly in Jane Warner Plaza in the city's Castro District.

The proposal has prompted multiple rallies, including one last week outside City Hall, by people who doffed their clothes in opposition to it. Many nudism advocates and their supporters came to today's hearing to speak against the legislation.

Lloyd Schofield, who made waves in San Francisco last year by organizing an ill-fated campaign to ban male circumcision in the city, said he did not see a problem with the nudists.

"They're only expressing themselves," Schofield said, adding that opposition to them was "part of our puritanical moral heritage."

But other people who live nearby said the nudists are an eyesore for many residents. Suzanne Thompson, who said she lives near Dolores Park, said nudists are now frequently in that park as well as the Castro plaza.

"I find it very objectionable," Thompson said as she described instances of men lying naked and "sunny side up" just a short distance away from a children's playground in the park. "It's an issue of civility," she said.

"If you're a nudist, go to a nude camp or nude beach. Don't walk around in the streets and make me look at it." Wiener, who represents the Castro District and surrounding neighborhoods, said the nudists were "a real issue in the community" and noted that the legislation was "very narrow" and would still allow for public nudity during events like Folsom Street Fair or the Bay to Breakers race. Supervisor Carmen Chu agreed, saying the proposal would "create a space that is comfortable for everybody."

If the legislation is approved by the full board, it will establish fines that will start at $100 and rise for additional offenses within a year. Violators would not be required to register as sex offenders.

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