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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Free wi-fi (but no sleeping) in parks

San Francisco parks are going to be better places for people to telecommute (or look at porn), but not so good for homeless people to sleep.

That's  the direction this city seems to be going in.

The mayor is thrilled that Google is going to put up a few hundred thousand dollars to power wifi in (some) parks, and sfist points out that "the dream of being able to work from Dolores Park might become a beautiful, frolicking reality." Good for the Mission hipsters who have jobs that they can do from the park.

I looked at the list of parks and the map that Google and Mayor Lee are showing off, and while the photo quality isn't that good, it certainly appears that most of the wired parks will be in the parts of the city where people who need free wifi the least will use it the most. There are a few in the Southeast part of the city, which is nice -- since the Southeast has the greatest digital divide. But just a few.

BTW, I'm happy that Google is doing anything at all for the city without demanding money or marketing payback. But it still drives me crazy that the city hasn't moved to install municipal fiber every time the streets are torn up for sewer or utility work and that we have to look to Google for $600,000 to provide a public service.

And in the meantime, homeless people (most of whom won't be using the free wifi) will have an even tougher life if Sup. Scott Wiener's legislation officially closing the parks at night gets approved.

I realize he is aiming at a real problem -- people vandalizing the parks and stealing stuff, particularly valuable metal -- but those things are already illegal, right? Will it really be easier to stop crime in the parks by "closing" them at night and allowing cops to ticket you just for being there? I don't think so.

I do think it could impact the hundreds of people who sleep in the parks, particularly Golden Gate Park, at night, because they have nowhere else to sleep and the park is better than the streets. There have been people sleeping in the park for decades; it's not a perfect situation, particularly when it comes to sanitation (the bathrooms are already closed at night) but the city isn't perfect, and housing is a major problem, and all of the tourism types and downtown businesses who complain about seeing too many homeless people aren't going to be happy if Golden Gate Park (where homeless people are able to stay relatively quiet and out of the public eye) empties out.

Maybe Google will give them all laptops and they can work from Dolores Park instead.

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