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Hillary Ronen defends closing BART station plazas in the Mission: ‘My back is against the wall’

The BART station plazas at 24th and Mission streets—two of the busiest corners in San Francisco—were fenced off this week by Supervisor Hillary Ronen in an extraordinary step to combat illegal street vending. BART owns the property surrounding the plazas aside from the sidewalks, but at Ronen's request the agency agreed to install fencing to close off the spaces for the next two months, aside from letting people enter and exit the underground station.

Ronen said her office has received numerous complaints about illegal vendors taking business away from brick-and-mortar locations, vendors being extorted, overcrowding by the nearby Muni bus stops, drug dealing and even threats of violence against her own staff. She and other supervisors passed a law this spring for a street vendor enforcement program through the Department of Public Works, but the city has yet to implement it. Ronen's office now plans to work with the Mission District nonprofit Calle 24 to revitalize the space as requirements on vendor permits continue to be fleshed out. 

In a lively conversation Thursday with The Standard, the Mission District supervisor defended her decision to shut down the public spaces, arguing that delays in implementing the permitting process required the closure but all will be well when it goes into effect in August.

Ronen discusses her decision to shut down the 24th Street BART Station in a July 21, 2022 interview with The Standard.

Ronen on the response to the shutdown

Ronen says the community response has been overwhelmingly positive, citing the many citizen complaints she received before the shutdown.

Ronen on whether this will work

Ronen insists that her intent is not to criminalize the poor, but instead to provide a temporary solution as law enforcement targets criminal elements in the area.

Ronen on Tenderloin crime moving to the Mission

Ronen said she was scared that the situation at the 24th Street BART station was coming close to what has been going on for years in the Tenderloin.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to note the street vendor legislation passed in the spring is scheduled to go into effect next month.