Skip to main content

Shooting Up, Catcalling and Dealers: Downtown SF Station Sparks Safety Fears

Written by Garrett LeahyPublished Nov. 25, 2022 • 7:00am
Pedestrians utilize the stairs to Civic Center/United Nations Plaza Station in San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

San Francisco law students say they fear exiting the Civic Center BART station due to catcalling, open-air drug use and dealing.

The U.N. Plaza area around the station is notorious for drug use and is just one block away from UC Hastings law school.

Several female students told The Standard that people in the area often catcall them as they take the stairs and escalators up to U.N. Plaza. 

Students add that the presence of drug use and dealing in the area also makes them feel unsafe.

Hastings student Hannah Holmes frequently rides BART to her job as a clerk for a judge in Hayward. 

Holmes said people waiting near the exit will catcall her as she leaves the BART station and that the ascending station escalator often breaks down.

"They'll call me ‘baby’ or say ‘Hey, you look good'—just general harassment," Holmes said.

Pedestrians use the stairs to Civic Center/United Nations Plaza Station in San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Another woman, who asked to be referred to only by her initials, said she gets harassed as she walks up the stairs exiting the station.

"They'll often catcall me so I just put my earbuds in and keep my head down," said first-year student MG. "I hear that all the girls get catcalled."

Student Hamza Ahmadzai takes BART to Hastings from Berkeley and said he finds the sight more depressing than threatening.

"You see dealers there all the time," said Ahmadzai. "It's done harm to the area. This is one of the best areas in the city, you've got downtown, City Hall, U.N. Plaza—this is where the U.N. was founded, and we have people shooting up."

Another student, who gave his name as Daniel F. said: "Where else would they go? I don't know if there is a solution. It seems like a systemic issue."

A public notice sign hangs in the stairwell on Market Street to Civic Center/United Nations Plaza Station in San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. | Benjamin Fanjoy/The Standard

Hastings said in an email it treats safety as a “top priority” and has Urban Alchemy staff placed around the campus from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. daily. Urban Alchemy staff are on hand to escort students to and from nearby parking and the Civic Center BART Station.

Hastings added they have “worked closely” with the San Francisco Police Department and BART Police to increase law enforcement presence at U.N. Plaza and the Civic Center BART station.

BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said that BART Police patrol the stairs and escalators but also have a “joint policing agreement,” allowing SFPD to patrol “free areas” of the station, including the stairs and escalators.

Hastings has aired grievances about conditions in the Tenderloin with the city before. The law school and other plaintiffs successfully sued the city in 2020, alleging that the tents and needles lining the sidewalk threatened residents’ lives and health. 

SF reached a settlement in June 2020 with the school, forcing the city to remove hundreds of tents and relocate unhoused residents to safe sleeping sites or shelter-in-place hotels. 

SFPD declined to comment about the steps or escalators leading out of the Civic Center BART Station.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at

a cybertruck is seen in a showroom

Tesla Cybertruck Towed From San Francisco Street

Apartment buildings and housing in the Tenderloin in Downtown San Francisco, seen from above.

San Francisco Blows Housing Deadline, Prompting Standoff With State Regulators 

Police tape is seen close up, with a police patrol vehicle some distance beyond.

Double Shooting in San Francisco’s Tenderloin Under Investigation

San Francisco police and firefighters responded Thursday to a fatal collision involving a pedestrian and a Muni bus near Van Ness Avenue and O'Farrell Street.

Shooting Near San Francisco Law School Leaves 1 Dead, 1 Injured

A Great Blue Heron perches on a branch on Stow Lake inside Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, June 6, 2017.

San Francisco To Remove Antisemitic Name in Golden Gate Park. Here Are the Renaming Options