San Francisco will barricade a city street that has become notorious for alleged prostitution and crime.
Families told ABC7’s Luz Pena that Capp Street looks like “the Las Vegas Strip” with bumper-to-bumper cars until 3 a.m. and “pretty much naked” women walking around.
Residents of the street told ABC7 their lives are being made miserable by what they believe to be rampant sex work and other criminal acts affecting them, such as burglaries.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who represents the Mission, visited the street on a recent Friday night, describing the situation as “dangerous and so out-of-control.”
Ronen said that she saw women walking down the middle of the street and bumper-to-bumper traffic due to johns buying sex from workers on Capp Street, and said it seems incredibly dangerous for pedestrians.
“Someone’s going to die here if we don’t do something about it,” Ronen said.
She now plans to barricade the street between 18th and 22nd streets starting next week.
According to Ronen’s aide, Santiago Lerma, the northern crosswalk of each intersection of Capp between 18th and 22nd streets will have a barricade blocking both lanes to through traffic while still allowing residents and businesses to access Capp Street—they’ll just have to block around to do so.
“We’re trying to target the johns cruising down the street,” Lerma said.
The barriers would be up 24/7 and would not be staffed. Lerma said that Ronen’s office will evaluate the impact of the barriers on addressing alleged sex work on Capp Street and make changes as necessary.
San Francisco motorcycle cops will also patrol the area and dole out traffic tickets, Ronen told ABC7.
Joel A. who lives on Capp Street, said he is in favor of the barricades. He said he acknowledges that the sex workers on the street have to make a living, but as someone who comes home after late shifts working at a restaurant, he often feels unsafe walking around at night.
"I saw these pimps start harassing this girl, and then a car rushed in to confront these guys–'Fuck you, get out of there,' those words to scare the girls," Joel said. "Honestly, Friday and Saturday are chaotic."
Another Capp Street resident, who asked not to be named, said that she sees “bumper-to-bumper traffic” and she sometimes hears the women yelling, or being abused by alleged pimps.
“One time I saw a woman being chased on the street by a pimp with a hammer,” she said.
Jose Luis, who lives Downtown but grew up in the Mission, said he supports the closure.
"I think if it's good for neighbors, if it addresses crime, that's good," Luis said.
San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said in a statement that she has visited Capp Street at night to understand the situation and has spoken with neighbors about the issues.
“Citations for solicitation [of sex work] are referred to our neighborhood courts for adjudication,” Jenkins said. “Johns [typically men who pay for sex worker’s time] referred to neighborhood court are expected to abide by the agreements they make with community members including going to John school and pledging to not repeat their behavior.”
Fourteen johns have been referred to neighborhood court, according to Jenkins. The DA’s Office said it will also do everything it can to help rescue victims from human traffickers.
“We are prepared to prosecute any pimping or human-tracking case and traffickers where there is sufficient evidence for us to move forward," Jenkins added.
San Francisco police say they have made multiple arrests relating to alleged sex worker activity but are limited in what they can do.
Jasmin Beltran, a florist at Diosa Blooms, said that the interruption of the sex trade could have unintended and negative consequences for the sex workers themselves.
"It sucks if the sex workers can't work, they have to pay bills too," Beltran said. "It can be hard to get another job. If you've been doing that for a minute, it's like, 'What are you supposed to put on your resumé?'"
On July 1, 2022, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 357, a law penned by San Francisco state Sen. Scott Wiener decriminalizing loitering that appears to be sex work.
Ronen says she would like San Francisco to see designated areas for legalized sex work in the future.
“When it happens in the shadows, it makes it less safe for everyone,” Ronen said.
The unnamed Capp Street resident said that she supports legalization, but that her main concern is that the chaotic scene is taken off her street.
“I don’t think arresting the women is a solution, and the other residents don’t want that either. We’re scared of the pimps, and we want the johns to go away,” she said.
Garrett Leahy can be reached at email@example.com