Rock, meet Hard Place

San Francisco is a very crowded little city. Although it covers only about seven 49 square miles (it’s a little square about 7 miles on each side), it’s the fourth most populous City in California, with almost 800,000 people crammed into that little space. Interestingly, though, San Francisco did not end up going the tenement/apartment route of other old big cities such as New York. Instead, San Francisco opted for itty-bitty houses — or, at least, itty-bitty by American standards. I grew up in a 1400 square foot house, with a hefty 3 feet on each side to separate us from the neighbors. While that’s big for Calcutta or even Sorrento, it’s a small house by American standards. Many houses don’t even have that gap between neighbors, instead sharing both side walls with their neighbors. Here, this will give you an idea of these houses (many of which are now two resident flats):

San Francisco is also a very green thinking city (although you wouldn’t be able to tell that from how dirty and traffic-jammy it is). It probably had one of the earliest recycling programs in the Country, going back to the late 1970s or early 1980s. San Franciscans take their recycling very seriously.

Given the City’s architectural peculiarities, and its fanatic commitment to all things green, I found surprising the fact that it’s now penalizing those of its citizens who live in impossible housing but are still trying to save the planet, one plastic bottle at a time:

San Francisco residents, already facing some of the highest housing prices and parking fines in the nation, now have a new nightmare to watch out for – $100 tickets if their garbage or recycling cans can be seen from the street.

“It just blew me away,” said Richmond District resident Catherine Fox, one of 189 people who have been dinged since the city started handing out the tickets last month.

Diana Tsoi lives on the same street as Fox and got hit with a $100 fine around the same time as her neighbor.

“It’s just ridiculous,” Tsoi said. “Some people don’t have anywhere else to put these big cans but along the side of their house.”

Too bad, because under a law passed two years ago by the Board of Supervisors, it’s no longer good enough just to get your cans off the sidewalk once they’ve been emptied – you have to get them out of sight as well.

Completely out of sight.

Not an easy task, considering every home now gets three 32-gallon cans, each of which measures about 19 by 24 by 38 inches.

“I had mine tucked into the side of the house 20 feet back from the curb,” Fox said.

Not good enough.

If someone complains, the city sends out the garbage cops, and if the bins are in sight, you’re cited. The ticket shows up in the mail.

The supes passed the out-of-sight-or-else ordinance as an add-on to the existing law that requires cans to be off the sidewalk by 6 p.m. on pickup days.

Things were quiet for the first year, with the Department of Public Works sending out “educational” warnings instead of tickets.

At one point, believe it or not, there was a self-appointed can cop driving around neighborhoods on a motorcycle, snapping pictures of offending bins and turning in people.

Starting in March, the real tickets started going out.

“I don’t remember any warning, and I’m pretty alert,” Fox said.

Both she and her neighbor Tsoi said they plan to fight the citations.

“I have a hearing date for later this month,” Fox said. “It’s the same day as my son’s 14th birthday.

“I thought I’d take him along as a civics lesson.” (Emphasis mine.)

Welcome, oh San Franciscans, to the green nanny state.

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  • Alex

    Some local authorities in England fine residents £60 (about $120) if they fail to close the lid on their trash bin properly before it’s taken away by the refuse men. Putting slightly too much rubbish out for collection can be very costly.

    Health and Safety legislation is cited as the justification for this insolent penalty, but everyone knows that it’s just another dodge for raising revenue.

  • Ymarsakar

    This is what happens when the government goons are given too much power because it was convenient to in the beginning to do so.

  • Fred C Dobbs

    I am disappointed to see people start out reviews etc. with errors such as your statement that San Francisco’s territory is seven square miles. It is, or is closer to, 49 square miles. You seem to think it is one-mile wide or long, and 7 miles long or wide, when it is not the case.

    When you start out writing Krap, it suggests the rest of your article is Krap too!, and puts readers unnecessarily on HIGH ALERT for the presence of BS.

    Better luck next time.

  • Bookworm

    Absolutely right, Fred. I grew up there and knew that. I was thinking of the approx. 7 mile borders on each side. I’ll correct my mistake immediately. Still having made that error, I don’t think it changes my fundamental point, which is that San Francisco is making itself increasingly unlivable for its much put-upon residents.

  • Ymarsakar

    7 times 7 is 49 Fred.

    What you seem to be incapable of understanding is what people mean when they are thinking, probably because you are not concerned with what other people think because the only thing that matters to you is what you are thinking.

    7 miles is not one mile, either.

  • Ymarsakar

    In case I didn’t make myself absolutely clear, 7 miles squared can easily become 7 squared miles or vice a versa.

    Trying to complain about other people’s mistakes by making stuff up about what they were thinking, however, is nothing people should adopt as a solution to error.

    People looking for bs often have a field day in the comments, since that’s where you find a lot of it.