When you’re looking for a grand view of San Francisco, there truly is no better place than Twin Peaks. Situated smack in the middle of the city, it is popular with tourists and locals alike for its view spanning from the Golden Gate Bridge, to downtown, to the Bay Bridge. You can even spot the top of USF’s own St. Ignatius church. And while there may be other viewpoints to visit during the day, such as nearby Grandview Park or Bernal Heights Park, the best nighttime view is still at the iconic Twin Peaks. However, this could be subject to change, as earlier this month District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee proposed a daily road closure of the viewpoint from dusk until dawn.
The idea of a nighttime closure of Twin Peaks is nothing new — car break-ins and robberies are common crimes at the viewpoint, especially at night, and closing off the roads has always been brought up as a solution. But the idea has gained traction in the past few years due to a few notable extreme incidents that rose red flags for neighbors. In February of 2016, there was a shooting and double homicide up on the viewpoint past midnight. This past July, a local man was shot and killed during an early morning robbery, according to local news website SFist.
I grew up in a neighborhood adjacent to the Peaks and received notifications on my neighbors’ online discussion forum. After the homicides last February, many discussed a late-night closure of the roads to the Peaks. Many supported a closure by means of gating off the roads from midnight to 6 a.m., arguing that it wouldn’t impede on anyone’s enjoyment of the landmark and instead deter crime. “There’s no good reason to have the lookout open overnight. Some reasonable park closure times would be welcome and would not take away from the tourist experience,” one user wrote. While this would block off vehicular access to the road, it could force people to park in the neighborhood and just walk up to the top, bringing more foot traffic to an otherwise quiet residential area.
Another proposed solution was increased police patrol and surveillance cameras. After the shooting this past July, the San Francisco Police Department conducted 24/7 patrols in the immediate aftermath of the event. Since then, they have scaled back. “The increased police presence had an immediate effect of cutting auto break-ins by half, from 188 in July to 98 in August,” according to a Sept. 19 KTVU broadcast. The same broadcast also reported newer cameras in the parking lot pointed toward the people and parking lots, rather than just at buildings in the area. These measures help keep visitors accountable for their actions and have already helped decrease crime. Because the patrols and cameras seem to be a successful solution so far, I don’t think closing off Twin Peaks is a necessary step.
I understand the safety concerns from my neighbors and city officials. However, I don’t believe that gating off the roads to Twin Peaks is a good solution. The neighborhoods surrounding Twin Peaks already have a low crime rate relative to the rest of San Francisco. Blocking access to the viewpoint may deter crimes here, but in a densely populated urban city, nowhere will ever have a zero crime rate. Additionally, this could just move crime to other parts of the city — it doesn’t solve the problem, it simply shifts the location.
And, of course, I think it would be detrimental to city life to close a beautiful landmark. In the quiet of the night, looking down at the twinkling lights of downtown San Francisco, it feels like you’re sitting at the top of the world. To experience your smallness in the grand scheme of our City by the Bay — there’s nothing else quite like it, and I hope that everyone can have the opportunity to experience it.
Featured Photo: Twin Peaks is a popular viewpoint both during the day and at night. However, recent incidents of crime have some wondering if the park should be closed at night. Joanne Chu/ Foghorn