Where have all the benches gone…long time passing…?

Public Benches

It is a common practice for cities to remove benches if they attract homeless or other “undesirable” people who tend to hang out too long in public places. A quick search on Google or Bing confirms the widespread use of this urban management technique.

And, of course, this technique has been applied from time to time in Petaluma. For example, consider the permanent removal of the benches on the Concourse walkway to the City Parking Garage. In the composite photo below you can see the area in 2012 on the left and today on the right…

April 2012 (Left)   July 2015   (Right)

April 2012 (Left–Benches)
July 2015 (Right–No Benches)

In addition, it is my understanding that in recent years some of the public benches on the Water Street Promenade have been removed or relocated to discourage negative activities in the area.

Now It Is The Putnam Plaza Benches

I recently noticed that the two public benches in Putnam Plaza were removed as part of a City landscaping project next to Starbucks.  All that remains are the donor plaques…

Bench Donation Plaques Putnam Plaza

Bench Donation Plaques Putnam Plaza

I made an inquiry about the benches to City Hall and received this e-mail response today…

“The benches were removed as part of a cleanup for the plaza related to negative activities (emphasis added) and discussed with the business owners and the Police Department.  People were sleeping on and behind them in the bushes (now also removed) against the Starbucks wall.  The benches at some point will be refurbished and replaced in the plaza but in a different spot.  A date has not yet been identified.  The negative activities have been reduced largely to the cleanup efforts, fixing of lights, power washing, and signage.”

I certainly empathize with the businesses and others who object to “negative activities” in our public areas. However, the bench removal tactic is not effective.

Removing Benches…

  • Does not discourage the very people against whom it is directed from sitting on the sidewalk or otherwise occupying the area where the benches were located. Granted there be some temporary change in behaviors, but inevitably there is a reversion to the previous state. As proof of this, go to my earlier post which contains photos of people in the various areas previously targeted for bench removal.
  • Does deny others (what some would call “regular” people) the opportunity to use the benches when they are downtown.

I did a little more digging and found that the subject of “negative activities” downtown in the Water Street area has been with us for some time.  Take a few minutes to read these two articles from 2007…

Aside from some of the specific complaints that generated the circumstances discussed in the above two articles not much has changed since 2007 in terms of constructive responses. As one person put it to me– “Focus on the situation that created the problems instead of the benches.” In that regard, this recent article may be of some value: Taking It to the Street

 In Closing

Turning back to the present situation in Putnam Plaza, I hope that the benches are returned sooner rather than later. In the meantime the donor plaques still mark their location…awaiting their return.

If the benches are not returned, I wonder if the donors could claim the plaques or at least a refund of their donation.

 

Street Life…Life On Our Streets

Every six months or so I archive my photos to make room on my computer.  The inventory is now well past 190,000 images residing on archive disks that will most likely disappear in the dustbin of history. Before archiving I selected a few photos documenting scenes from my daily walks around what I call the Petaluma Photo Grid…scenes that reflect an aspect of street life here and elsewhere in the country that we should not…dare not…ignore.

P1020938RAW2

Some may call them Travelers, Transients, People Living Rough, or Homeless. However, they are people and part of our communities.

As a friend recently commented: “It’s important for all of us to not ignore what we find disturbing but instead really include it in our consciousness, accept it as a part of our reality. Then we may decide we want to change it and actually be able to do that.”

GALLERIES

(Individual photos may be enlarged by clicking on them)

Street Life Gallery I

P1030748 Love Where You Live

Weary Traveler (Petaluma Blvd)  P1010211RAWa

P1030602RAW

3 DSCF5326

2 DSCF5106RAWWEB DSCF6158 Golden Concourse Walkway DSCF5328RAW P1030746 Water Street  DSCF4926RAW Weller St P1030327 Western Avenue  DSCF5757

Street Life Gallery II

Water Street Loading Dock

Ralph Lauren Loading Dock on Water St P1030495RAW

5 P1030282WEB 4 Ralph Lauren Loading Dock on Water St P1030284

Street Life Gallery III

Water Street P1030235RAW2WEB

Foggy Morning Pedestrian P1020662RAW1

P1020182RAW B&WWEB

1 Book Reader  P1010992RAW B&WWebcropped

Street Life Gallery IV

American Alley Stroll

P1030703RAW

P1030708RAW

P1030715

In closing, I offer this passage from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. ‘Spirit. are they yours.’ Scrooge could say no more. ‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers.  This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye.  Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.’ ‘Have they no refuge or resource.’ cried Scrooge. ‘Are there no prisons.’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses.’ The bell struck twelve.

READER NOTE–Some of my past posts on this topic are listed below

UPDATE July 10, 2015: See recent article from the Bohemian newspaper:  Taking It to the Street

COTS Family Center…opens June 27th

Petaluma’s COTS (Committee on the Shelterless) will open the renovated COTS Family Center on June 27th…

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Preparing the facility has required quite an effort by volunteers and others to make the buildings ready for use.

Today, volunteers worked on finishing touches…painting, cleaning, assembling furniture, etc.  I had the opportunity to make a few photos of today’s efforts.

8:30 am the volunteers assembled…

1DSCF7097

Then they went to work…

COTS VOlunteers

COTS Volunteers

Petaluma’s Mystic Theater Marquee–A Blast From The Past

In this digital big screen age, one institution in Petaluma, CA still relies upon an “old style” theater marquee to promote upcoming events…

Mystic Theater

Mystic Theater

Granted, the Mystic Theater does have a web site and a dot com web page. However, they still rely upon the human touch…and a ladder… when it comes to the street display…

Mystic Theater

Mystic Theater

Mystic Theater

Mystic Theater

The Corner of Main & Washington…

…or what is now known as Petaluma Blvd & East Washington…

The long standing bank building at 199 Petaluma Blvd N (now known as the Seed Bank) resides on the corner of this intersection.  An imposing structure, to say the least.

Finally, after many walks over the years, I finally noticed something on the sidewalk at this corner of Petaluma Blvd and Washington—street names and a compass symbol embedded as metal inlays in the cement.

The corner was once known as Main & Washington and is memorialized in the sidewalk inlays in front of the building. As to when they were installed and by whom, I was not able to determine and will leave that task to more competent people. This post is merely a brief documentary of the inlays as they exist today.

They are easy to miss and are frequently obscured by the sun and/or shadows…

Corner of Petaluma Blvd & East Washington

Corner of Petaluma Blvd & East Washington

Can’t see them? Look again…in a different light…

Hidden In the Shadows

Partially Hidden In the Shadows

It required several visits at different times of the day to finally get an image of the entire array…

Main & Washington

Main & Washington

The three inlays…

Washhington

Washington

Main Street

Main Street

North is that away?

North is thataway?

I could not resist checking out the accuracy of the compass inlay… :-)

Reasonably Accurate

Reasonably Accurate