The Commercial Appeal

Will San Francisco legalize prostituti­on?

A city supervisor is pushing for it

- Natalie Neysa Alund

A San Francisco lawmaker is backing a plan by sex worker advocates and some residents to create a sanctioned red-light district in the city.

City Supervisor Hillary Ronen wants to lift criminal penalties from the sex trade altogether and is turning to state lawmakers in Sacramento for help, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Ronen, who represents District 9, which includes the Mission

District neighborho­od, is drafting a resolution that would urge state legislator­s to draft a bill that would legalize sex work.

State Assembly Member Matt Haney, D-san Francisco, said he would not consider supporting the bill.

“I have no plans to carry a bill that would create a ‘red light district,’ nor have I heard from Supervisor Ronen on that issue,” he told USA TODAY.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, also a Democrat from the city, could not immediatel­y be reached by USA TODAY.

The move is part of an attempt to divert or slow down street prostituti­on in the Mission, where sex workers have been present for decades and where residents want the illegal business plaguing parts of the neighborho­od contained to a commercial zone.

“I do feel that society’s acceptance and (ability) to get away from the morality issues is growing,” Rohen, a Democrat, told the outlet.

Lyn Werbach, an organizer with Central Mission Neighbors whose group advocates for Mission residents, told the outlet she would not oppose some sort of designated red-light zone to “centralize the activity in one place, away from homes, so it can be regulated for the safety of workers and the safety of residents.”

Though the Golden Gate City has not taken official action on a red-light zone, officials are having water barriers and other barricades installed on one street there in response to complaints about what Ronen called a “cruising zone,” the outlet reported.

“The SFPD and Mission Station Personnel has heard the concerns of the neighborho­od and has partnered with residents to solve the ongoing problem,” San Francisco Police Department Public Informatio­n Officer Robert Rueca told USA TODAY.

Rueca did not say how long the barriers or police patrols will remain but said the department “is aware of the issues of sex workers and the potential of human traffickin­g on Capp Street” and wants “to ensure the community that our officers will hold those responsibl­e and make arrests.”

San Francisco police also are working “to stop and disrupt the criminal activity while being compassion­ate to those forced into the sex traffickin­g trade,” Rueca said, adding that officers from the department’s traffic force, Special Victims Unit and Mission Station “will conduct enforcemen­t and provide services and education to identified victims of human traffickin­g.”

The San Francisco Police Department could not immediatel­y be reached for comment by USA TODAY.

Ronen told the Chronicle she supports a red-light zone, but legal hurdles and determinin­g a location would be challengin­g. The outlet reported she plans to introduce a resolution to the San Francisco County Board of Supervisor­s Tuesday that would serve as an official request to state lawmakers to decriminal­ize sex work.

Ronen’s office did not immediatel­y respond to a request for comment by USA TODAY.

“What’s happening right now on Capp Street is it’s become more brazen, and bigger than we’ve ever seen it before,” Ronen told The Los Angeles Times.

“Instead of repeating the same cycle that we’ve repeated for decades, it’s time to try something new.”

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