“The biggest single obstacle to the provision of better public space is the undesirables problem,” wrote William H. Whyte in his 1980 book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. “They are themselves not too much of a problem. It is the actions taken to combat them that is the problem.”

Whyte’s book has been a bible of sorts for urban planners since its release. But the municipal officials who have been running the public spaces of San Francisco have, in their zeal to keep the city’s large homeless population out of sight, ignored or forgotten Whyte’s core principle that “the best way to handle the problem of undesirables is to make a place attractive to everyone else.”

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