Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco homeless’

A Tale of Two Cities

July 6, 2010

Gavin Newsom has problems with chess players.

Charles Dickens penned “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” as his opening line in his masterpiece A Tale of Two Cities. I found myself pondering Dickens work and applying the opening line to the plight of the poor chess players in two Bay Area cities.

As many of my reader are aware, San Francisco has recently closed down the traditional street chess games on Market Street near the BART station.  It seems that the city government of San Francisco is playing a gambit against the city’s homeless and the removal of the chess games is yet another move to sacrifice the lowest of pawns. My “Open Letter to Gavin Newsom” remains unanswered and I am getting the feeling that Mr. Newsom has no intention of addressing San Francisco’s attack on one of the most harmless activities that the “street people” amuse themselves with. Perhaps the city has justifiable reasons for its removal of the chess games on Market Street. The fact that I have received no response from the mayor leads me to believe otherwise.

Across the bay there is another city called Oakley. It was here, on July 3, that I was given permission to set up chess tables for the annual cityhood celebration.  Oakleys Mayor, Pat Anderson, made the many chess players feel welcome and took the time to steer us into the right avenues toward finding a regular place to hold a city chess club. Chess is a new addition to the young city but based on the response it received on July third, I imagine it will soon be  another Bay Area chess success story. 

If you are one of the many disenfranchised chess players in San Francisco, please take the time to contact Gavin Newsom and suggest that he should take a lesson from Pat Anderson on how to run a city that is fair to all its citizens… even its chess players.

An Open Letter to Gavin Newsom

June 16, 2010

Mayor Newsom,

San Francisco has lost one of its more charming attractions. It used to be that pedestrians strolling down Market Street near the Powell BART station would be treated to lively blitz games played by eclectic groups of chess enthusiasts. When in the area, I would frequently find myself battling wits with investment bankers, street merchants, tourists, and homeless persons. Unfortunately, this exposition of culture has been shut down by the city.

I launched an informal investigation as to why chess players were being targeted unfairly while street performers, panhandlers, and artists are still allowed to continue their practices in the area. Apparently an order was given by a high-ranking city official to the SFPD to shut down the games on the basis of poor behavior on the part of the chess players. Indeed, I would witness some money changing hands and the occasional intoxicated chess player. But are these behaviors being caused by the chess games or the urban environment? 

I believe in the positive impact the game of chess can have on individuals who are struggling do the fact that their decision-making skills are sub par. With funding for various organizations that help the homeless population being hit hard by the financial meltdown, I feel it is irresponsible if not mean-spirited for the city of  San Francisco to take away one of the few possibilities left for free and legal entertainment.  Furthermore, for a city that entices tourists to come on the basis of its many cultural opportunities,  it does not seem fitting for San Francisco to be shutting down harmless attractions such as chess. 


Chris Torres

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