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Is photography forbidden at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco?

Joe Hearst , Dec 17, 2001; 12:36 p.m.

Last night we were ejected from Yerba Buena Gardens because we were taking pictures! Eight of us, all mature adults, were taking part in a night photography class between 6 and 7 PM, on Saturday, Dec. 16. We were using tripods, since night photography is more or less impossible without them, and most of us were photographing MOMA with the reflecting pool and long, curving waterfall in the foreground. As we worked, a couple of us were approached by a Mr. Robert M. Leon, who works for a management company whose name I did not record. He told us we were not allowed to do this and that we should leave. I protested that we were on city property; he responded that it is private property and we couldn't take pictures without a permit. Two or three of the group were photographing in a different part of the center. Mr. Leon was in radio communication with another security person who told them to stop. He handed a business card to one of our group, that summarized the rules for Yerba Buena center; there is no mention of photography.

I have sent this message to the Mayor's office and the San Francisco Chronicle so we'll see what happens.


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allan fontanilla , Dec 17, 2001; 09:26 p.m.

Just to comment on photo restrictions in San francisco, I was taking a photo of City Hall on the grass just inside the gate off of Franklin street and the security guard who radio'd his superior told us that it would cost us $75.00 per photo- thats what the city charges for photos on public property. Same goes for Golden Gate park. I suspect the tripod is the give-away.

BJ Green , Dec 17, 2001; 09:57 p.m.

General policy on photography in large cities

Seems like lots of the larger cities are kinda greedy. In Dallas, photography without a permit is not permitted in the building from which President Kennedy was shot. In order to tour the building they wanted me to leave my camera at the desk, giving me a claim ticket that said they were not responsible for loss or damage.

Tyrone Mitchell , Dec 17, 2001; 10:04 p.m.


Are they afraid that you're going to make money from the picture you take, and they're trying to get a cut? Or is this something that they're doing just to get you away? Either way, it's amazing, and horrible.

Chris DiBona , Dec 17, 2001; 10:14 p.m.

I'd like to note in response to Allan's post that I've taken shots all over gg park and SF. No fees, no tickets. Same thing with the painted ladies, Palace of the Legion of Honor and shots from Treasure Island. Not to mention the gg bridge, china beach, etc....if they charged me 75$ everytime I took a picture of a private or public structure....well, I'm just glad they don't. (or maybe just haven't).

I'd also like to think that in the case of the Yerba Buena gardens, I'd have had them call a real police officer as I would'nt have recognized their authority to kick me off the YB city land. Course, it's very easy to armchair quarterback after the fact...but I wanted to note that I've spent a lot of time (and film) shooting in SF without being hasseled.

Chris DiBona

Golden Gate from China Beach

Todd Frederick , Dec 17, 2001; 10:39 p.m.

I mentioned this incident a few times before, but I was hassled by a National Park ranger while taking some photos inside Fort Point next to the Golden Gate Bridge (now a part of the National Park's system), using an old Voigtlander Bessa II on a tripod. I truly think the tripod was the problem: tripod + weird camera = Pro/commercial/money! Heaven help me if I should dare use my 5x7 View!

I now kind of like the suggestion of challenging these junior-police idiots by having them actually call the SF police to see if they can really enforce whatever policies (fact or fiction) they are using and will press charges.

Jeff Spirer , Dec 17, 2001; 11:49 p.m.

Isn't it possible that someone would think eight people would tripods in a public place at the same time might be a bit intrusive for the rest of the public?

I have photographed at Yerba Buena day and night, with and without tripod. However, I always move when people want to walk where I am.

There are probably laws they could have cited but didn't. Why not go back on your own, I doubt you will have a problem.

Craig Gillette , Dec 18, 2001; 12:07 a.m.

I just checked the website for the Yerba Buena Gardens. It does discuss photography but in connection with recording events, not individual non-event photos. It will be interesting to hear what the pols tell you about it.

Blaine Franger , Dec 18, 2001; 12:46 a.m.

I recently moved to SF from a small town in Oregon, and I am amazed with the trouble I get when photographing. Recently I was taking photos under a bridge near Potrero Hill and someone called the cops and reported I was a terrorist.....? I have photographed in many places in the Yerba Buena gardens (with a 4x5 and tripod) and no one ever hassled me. I think it depends greatly on the security guards that happen to be working at the time.

Robert Randles , Dec 18, 2001; 01:29 a.m.

I was shooting some candids of shoppers at a street fair on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, when one of the sellers told me it was against the law to take pictures. In the middle of Telegraph Avenue?! In Berkeley?!

Yeah, right...

I figured the guy maybe didn't want the cops to catch up on his latest whereabouts.

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