San Francisco officials wrap up public nudity debate with vote

Tailor Whitfield holds up a sign during a Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco's City Hall.
(Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO — What started out as a discussion about whether people could stroll naked through this liberal city’s storied streets ended up Tuesday as a discussion about the role of local government.

Faced with complaints about a band of so-called “Naked Guys” gathering daily in the Castro District, Supervisor Scott Wiener introduced legislation last month to ban public nudity citywide, except for at permitted festivals and parades.

“This legislation has strong support in the community,” Wiener said to kick off the debate before Tuesday’s vote. “I’m talking about support from everyday citizens who live and work in this wonderful neighborhood.”


The stricture wasn’t the brainchild of business owners, as some naturists have claimed. Nor did straight couples with children raise a fuss about freedom of expression — and freedom from clothing — in the heart of gay San Francisco.

“The dominant demographic expressing concern is gay men,” Wiener told his colleagues as he implored them to expand on an earlier ordinance requiring clothing in restaurants and a barrier between naked bodies and public seating.

But the more progressive supervisors weren’t buying it. Outgoing Supervisor Christina Olague called the proposal “a solution in search of a problem.” Supervisor Eric Mar said the Naked Guys and the issue of public attire were well below the level of what the august body should be considering.

Supervisor John Avalos played a clip from the movie “Catch-22” of a soldier getting a medal while in the nude. He called the Naked Guys’ daily strolls “inconsequential nudity” with meaningless effect.

Their point: that one neighborhood’s problem was just that.

Opponents of the nudity ban cheered. But only briefly.

Because when the final vote was taken, the supervisors cast their ballots, 6 to 5, to require clothing under most circumstances on the streets of San Francisco.

The Naked Guys (and Gals) were not happy.

“It’s not a legitimate government!” one shouted. “You’re voting against the majority of the people,” yelled another. “Shame!”


And with that, the Board of Supervisors took a 10-minute break.