San Francisco auditorium uses sonic blast, nightly, to disperse homeless
Homeless people camp out a few blocks from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco last year.
May 2nd, 2012
02:30 PM ET

San Francisco auditorium uses sonic blast, nightly, to disperse homeless

Encouraging the homeless to find a new haunt is nothing new, but managers at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium may be breaking ground by attempting to do it sonically.

Of course, Manuel Noriega is and David Koresh was familiar with the acoustic warfare tactic, which at least one now-vanquished homeless San Franciscan felt was a harsh reaction to his and his cohorts' squatting, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Between 20 and 40 homeless had been hanging out and sleeping at Civic Center Park, and according to the newspaper, it was a source of frustration for police, the mayor, the city Recreation and Parks Commission and the concert promotion outfit, Another Planet Entertainment, which operates the auditorium.

To combat this scourge, Another Planet began using the building's outside speakers to blare a cacophony of the world's most jarring noises - chainsaws, motorcycles, jackhammers, an aircraft carrier alarm - in hopes of shooing the homeless off of its stoop.

The clamor, which begins nightly at 11 and continues until 7 a.m., prompted building manager Robert Reiter to comment to the paper, "I thought it was the building alarm going off."

Another Planet Vice President Mary Conde and founder Gregg Perloff said people attending events at Davies Symphony Hall and the War Memorial Opera House, both about two blocks away, had issued "an enormous amounts of complaints" about the homeless people in the area.

Blasting them with various "industrial" sounds, which Another Planet acquired from iTunes, has been "tremendously effective" so far, Conde said.

San Francisco has one of the worst homeless problems in the nation, according to the Chronicle, which has an entire special section devoted to the issue on its website. According to the Coalition on Homelessness, about 37,000 households are on the waiting list for housing, 6,000 people in the city experience homelessness each night and 2,200 homeless children are enrolled in public schools.

The problem gets worse each year, despite the city's spending $200 million annually to combat it, according to the newspaper. In March 2011, police began enforcing what is known as a sit-lie ordinance, which fines repeat offenders who sit or lie on public sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. - the hours when jackhammer and chainsaw noises aren't emanating from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium speakers.

Though some business owners say the sit-lie law has been a success, the ordinance was frowned upon by local homeless proponents prior to being approved by city voters. A national advocacy group in December cited the law in giving San Francisco low marks for its handling of the city's homeless.

It would appear that Another Planet's tactic for dispersing the homeless is being received similarly.

"What (expletive)  behavior," said Oscar McKinney, a homeless man who said he had 6,100 quality-of-life citations who was chased out of the area by the overnight noise coming from the auditorium, according to the Chronicle.

Sonic warfare has been used as a psychological tactic to run folks out of an area in the past. In the 1993 Waco, Texas, siege, the FBI reportedly "used bagpipes, screeching seagulls, dying rabbits, sirens, dentist drills, and Buddhist chants" in an effort to flush Koresh and the Branch Davidians out of their compound, according to author Steve Goodman.

The method was also employed in 1989 when U.S. troops surrounded the Vatican embassy in Panama City, Panama, where Noriega and some his men had taken refuge. The troops directed loudspeakers at the embassy and played Christmas music all day on December 25.

The following day, the U.S. Southern Command radio station began taking requests from soldiers and played a variety of appropriately titled songs for the next few days, including the Rolling Stones' "Rock and a Hard Place" and The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."

It didn't work. Noriega remained in the embassy until January 3, five days after the music stopped.

(For the complete Noriega playlist, click on pages 4-6 of this document at George Washington University's National Security Archive.)

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Filed under: California • Civil Rights • Economy • Housing • Jobs • San Francisco • U.S.
soundoff (490 Responses)
  1. Prose Ventures

    So now we have proof that that the homeless really are treated as animals. That's an animal control tactic.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.R.

      Nonsense, animals are cute and useful.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • HughMungus

      Humans are animals whether we like to admit it or not.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • anna

      If you act like an animal you will be treated as such.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      So, if they want to live like animals then the'll get treated as such. They made there own choices in life now they have to deal with it or do something about it.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • maggotfist

      This has given me an excellent idea for when all the homeless people from Balboa Park scurry into my neighborhood after a sweep. I dont have to worry about them in my backyard anymore! Yay!

      May 2, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • jones

      If you find a layer willing to take the case have the homeless take a hearing test the test can be beat so its hard to tell if you are telling the truth. red movement here to help mess with the american people like and get sued like that. fun times eat me

      May 6, 2012 at 1:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Prose Ventures

      I have no idea what you're trying to say. Could you express yourself again?

      May 6, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Prose Ventures

      I do not believe that a hearing test has much to do with either side of the argument. At least, when I consider the unscrupulus behaviour the 'auditorium' has applied, physical hearing loss was not initially a concern- only the morality of the choice and lack of righteous thought when making it. I don't believe we even need the physical angle to illustrate a winning point.

      May 6, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
  2. banasy ©

    Does nyone else see the irony of it being the Billy Graham Civic Auditorium?

    May 2, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • ste9

      It's the BILL Graham Auditorium, named after the rock promoter, not the evangelist.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eliott C. McLaughlin

      Hey banasy, it's the BILL Graham auditorium. It's named after the concert promoter, not the evangelist. I had to look it up because I thought the same thing.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ironicus

      Yes, thanks! 😀

      And, frankly, I'm astounded at how cheaply we could give housing to people, yet I guess some dipwads would rather pay 100 million to harass them instead.
      It's like watching someone poke a sick baby through the bars of a cage. Just twisted stuff here. I don't get it at all.
      I think those oppressive and clearly ignorant and vicious people who hate homeless people are just insane.

      May 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scarface86

      Does anyone else see the irony in San Francicans complaining about homeless?

      May 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy ©

      Oh, mea culpa, thanks!
      Never mind!

      May 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Peabody

      Yes, It should be sticking out like a neon sign to everyone!
      Remember who Jesus spent time teaching his Fathers words to?
      Yup! The homeless, The mentally Ill, The leopards, ect ...
      That would be a clear sign of who Billy Graham and his organization really is.
      You've been OUTTED Billy !

      May 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. lambright

    There has to be a more humanitarian way. This is the failure of America. This is the failure of every president in the last fifty years. The failure is that we don't, when we can. We go to war when we can't afford it, lets go to war on poverty, lets build roads to new futures and not leave any humans behind. If were advanced we should act like it.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scarface86

      Some people put no effort in helping themselves, so they should be left behind.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      To all the people that think this is inhumane.....adopt a homeless person. That is all.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Most had their chance, free food, free schooling etc. How much free stuff do you give away before you say enough. Frankly a homless person in California must not only be lazy but incredibly stupid given how much free stuff we give out. Section 8 housing, welfare, disability money, free food, free utilities hell even free cellphones. Most homeless use their free things to buy liquor, drugs, pills etc. Im a correctional officer in a california jail, they tell me these things without reservation. What do you use your SSI and Disability money on? Answer: Booze. They are adults they made their choice and some choices have sleeping out side.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Liam Hays

    So rather than help these people the city just wants them live in desperation someplace else? That is so very compassionate.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • anna

      Its about time they helped themselves!!

      May 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      They already get help with SSI how much more help would you be willing to tax yourself with? Are you going to pony up the cash so they can get more free things? Im not.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Let 'em eat soylent green

      The city of San Francisco "helps" these bumms to the tune of $200 MILLION per year. $33,000 each.

      Of course, most of that money goes to pay 6-figure salaries to city bureaucrats and managers at help-the-homeless "non-profits"...

      Save you sympathy for the tax-paying non-bums of San Francisco. Every year they see more and more of their money stolen from them by their government to support the compassion-fascists of the "homeless" industry and other left-wing causes. San Franciscans who actually work and contribute to their city's culture and society are being forced to flee to towns where they can actually afford to raise families, as a result of SF's tax-and-pis s-away policies.

      May 4, 2012 at 7:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. Anyone

    Why do they want to stay there. Lets here from the homeless people why this spot is so great.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Texas

    They'll be in Portland, Oregon once the weather gets better.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Let 'em eat soylent green

      Maybe not. These sound like the ones too stupid to spend their winters in San Diego.

      May 4, 2012 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. laurie209

    Why oh why in the United States of America is even one person homeless. Our country is failing it's citizens and degrading them by allowing this sonic blast tactic. Billy Graham would not approve. Find homes for our men, women and children. We are not supposed to act like a third world country.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      The country is run by the citizens, the citizens are failing themselves. If you do not take the opportunities the country provides then you have your own self to blame and it is NOT the responsability of said citizens to then sacrifice their own earning to provide you comfort.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • KC

      I understand why some of you would feel compassion for these people and deplore the way they are being treated. That being said these homeless people also need to take responsibility for their lives at least to some degree. America does not owe housing to everyone, A lot of that responsibility falls on the individual to work and earn the means to provide shelter and food for themselves. There are a lot of government agencies out there where homeless and poor people can find the means and guidance to get back on their feet and actually contribute to society as opposed to living off of society.

      May 3, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jason

    They should develp a program that moved the homeless out of cities into towns, setting them up with jobs and temp housing to help get them back on their feet. Relocation. It's the answer.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scarface86

      What about those who do not want to be relocated? What if they choose to live on the streets? The ACLU has already fought for the right to be homeless.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eliott C. McLaughlin

      Good point Scarface86. I didn't include it in the story, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the city has between 3,000 and 5,000 homeless people who refuse help.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Ah so all those people who are not homeless but looking for a job are out of luck? Where do your jobs comefrom? Why should I pay rent and they not? So when I take my education seriously and not become a drug addict or alcoholic I should be forced to pay when they failed at life and should be handed everything on a silver platter? I think not.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Let 'em eat soylent green

      These bums are homeless because they are drunks, drug addicts and/or mentally ill and refuding treatment.

      "Give" them jobs and they won't go to them.

      Provide them housing and they'll trash it, fill it with filth and then rip out the wiring and plumbing to sell for scrap.

      May 4, 2012 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  9. angryersmell

    All humans are useless, not just the homeless.

    May 2, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  10. yaa

    So the mayor and police have to move their a sses because the local residents complain....and the next thing they do is OUTSOURCE this pain to a company Another Planet! How much humanity can be expected out of that company?

    This is what is wrong...they want bad things to be done but they will just outsource it and look the other least this high handedness is not there in the south

    May 2, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Darned human animals

    love, San Francisco Peace & Human Rights Activists

    May 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Beth

    This is inhumane. What should homeless people in that city do? I know in most cities there are not enough resources. people spend the majority of the day in line hoping to get breakfast, lunch, dinner or a place in a shelter and sometimes they don't get a place leaving them to sleep on the streets or in city parks. With the economy getting worse the situation is even worse noww.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Beth, it is not inhumane to protect your OWN property.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Ya it sucks beth when you dont take your education for granted...choose to become involved with drugs, alcohol or other habit forming life ruining addictions. Sucks when you chose to chose your pleasures at the expense of your own security...its sucks...for them. They are adults they made a laundry list of bad choices and so now they pay. Hard to believe that a illegal immigrant can waltz over the border and drive a Eseclade but these folks cant figure out how to make a buck. Choice, consequence and responsability..

      May 2, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Let 'em eat soylent green

      And yet millions of Mexicans are willing to walk across the desert to find crappy jobs here.

      Jobs these bums aren't willing to do, preferring to live on the sidewalk and leech off of tools like Beth instead.

      May 4, 2012 at 7:10 am | Report abuse |
  13. Chris

    I'm glad that, rather then help the homeless, they'd rather fine them or scare them away.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • steve

      Why dont you have some of them live with you Chris?

      May 2, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. saywhat

    With 140 million people living below poverty line & growing in this richest country of the world, who cares if a few of them are 'blasted out' of a refuge they find as home for a few nights.
    Let us get on with spending trillions on wars, military bases around the world. Pandering to special interest, foreign lobbies and the super rich.
    And let the revered members of the US Congress continue with their games of politics,serving themselves & those that they chose to serve for that purpose. Why bother them with the trivial problems of the commoners.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy ©

      Well stated.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • ironfray

      Yeah..for a few nights over and over and over and over and over and over and over. Yes it's a problem, but I'm sure you wouldn't want 1 homeless person sleeping on your lawn let alone a few hundred.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jj

      well maybe they should get a flipping job! There is a thought. Why do you people make excuses for laziness???

      May 2, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Art

      It wouldn't matter how the economy is doing, there will always be many homeless. While many of them are victims of the economy, most just want to be taken care of. Proof of this? During he boom years of the late 90's and mid 2000's the economy was red hot and there were still lots of homeless. I have seen the same homeless in my neighborhood for 20 years. Now tell me that they want a job and to pay rent and I'll sell you a bridge.

      May 2, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jim

    Homelessness is the countries fault? to a homeless person sometime. In the United States, when it comes down to it the only people that can truly help them are themselves.

    May 2, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake Rockwel


      May 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Portland tony

      Such a foolish comment! Let em eat cake...

      May 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • erik60505

      Not everyone was spoiled by Daddy and can keep borrowing money for projects that all fail only to be supported some more. Lose your job and contacts and see if you can get a job at starbucks. Some people are homeless and is not their fault. Hope you do not get cancer when health insurance is taken away by employer! all your possessions will be gone.

      May 2, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      Sorry to hear your life sucks

      May 2, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      So people who have jobs and a sense of responsibility were "spoiled by daddy"?


      May 3, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • omglazerz

      and you know this because you have been homeless before?

      May 2, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • patrick

      maybe a job or two in there wouldn't hurt there pop

      May 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • kyle

      Simply not true. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a job when you are homeless? Businesses don't trust you because they figure you will steal from them, you typically don't have easy access to places to clean yourself and when you are homeless what is more important, some food or a shower? It is a very sad state of affairs when people consider another person only a burden to be shipped away to be someone elses burden.

      May 2, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Invaded

      Have them move into your neighborhood and see how it goes. That's what my neighbors and I are experiencing. I realize the homeless issue is extreme, but one neighbor recently decided she wanted to open her 3br, garage and back yard storage shed to the homeless. Problem is that one of them was arrested for felony theft last week, there is arguing inside the house every night and a gunshot at 2am Sunday morning. I can't tell you how "thrilled" I am that our formerly quiet neighborhood is now "solving" the homeless problem for individuals like this. It takes special programs to get people off the street and back into society, not good intentions without any plan.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      You are correct. Housing the homeless without a proven plan to actually help them does little, and can actually hurt them by providing a venue for wrong behaviour.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Coastal0ne

      Very true and very sad. Wish we could all come up with the perfect solution.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Let 'em eat soylent green

      These bums are homeless because they are drunks, drug addicts and/or mentally ill and refuse to take their medications.

      Few of them have any connection to San Francisco beyond it being where they've washed up, for now, in their wasted wandering lives.

      Want to "do something for them"? Ship them to LA where the weather's better.

      May 4, 2012 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Dennis

      Seems to me a large percentage of them talk to walls and parking meters. They don't have a chance.

      May 2, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • BEAR

      What will they do when we are all homeless?

      May 3, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • green

      blah blah blah

      May 3, 2012 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Jim, you are not correct. Many homeless are addicts and / or mentally ill and are literally not able to help themselves. The lack of resources to treat the mentally ill and addicted is what has contributed to the growing numbers of street homeless.

      May 3, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • Mendozian

      39% of homeless have some form of mental illness
      1.5 million children are homeless
      40% of homeless are veterans – any given night 200,000 veterans are homeless

      The first two groups can't take care of themselves and the third is beyond a doubt the responsibility of our government. I understand that many people who are homeless are in their predicament due to bad personal choices. However, don't lump everyone into that category and flush them all away.

      May 3, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JFT

      May you become homeless and learn the truth. It is closer and more likely than you, in your smugness, will ever believe, until it's too late.

      May 7, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
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