Little Free Library in San Francisco threatened after an anonymous complaint

City told them (after receiving an ‘anonymous’ complaint) - the point being that if they left it an empty lot, they didn’t need insurance, but by putting a bench, they became liable for whatever happened there.

Agreed, but maybe their priorities are a bit out of whack:


I hate those things. I drive to work every morning through a city that has those on every corner, problem is people seem to just drop them anywhere, mostly on sidewalks and then when people are out running or walking their dogs they’re blocking the sidewalks. People will just toss them off the sidewalk onto people’s lawns.

If that were to happen on my lawn a couple times those scooters would be in my garage waiting for the company or the police to contact me.

Whoever okayed those things…

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My specific area of study is relating to street performance, so it’s tangential, BUT- There are several dozen court rulings defending a performer’s right to use public spaces for the purpose of protected speech, including putting out a guitar case or table on the right of way. There is some nuance and variation regarding how much space something can take up- But cases where “that rule means I can’t do X at all”, tend to have had a distinct advantage.

Again, I’m not a lawyer, just a guy that’s had to defend himself a couple times. I wouldn’t say it’s an ironclad case, just that if the owner wanted to challenge this in court there are a handful of established and relevant legal precedents to argue by.

Surely you can agree that there is a difference between a temporary use of a space for a performance which is generally being monitored (ie the performer is actually there), verses a permanent or semi permanent hard structure with no one physically present?

I’m not saying it should be banned, but it needs to be inspected to determine if it meets city regulations for a whole range of things that may not have been considered by the person setting it up.

And hopefully it can remain, but it may need some changes to the setup.

Yes, but it goes back to that “without X, it is a fundamentally different thing” argument. If it’s mobile, it’s not a little free library anymore, it’s a bookmobile (which is still awesome, just fundamentally different).

I’m remembering- vaguely, forgive me- a court decision regarding original works vs prints: Basically, photographic prints are afforded the same protection as a hand painted picture, because if they weren’t, it would mean photography itself isn’t protected speech. A photographic negative isn’t a one-off thing, like a painting- A requirement for artwork to be “original” to be sold is essentially prohibiting photographers from selling their work. *

So again, there is a nuanced legal argument that says “this aspect of the speech is integral to this kind of speech”, which has enough legal standing that it can be argued in court.

  • Again, my very narrow area of expertise revolves around artists selling their artwork on a streetcorner and the various laws and rulings which classify this as a first amendment right.

The encroachment shown in the photo seems the same as the steps to the home and the bench. Have those been permitted as well?

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