Little Free Library in San Francisco threatened after an anonymous complaint

A decade ago, Susan and Joe Myers set up a Little Free Library outside their San Francisco home. It has been a source of joy for them and their neighbors who have been happily exchanging books, and snagging free dog treats. But now the library is being threatened after someone anonymously turned them into the city for not having a permit.

This complaint spawned a visit from a Department of Public Works' (DPW) inspector and the Myers were served with a 30-day notice to remove the library or apply for a "minor encroachment permit." The permit costs $1402, which doesn't include additional annual fees.

In an interview with KPIX, San Francisco Public Works Director Rachel Gordon said, "We don't go out and actively and proactively look for these things." However, they are required to respond. Currently, DPW is not requiring the Myers to pay the fee as they develop a new plan to accommodate free libraries and similar community amenities, as long as they do not obstruct sidewalks or impede wheelchair access. While the details of this proposal have not been disclosed, KPIX reports that a permit fee will still apply, though at a reduced rate.

San Francisco Chronicle has some sharp words about the situation:

It's just the latest eye-rolling example of City Hall's out-of-whack priorities. The same city that mostly shrugs at open-air fentanyl markets, rampant property crime and reckless driving cares intently about the minutiae of what people do with their homes, yards and businesses — and small parts of sidewalks.

Last month alone brought news stories about the city requiring Bernal Heights neighbors to get a $1,402 permit for 20-year-old benches and slapping Chinatown small businesses with fines for decades-old awnings that violated building codes. Both of those cases were prompted by, you guessed it, anonymous complaints. New York City has Batman. We have Complaint Man.