‘Hostile Architecture’ Another Obstacle for San Diego’s Houseless

by on May 16, 2022 · 6 comments

in Homelessness, San Diego

By Heather Hope / CBS8

From armrests in the middle of benches to large rocks added underneath bridges and along sidewalks, some homeless advocates in San Diego call these designs “hostile architecture” or anti-homeless.  In Hillcrest along University Avenue, it’s not hard to spot a metal bench at MTS bus stops with armrests that prevent people from sleeping on them.

MTS spokesperson Mark Olson says the benches are industry standard. “Prevents people from sleeping on them, so multiple people can sit down. Partitions also offer dedicated space to sit and help people with mobility issues stand up to get on the bus,” said Olson, via text message. Two of the MTS benches are in front of the Mattarello restaurant in Hillcrest.

Kent Gillmore is a longtime Hillcrest resident, who has worked as the maître d’ at Mattarello since October. “Some people take a place on the couch and pass out, and we have to deal with emergency responders that come and take them. We’ve even had to consider changing the seating that we offer in the lobby of the restaurant that I work at because of the same issue,” said Gillmore.

The City of San Diego put in large rocks at Imperial Avenue and I-5 as a homeless deterrent in 2016 to prevent people from sleeping under the freeway.

One year ago, San Diegan Bergen Toth started a petition calling for the “Removal of all hostile architecture in San Diego” where he planned to present it to the San Diego City Council if it got 200 signatures, but it only received 123. Gillmore says housing isn’t a business’s responsibility and wishes more services were offered to those unsheltered. “What are you going to do? You don’t want to turn your business into a shelter you know? The people do need something done for them,” said Gillmore.

In North Park, bright blue and white flashing lights connected with a motion sensor camera with audio are mounted on a CVS Pharmacy at Herman and 31st Avenues.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Carl M Zanolli May 16, 2022 at 12:04 pm

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had to wait under the hot blazing sun for a bus catty corner to Mattarello’s restaurant because a homeless person is flopped out on the bench in the bus stop surrounded by the mess and garbage brought there by that homeless person. If I dared to try to take some shelter from the sun anywhere near that bus stop I’d be on the receiving end of verbal abuse.

This article is so off the mark and the thoughts and sentiments expressed therein are one of the root causes for the homeless problem in Hillcrest


Chris May 16, 2022 at 12:48 pm

“Hostile Architecture”. What a both cringeworthy and yet hilarious term.


Dr Jack Hammer May 16, 2022 at 2:10 pm

I think what Sea World builds is also Hostile Architecture…

…along with those fancy overpriced apartments that now line Voltaire Ave.

Stay tuned, more Hostile Architecture coming to a Sports Arena near you…


kh May 16, 2022 at 3:59 pm

Let’s call it what it really is, hostile use of public facilities.

Bus stop benches are for those waiting for the bus. Public toilets are exactly that, they are not homeless shelters.

As long as residents and businesses can’t get a proper response from authorities, they will continue to do what they have to do to maintain their property to deter loitering or other inappropriate uses.


Frank Gormlie May 16, 2022 at 4:25 pm

See, I disagree but I’m not asking you to ID yourself. As long as the social and economic disparities in this country are the widest they’ve been in over 100 years, the very poor will try to survive the best they can.


Sorry not Sorry May 17, 2022 at 8:45 am

Wouldn’t “deterrent architecture” be more accurate?


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