A faux controversy raged on Twitter over the weekend, centering around a rainbow-colored rock that sits outside Izakaya Sushi Ran in the Castro. The #rainbowrocksf, which the restaurant had sourced from Japan when it originally opened as Nomica four years ago, was painted in rainbow colors earlier this month to celebrate Pride.
Last week, the brightly painted rock caught the attention of the Coalition on Homelessness, which tweeted a photo of the large landscape detail with the words “When you wanna look inclusive but hate homeless people.”
The non-profit, whose website says “has developed the leadership skills of homeless San Franciscans to forge true solutions to the housing crisis and beat back mean-spirited attacks against them,” was referring to a tactic sometimes deployed by businesses to deter San Francisco’s homeless residents from sleeping or lingering there. Those can include spikes and large obstructions (like rocks).
In this case, however, the rock is part of a Zen-inspired installation by the Japanese restaurant. It has been there since the restaurant first opened as Nomica in 2016— a restaurant from the team behind Sausalito’s Sushi Ran that reconcepted to an izakaya late last year. This spring, the rock gained a bed of rocks, foliage, and a new paint job that garnered it some new attention.
Following backlash, the tweet was deleted; the Coalition acknowledged that the rock was part of the restaurant’s aesthetic, apologized, and urged followers not to contact the restaurant.
Ya’ll, we made a mistake! While rocks r a common prt of anti-homeless architecture, this particular rock is NOT. It’s a Japanese garden. Izakaya Sushi is a valued member of the commnity & is supportive of its homeless neighbors. We apologize & offer deep appreciation to the staff https://t.co/ifPskE7Fjc
— Coalition on Homelessness (@TheCoalitionSF) June 21, 2019
According to management, homeless people often use the restaurant’s doorway as shelter after hours without a problem. As Curbed SF points out, however, these types of rocks and other “decoration” are often a very common way to prevent the homeless population from seeking shelter, citing an action by the city in 2017 in which large rocks were moved into prime camping spots under SF freeways.