Coming soon to “a San Francisco sidewalk near you”


Early this month, San Francisco Police Chief George Gascon explained to the Guardian his rationale for a proposed sit / lie ordinance, which would make it illegal to sit down or lie down on San Francisco sidewalks. “We’re responding to quite frankly what is a tremendous groundswell of pressure from residents and business people about very aberrant, aggressive behavior,” he said. “We don’t have an existing tool to deal with that behavior,” in the form of other city ordinances, he said.

The proposal has been discussed officially during public hearings at the San Francisco Police Commission, the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee, and in a series of editorials at local media outlets. It’s shaping up to be quite controversial.

And if an upcoming event sparked by the debate surrounding sit-lie is any indication, there is a “tremendous groundswell of pressure” on the other side of the coin, too. A group of organizers who recently created a Facebook group called “San Francisco Stands Against Sit-Lie” are also the architects behind a daylong event to be staged on city sidewalks called “Sidewalks are for People!” The event will be held March 27, on “A San Francisco Sidewalk Near You,” according to the event announcement.

What exactly will take place on the sidewalks is largely undefined, but it all sounds very, um, San Francisco. “On Saturday, March 27 people all over San Francisco will be doing what they love on the city's sidewalks and they will be inviting family, friends, and neighbors to join them,” the event page explains. “Music, barbecue, yoga, lemonade stand, read, relax, art, talk, sun bathe, chess, meditate, tai chi, eat, knit, dance, paint, write, sit, lie down, play, chalk drawings, sing, DJ, drums, chill -- Anything!”

Andy Blue won’t take credit for anything more than helping to brainstorm this event idea and doing some Facebooking, but he’s clearly excited about all the various forms the sidewalk shindigs could take. “We knew that if the word [about a sit-lie ordinance] got out to a broader audience, people would be really alarmed,” Blue told the Guardian. “We want to show that San Francisco is unified in its celebration of public space and civil liberties.” The proposed law, he added, “doesn’t represent what this city is about.”

Groups who have been named as opponents of a sit/ lie ordinance include the AIDS Housing Alliance of SF, Axis of Love SF, Causa Justa :: Just Cause (CJJC), the Coalition on Homelessness, Creating Alternatives to Castro Homelessness (CATCH), Haight-Ashbury Neighborhood Council (HANC), the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, the Homeless Youth Alliance, the Housing Rights Committee of SF, La Raza Centro Legal & Day Labor Program, the SF Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, the National Lawyers' Guild, POOR Magazine/Poor News Network, Pride at Work, San Francisco Tenants' Union, and the St. Anthony Foundation.

“So far, in the mainstream media, there’s been a very narrow discussion and it’s been driven by fear, and it’s been driven by people who don’t live in San Francisco,” Blue said in a swipe at San Francisco Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius, who lives in Walnut Creek and has penned a series of editorials complaining about street kids harassing business patrons in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. “We want to show that there are people all over the city who don’t want this draconian law.”