Sit-lie: A city planning issue?

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Reclaiming the sidewalks as a protest against the sit-lie law
Ben Rosenfeld photo

The City Planning Commission will be taking up the proposed sit-lie law April 1. No, that's not an April Fool's joke -- city planners are going to take testimony and weigh in on the proposal to ban sitting on the sidewalks. Why is this a planning issue? Well, Commissioner Michael Antonini asked for a hearing to see what other cities do (and he'll probably push the commission to endorse the law) -- and Commissioner Christina Olague wanted to see what impact the law would have on the city's Pavement to Parks program.

It's a serious question: A Planning Department staff report (PDF) discusses the issue in some depth, noting that the General Plan suggests that "parts of wide sidewalks can be turned into children's play areas and sitting areas for adults." General Plan policy 26.1 calls on the city to "consider the sidewalk as an important element in the citywide open-space system." After all, streets and sidewalks take up 25 percent of all the land in San Francisco -- far more than the parks.

And the Planning Department has been moving actively in the past year to turn more bits of pavement into temporary urban parks, places that used to be streets or sidewalks where people are now encouraged to .... sit. "It is unclear if the ordinance would apply to the temporary plazas and informal seating crated by Pavement to Parks," the report concludes.

So expect some sparks to fly here, and for a heated debate if the commission tries to take action supporting or opposing the law.