Sit/lie debate takes a strange new turn

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Emails are rocketing around San Francisco political circles in anticipation of an April 21 meeting of the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC), the policy-making body for the Democratic Party in San Francisco. Committee members are slated to discuss the city's proposed sit/lie ordinance, a controversial measure backed by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascon meant to afford police more powers for dealing with hostile youth occupying sidewalk space.

Labor activist Gabriel Haaland, a DCCC committee member, touched off a small firestorm early this week when he submitted a resolution against the sit/lie ordinance. Haaland, who has lived in the Haight for around 15 years, said wayward youth have been flocking to that neighborhood and hurling occasional barbs at passersby (including himself) since he can remember, and recent interest in the issue does not make it a new problem. “What would actually solve the problem?” Haaland asked, and offered that sit/lie is not the answer. According to a post on Fog City Journal, his resolution for the Democratic Party to oppose sit/lie was co-sponsored by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Supervisor David Campos, Supervisor Chris Daly, Supervisor Eric Mar, Aaron Peskin, Hene Kelly, Rafael Mandelman, Michael Goldstein, Joe Julian, Jane Morrison, Jake McGoldrick, Michael Bornstein, and Debra Walker.

While some might look at a grungy street kid and see a menace to smooth business functioning or an unruly vagrant not being properly dealt with because the laws are too weak, Haaland said he perceives a kid from a broken home who already feels alienated from society. Incarceration for a nonviolent crime such as lying on the sidewalk would only further alienate these youths, he argued, possibly nudging them toward criminal behavior instead.

“This legislation will not solve longstanding, complex problems,” Haaland’s resolution reads. “City Hall has openly and repeatedly admitted in the press that the criminal justice system is failing to deal with similar issues in the Tenderloin, and has created an alternative known as the Community Justice Court (CJC) that is founded on principles of Restorative Justice.”

Restorative Justice is an alternative approach to dealing with crime that involves bringing together those who are directly affected to understand and address the harm that has been done, with emphasis on personal accountability and transformation. Some models also seek to change the conditions in which harmful actions occurred.

Haaland’s resolution urges the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor to oppose sit/lie, and to explore successful alternatives to incarceration.

The proposal sparked a second resolution, this one from committee member Scott Wiener, who is a candidate for the District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors. Wiener submitted that the Democratic Party should officially get behind the CJC, and should acknowledge its error in opposing the court, a Newsom pet project, in 2008. “When I saw Gabriel’s resolution … I noticed it contained a positive reference to the [CJC],” Wiener told the Guardian. “I was pleasantly surprised.”

Furthermore, his resolution “encourages the Mayor and Board of Supervisors, budget permitting and based on careful analysis, to consider future expansion of the CJC's geographic boundaries to include the Haight-Ashbury.”

Wiener is fully behind the sit/lie ordinance. “Right now, the police do not have enough enforcement tools to deal with some of the behavior on the streets,” he said. The measure has been an issue in the District 8 race, since progressive candidate Rafael Mandelman opposes the ordinance.

The resolution contest wasn’t over yet. In response to resolution No. 2, Haaland submitted yet another resolution -- along with a personal note that appeared to extend an olive branch -- revising Wiener’s proposal by urging support for “the restorative justice model as an alternative to incarceration.” (Haaland wrote an in-depth piece about restorative justice in a recent Guardian editorial.)

“I appreciated him doing that,” Wiener said when asked what he thought about resolution No. 3. “But I’m not convinced that that’s the way to go. That’s why I did not agree to it.”

Perhaps there won’t be any kum-ba-ya moments after all.

Along other email-blast circuits, Haaland’s initial proposal prompted David Villa-Lobos, a strong sit/lie advocate and District-6 contender, to sound his own alarm by urging SFPD officers to attend the April 21 meeting and defend the sit/lie ordinance.

The city Planning Commission recently voted 6-1 against the measure, and a grassroots group that brought opponents of the rule onto city sidewalks last month will hold another Stand Against Sit Lie citywide protest on April 24. The measure is expected to go before the Board of Supervisors near the end of the month.

The DCCC meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 21, at 6 p.m. in the basement auditorium of the California State Building, 455 Golden Gate Ave.

Comments

Meaning they attack other male dogs, meaning someone walking down the street with their dog has to fend off these losers who can not control their own dogs, or don't care and often think its funny when the dogs fight. Seen it a number of times with these types, they also use dogs for protection when dealing drugs.

And you never answered the question last time you posted this, why didn't any of the shouters like Merkirimi address this issue before it got in the papers?

If this never got any attention it would still be a mess, if it hasn't already become so again, and Merkirimi would still be getting himself worked up over foreign policy and neglecting his district.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:38 pm

"And you never answered the question...why didn't any of the shouters like Merkirimi address this issue before it got in the papers?"
-glen matlock

Sorry. I didn’t realize that was a question for me. I just thought you were bellowing into the heavens in frustration.
My answer is:
How the hell would I know?
I am not the person whose name you are obsessed with mispelling, as if it will teach him some sort of lesson upon learning of your disrespect.

My two questions for you are:
Do you live in this District?
and
Do you think it is a good idea to put people in jail for sitting on the sidewalk or for lack of civility?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

they attack other dogs. You believe everything cops tell you?

1. You're the one saying it was no big deal anyways, so I thought maybe you know the thought process of Merkin.

2. I know people who do live in the district and they were ignored by him, I live in David Campos's district, he has been ignoring the petty crime here and has come out against sit lie and saying existing laws should be enforced, although he only wants that done in the last couple of weeks, so I have my own worthless supervisor.

3. No, I think sit lie is a bad idea as cops will use it like they use burglary tools, just to harass people, there are plenty of laws to address this, but the progressives howl when those are used too. I just find a few things about it hilarious and this is one of them.

Posted by glen matlock on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 8:06 pm

Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, or misogynist, in my opinion.

When you make generalizations about the transient people, the homeless people, the street kids in San Francisco, all I hear is hate speech and fear, very much like the hate speech and fear of homophobes. You may think 'There is no comparison, it is completely different'
Well, I have news for you, discrimination is discrimination, it does damage no matter how you go about presenting it. Homeless people are people too, each with a story of his/her own, each with feelings and ideas and weaknesses and strengths. Your intolerance and hate sicken me to the core.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, or misogynist, in my opinion.

When you make generalizations about the transient people, the homeless people, the street kids in San Francisco, all I hear is hate speech and fear, very much like the hate speech and fear of homophobes. You may think 'There is no comparison, it is completely different'
Well, I have news for you, discrimination is discrimination, it does damage no matter how you go about presenting it. Homeless people are people too, each with a story of his/her own, each with feelings and ideas and weaknesses and strengths. Your intolerance and hate sicken me to the core.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past. You are no better than a homophobic person, or misogynist, in my opinion.

When you make generalizations about the transient people, the homeless people, the street kids in San Francisco, all I hear is hate speech and fear, very much like the hate speech and fear of homophobes. You may think 'There is no comparison, it is completely different'
Well, I have news for you, discrimination is discrimination, it does damage no matter how you go about presenting it. Homeless people are people too, each with a story of his/her own, each with feelings and ideas and weaknesses and strengths. Your intolerance and hate sicken me to the core.

Posted by Kelly Pierce on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

Thank you, Kelly, for your post above. Some responses follow.

You say:

“Your discrimination against the homeless is a mirror to the discrimination against homosexuals in the past.”

Very few of the street people in the Haight are San Franciscans who have become homeless. Most are migratory addicts and alcoholics from elsewhere.

It’s true that addicts and alcoholics should be offered services. But even so, addicts and alcoholics can be very destructive. The public needs to be protected from the injury they cause.

For example:

If a drunk driver kills someone, it’s true that the driver should be helped in dealing with his/her addiction. On the other hand, drunkenness is no excuse for killing people with cars. The drunk driver must be held accountable.

Similarly, drunkenness and addiction are no excuses for destroying a neighborhood. Those who destroy neighborhoods must be held accountable.

You say:

“When you make generalizations about the transient people, the homeless people, the street kids in San Francisco, all I hear is hate speech and fear …”

The behavior that I have reported is in my face every day, 24/7, as soon as I step outside my door.

This is what I encounter:

Drug-dealing, harassment of passers-by and assaults, urination and defecation on sidewalks, spraying graffiti, causing fires, dumping used needles in public parks and children’s sand boxes, and more.

This behavior is unacceptable in a civilized society and must be brought under control.

You say:

“Well, I have news for you, discrimination is discrimination.”

Protecting people from abuse and violence is not discrimination.

You say:

“Homeless people are people too, each with a story of his/her own, each with feelings and ideas and weaknesses and strengths.”

True. But every human being is accountable to the larger community.

Otherwise, we’d all still be living in caves and eating each for lunch.

You say:

“Your intolerance and hate sicken me to the core.”

The quest to secure civility and safety in neighborhoods, especially marginal neighborhoods, is a good thing.

And now that we have addressed your ad hominem slanders, let us return to discussing in rational manner the issues at hand.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

"Drug-dealing, harassment of passers-by and assaults, urination and defecation on sidewalks, spraying graffiti, causing fires, dumping used needles in public parks"

These are each violations of already existing laws.
Why have you not asked police to enforce these existing laws?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

Asks "Guest" above:

"These are each violations of already existing laws.
Why have you not asked police to enforce these existing laws? '

We've run around this burning bush many times before.

The migratory addicts and alcoholics colonize public places, which they use as bases for their manifold activities. The colonized places of the sidewalk squatters constitute the territorial root of the problem for all their other activities.

The police are hampered in dealing with this root. That's because the police must first have a formal civilian complaint before directing sidewalk squatters to move along. No other California city has this restriction.

This restriction is the result of two arcane General Orders of the Police Commission. They resulted from a court settlement that the Commission says it may not unilaterally rescind. I tried to get the Commission to rescind them in 1996.

The proposed sit-lie law is the way to get around this loophole in the law in dealing with the root of the problem. The law would permit police to direct sidewalk squatters to move along without first having a civilian complaint. The law specifies that there shall be a warning only, with no citation, for first-time offenders. The constitutionality of a similar law in Seattle has been upheld.

I'm surprised you haven't remembered these points, since they have been made many times before.

I try to be a patient person, but it's difficult having a rational discussion with people who suffer from severe short-term memory loss.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 7:58 pm

You haven't answered the question.

"Drug-dealing, harassment of passers-by and assaults, urination and defecation on sidewalks, spraying graffiti, causing fires, dumping used needles in public parks"

These are each violations of already existing laws.
Why have you not asked police to enforce these existing laws?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 9:10 pm

I guess, Guest, you've suffered another memory lapse.

We residents did ask the police to be more assertive in enforcing the laws. The process started several months ago.

The local police captain, Teresa Bareet, brought in extra reinforcements from other neighborhoods. They made many arrests for drug dealing and all the other things often mentioned.

The neighborhood has improved as a result. If you walk down Haight Street today, it will be a civilized experience for you. You're not likely to see anyone crapping or pissing on the sidewalk or harassing passers-by or dealing drugs or smashing bottles on the sidewalk or screaming incoherently.

However, the extra police staffing in the neighborhood can't last forever. The reinforcements will have to return to the other neighborhoods from which they have been taken.

That's why it's important to give existing foot patrols the tools they need to do their jobs more efficiently, with small numbers. With the sit-lie law, a small number of beat cops could do the job of a much larger cadre of cops without the sit-lie law. With the sit-lie law, you wouldn't have to saturate a neighborhood with cops in order to make it civilized.

All this information has been readily available for months, in newspapers, chatboards, on TV, and at public meetings.

How could you forget it so soon?

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 19, 2010 @ 9:50 pm

Today's Chron has an article about what can happen when sidewalk incivility goes unchecked (link below). This incident occurred in the East Bay, not the Haight Ashbury. The culprits were African Americans, not whites, who are usually the aggressors in the Haight Ashbury.

However, the incident shows that sidewalk incivility can lead to violence if allowed to continue unabated.

Let's work to restore civil sidewalks to SF and especially to our at-risk neighborhoods. The proposed sit-lie law is a step in this direction.

Here's the link:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/04/20/BA301D16JO.DTL

Posted by Arthur Evans on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 9:14 am

Currently the biggest problem has actually been anti-sit/lie activists clogging the sidewalks. I really don't care who you are or why you're out there, but when you're camping out and blocking the sidewalks something needs to be done. The sidewalks along Haight are far too narrow for the amount of traffic they receive as it is with the massive influx of tourists and shoppers rendering it hard for neighborhood residents to simply get around or go out for lunch. Haight simply doesn't have wide enough sidewalks for anyone to sit or lie down on them without significantly obstructing traffic. I don't care if you're homeless and hassling people for spare change or girl scouts trying to hawk overpriced cookies you're abusing a public right-of-way for your personal interests.

The problem isn't fears about being assaulted by vicious homeless and baseless fears of pit bulls, but a simple problem with unchecked loitering by a wide variety of people.

Posted by Belgand on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 4:26 pm

The sidewalks on Haight Street are definitely wide enough to accommodate people sitting as well as a LOT of people walking past.
I was on Haight Street for the Sidewalks Are For People demonstration last month. While the sidewalks were full of people shopping and enjoying the beautiful weather, there was still plenty of room for people sitting, lying, telling fortunes, playing guitars and violins and cellos, and even typing poems on an old typewriter.
So on that point you are completely wrong.

As far as the unlikely possibility that you were unable to move on the sidewalk because you were blocked by another person- you do know that is prohibited by existing law, right?
Why didn't you call the police if some lady reading tarot cards, or some children making chalk drawings were stopping you from being able to move freely?
Did you fear they would retaliate with a Girl Scout cookie attack?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 21, 2010 @ 5:56 pm

I cannot help but wonder now with pot practically legal if the police are concerned that they will have less purpose. If they can't hassle the youth for possible drug possession anymore I guess sit/lie would be just in time to provide the cops with renewed purpose and a new means to help cash-strapped San Francisco raise a little more revenue ticketing the impoverished? The logic escapes me. I've resided in the Haight for over 40 years. It has been more congested and it has been less congested but never scarey or dangerous unless one got caught up is some street deal gone awry. Fortunately, little street deals and tense skirmishes have all but disappeared with our sensible and responsible establishment of pot clubs. If this silly sit/lie thing gets passed we need only to provide art supplies, musical instruments, political buttons and posters to all those on the street because we do still have free speech laws that will protect people selling art, making music or promoting political agendas. However, nipping it in the bud would be best for all concerned. Why empower the cops to harrass the youth in our neighborhood who more often than the merchants may like to admit are some of their most loyal customers. I think we need some legislation criminalizing intolerance and lack of compassion. It's about time citations get issued for whining and moaning about homeless people. I mean, I am really sick and tired of watching idiots parade around the financial district with nooses around their necks and I'm fed up with being gouged by PG&E, my credit card company and my medical insurance company (to name a few) and I've learned to exercise a little tolerance of them in order to co-exist. Try to muster a little tolerance all you hate and fear mongers would you please.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

I cannot help but wonder now with pot practically legal if the police are concerned that they will have less purpose. If they can't hassle the youth for possible drug possession anymore I guess sit/lie would be just in time to provide the cops with renewed purpose and a new means to help cash-strapped San Francisco raise a little more revenue ticketing the impoverished? The logic escapes me.

I've resided in the Haight for over 40 years and host international visitors in the neighborhood daily. Over the years, it has at times been more congested and it has been less congested but never scarey or dangerous unless one got caught up is some street deal gone awry. Fortunately, little street deals and tense skirmishes have all but disappeared with our sensible and responsible establishment of pot clubs.

If this silly sit/lie thing gets passed we need only to provide art supplies, musical instruments, political buttons and posters to all those on the street because we do still have freedom of expression laws that will protect people selling art, making music or promoting political agendas. However, nipping sit/lie in the bud would be best for all concerned. Why empower the cops to harrass the youth in our neighborhood who more often than the merchants may like to admit are some of their most loyal customers.

I think we need some legislation criminalizing intolerance and lack of compassion. It's about time citations get issued for whining and moaning about homeless people. I mean, I am really sick and tired of watching idiots parade around the financial district with nooses around their necks looking all self-important when all they do all day is kill trees and oppress other people. I'm fed up with being gouged by PG&E, my credit card company and my medical insurance company (to name a few) and I've learned to exercise a little tolerance of them in order to live in peace. Try to muster a little tolerance all you hate and fear mongers would you please. I'd appreciate it. You are a far greater hassle-factor in my life than those sitting around Haight Street.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 20, 2010 @ 6:09 pm

Personally I'm not that threatened by people who are sitting or lying. Hard to throw a punch while lying down. Or "spit" on a baby while your ass is still touching the sidewalk. Are people still really trying to make us believe this is about sidewalk access? Groups of jogging stroller mommies (just an example) take up more space than some kid and his dog trying to scrape together enough for a cheeseburger.

The fact is that this is not about obstructing sidewalks and sit/lie seems an arbitrary distinction. Another fact is that there are already laws on the books for real crime in the City. Drug dealing, assault (including spitting), hate crimes, even "aggressive" panhandling. They all have their own consequences. Enforcing existing laws is one thing, but sit/lie is totally up to the discression of the police and they will be able to enforce it as they see fit.

And that's what makes me uncomfortable. It will be strictly enforced in the Haight, the TL, SOMA, Mission, but not in other neighborhoods where people are behaved and for the most part rich. This is so crazy, people. Check it out yourselves and look it up.

Posted by superlative judgement on Apr. 21, 2010 @ 4:15 pm