Meet the proponents of sit / lie

Arthur Evans
Rebecca Bowe

It’s easy to find opponents of the city’s proposed sit /lie ordinance in San Francisco. This past Saturday, April 24, dozens of them organized over Facebook, inviting people to join in on events like drag shows, barbecues, and board game matches, all out on the sidewalk. The law’s proponents, meanwhile, haven’t been quite as visible since the great sit/lie debate began. But yesterday, April 28, the Guardian attended a press conference at the Tenderloin Police Station hosted by citizens who back the controversial law against sitting or lying down on the sidewalk. 

The press conference was organized by a Tenderloin organization called the Community Leadership Alliance, led by David Villalobos, and billed as residents of the Haight and the Tenderloin standing together in support of the law. Six people offered comments, while eight others (including a police captain and six representatives from C-Two Hotels) stood there but didn't say anything.
The star speaker was Arthur Evans, a vociferous supporter who says he has lived at the corner of Haight and Ashbury for 35 years (for a very detailed description of Evans’ opinion, you can browse the comment forums of Guardian articles on sit /lie). He characterized the idea that the law “criminalizes sitting on the sidewalk” as false, since the ordinance provides for issuing warnings before citations.

To us, it still sounds like the ordinance criminalizes sitting on the sidewalk. The text reads: “In the City and County of San Francisco, during the hours between seven a.m. and 11 p.m., it is unlawful to sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, or upon a blanket, chair, stool, or any other object placed on a public sidewalk.”

Evans also charged that critics’ representations of the law as “an attack on the homeless” are false, because based on his own surveys of the Haight's sidewalk occupants, he’s discovered that they did not become homeless in San Francisco at all. Instead, he’s determined that they are "migratory packs of addicts and alcoholics that move up and down the West Coast and look for places where there is weak law enforcement and an abundance of drugs.” (And here you thought they were troubled youths fleeing dysfunctional homes, drawn to historic icons of counterculture like the famous San Francisco intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets.)

Others who spoke included Edward Evans, a wheelchair-bound man who said seniors and disabled people should be able to “traverse our sidewalks in peace and harmony.” A woman from a new Tenderloin neighborhood group said she felt unsafe on the streets, and that the sit / lie ordinance “has nothing to do with human rights, but with human needs.” (The need to walk around on the sidewalk in peace, that is.) And Ted Loewenberg of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association relayed a heart-wrenching story about a woman who, this one time, had to cross the street to get to her destination because she felt intimidated by people sitting on the sidewalk with their dogs and camping gear.

Another speaker was Community Leadership Alliance chair Scott Caroen, who runs a nightclub near the edge of the Tenderloin called the Infusion Lounge -- "catering to both dancing hipsters and young professionals looking to relax in style," according to its Web site. He said one of the main reasons he supports the ordinance is that “it may also reduce the overall homeless population in San Francisco, by discouraging people from coming to our city to beg for money.” Chatting with reporters after the press conference, Caroen -- a young, well-dressed guy with sandy blond hair -- noted that “tourists are shocked” by the behavior of people on the streets, and said his family members are just appalled by what they see in the Tenderloin when they come to visit. Caroen moved to San Francisco five years ago from Howell, Michigan (pop. 9,232), and said it took him awhile just to get comfortable walking down the city streets. “You get seasoned to it, you get hardened to it,” he said, adding that he, for one, has learned to not give money to panhandlers.

When we asked Caroen whether his group supports increased investment in homeless services, since that could help alleviate the problem of people sitting and lying in the streets with nowhere else to go, he said, “That’s a whole other topic.”

Tenderloin Police Station Captain Dominic Celaya was there in support, a representative from the mayor’s office came out, and C.W. Nevius made an appearance. Arthur Evans and Villalobos took jabs at Sups. Ross Mirkarimi and Chris Daly, who weren't there, saying they deserved no thanks for addressing this source of outrage. (Apparently, they haven’t heard that that Daly has proposed his own ban on lying on the sidewalk.) Some politicians got the recognition they deserved, however, as Villalobos lauded Mayor Gavin Newsom as “one of the finest mayors we’ve ever had.” So there.

We have met the proponents of sit / lie, and we can safely say that they are not having as much fun on the city sidewalks as the law’s opponents.


The emergence of Chris Daly as the face of the opposition to the Civil Sidewalks Law is good news to the measure’s supporters. Daly will bring people over to the support side just because he’s Daly.

That was evident at yesterday’s meeting of the Public Safety Committee. I had gone into the meeting fully expecting the committee to vote the law down. That expectation increased as I watched the poor performance of the mayor’s operatives. I was quite surprised by the result at the end – continuing the matter until later in the month.

The continuance happened because of Daly’s testosterone fit at the meeting. Two members of the committee who are opposed to the law (David Chiu and Ross Mirkarimi) didn’t want to be associated in the public mind with Daly’s outburst. The vote to continue was a means for them to put some immediate distance between themselves and Daly before killing the measure later.

Daly is radioactive. Everything he touches, sets off Geiger counters. Everybody at City Hall is aware of this fact except Daly himself.

Opponents of the measure did better when Gabriel (formerly Robert) Haaland was the face of the opposition. Haaland is rational, self-controlled, and low-keyed. He comes across very well on TV. He is effective in reaching intelligent people who have not yet made up their minds on the issue.

Daly, by contrast, is irrational, out-of-control, and threatening. He has the manner of a 12-year-old boy who is experiencing his first testosterone surges. He turns off independent thinkers who are pondering the merits of measures.

I doubt that Haaland will be able to reassert his role as head of the opposition parade, now that Daly has muscled his way into that position. The media will focus on Daly, and he will act like Godzilla in front of them. He can’t help himself.

On a personal note, Daly and I happened to cross paths yesterday in the corridor of City Hall. I said “Good morning, Chris.” He looked at me and yawned vigorously.

I considered myself lucky. At least he didn’t yell “Fuck you, bitch!” into my face. That’s his usual response to anyone who questions his methods.

Posted by Arthur Evans on May. 11, 2010 @ 12:11 pm

Wow, Arthur.
You sure are important.

Posted by Guest on May. 11, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

I cannot wait to vote for this initiative. It is not fun for me or my wife to be accosted by homeless youth on Haight Street during the day when we are shopping at the co-op or going to dinner at Citrus Club. We often avoid Haight Street like the plague because of the homeless youth occupying the street.

Posted by Guest on May. 12, 2010 @ 11:03 am

My primary complaint with this silly law is that it won't do a thing. Years ago property owners and stores in the Haight were told to post yellow "NO TRESPASSING" notification signs in their windows so that police could arrest violators.
It did NOTHING to abate the problem.
Any doubt that this law will be selectively enforced?
Today, the police ignored the behavior (public intoxication, open containers, public defecation, bottle throwing, people on rooftops spitting and throwing things) of thousands of B2B revelers who took over Haight St starting at 10 a.m. and at 6 p.m. are still going strong.
I had to work today and because my store was having a sidewalk store spent most of the day on the sidewalk where I observed all of the above. It WAS better than last year, I counted 6 police officers instead of one. But when I pointed the drunks sitting with their legs hanging over the edge of the 3 story building on the corner of Haight and Clayton, spitting and throwing water balloons on pedestrians and cars, she looked but just drove off.
I called the police 4 times, once about the wine bottle that was thrown across Haight St, smashing against the wall about 6" above a man's head.
I understand that it is important that the police arrest nude runners and confiscate open containers along the route but do we have to have someone fall to their death (as happened at the Haight St Fair a few years back) before they do anything?

I guess as long as you're a tourist from San Jose it's okay to take over the Haight St sidewalks and urinate on peoples' front doors (as mine was today) but if you're poor or mentally ill- you'd better watch your step!

Posted by Guest: Kevin Kearney on May. 16, 2010 @ 5:20 pm

Sadly Kevin, this proposed new law will actually encourage this sort of behavior.

The draft prohibits three activities:
1. sitting or lying down on a sidewalk or on any object placed on the sidewalk;
2. placing or leaving any object on the sidewalk further away than two feet from one's nearest foot; and
3. allowing a pet to be more than two feet away from oneself.

The draft also includes eleven exceptions:
1. medical emergencies
2. physical or mental “incapacitation”
3. use of a wheelchair, walker, or similar device
4. sidewalk-based business with an appropriate permit
5. observation of a parade, festival, rally, etc.
6. First Amendment-protected expressive assembly for eight hours or less
7. sitting on a chair or bench supplied by the City government or an abutting business
8. waiting for a bus
9. setting of an object on the sidewalk in conformance with a permit
10. conduct in violation of the above prohibitions, but allowed through some other sort of permit
11. temporary placement of delivered merchandise on the sidewalk

A first conviction of the proposed law would be an infraction, punishable by a fine of $50–100.Subsequent convictions would be misdemeanors, with a maximum sentence of six months in County Jail and a $500 fine

Useless and toothless.

Posted by TheLaw on May. 25, 2010 @ 10:08 am

In his mind, Chris Daly thinks he's opposing the Civil Sidewalks Law. In reality, his behavior is drawing voters to it.

The same thing happened with Care Not Cash. In his mind, Chris Daly thought he was opposing it. But in reality, his behavior drew voters to it.

Likewise, when Gavin Newsom ran for mayor. On both occasions, Chris Daly thought he was opposing Newsom. But in reality, Daly's behavior drew voters to Newsom.

Every day Gavin Newsom must thank God that he has an opponent as counterproductive as Chris Daly.

Keep it up, Chris!

Posted by Arthur Evans on May. 17, 2010 @ 12:39 pm

This is great political discourse and the voters will decide who is proposing the better argument. Its nice to live somewhere were opposing voices are heard loudly and reverberated by listeners and pundits on both sides.

For what its worth, I don't think Gavin thanks God, unless God is Gordon Getty.

Posted by TheLaw on May. 18, 2010 @ 3:05 pm

In Charles Dicken's "Oliver Twist" when Mr Bumble is informed that "the law supposes that your wife acts under your direction" Mr. Bumble replies "If the law supposes that ... the law is a [sic] ass—a idiot. If that's the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is that his eye may be opened by experience—by experience."

Posted by TheLaw on May. 18, 2010 @ 2:51 pm

Hey Mr. Evans,
Judging by your numerous, vociferous posts, it is obvious that you need to find something constructive to do with all that extra time you have.

Posted by Clark Sullivan on May. 25, 2010 @ 12:53 pm

It is obvious that whoever wrote this article had an agenda to paint each person at this meeting as flakey, stuck up idiots. If you really want to be a journalist, be objective. Get quotes that might also show the other side of the argument. It's easy to win an argument when you hold the paint brush. I am a teacher here in SF, and I would give this article a C+. You were saved for your grammar (which is fine, but not inventive) and your vocabulary...I think you said the word "vociferous," but your article is too vapid to go back and check. I know you don't like Sit/Lie. I get it by the way that you put down all of the people who are for it. But if you're charged by your editor to write an article about the proponents of Sit/Lie, at least give them the credit that they deserve, and give them a fair voice. Remember that, despite what the rest of our country is doing, being a journalist does not mean you're a commentator.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 23, 2010 @ 8:11 pm

Clean up the streets! Sidewalks are for pedestrians, not crackheads.

Posted by SF Resident on Aug. 31, 2010 @ 7:22 am

Clean up the streets! Vote yes on prop M for foot patrols and community policing.

Posted by SF Resident on Sep. 02, 2010 @ 1:48 pm

What about the chess players in Powell Street area? Surely, this is a picturesque
view of our city for any passing tourist. Why criminalize all people who need the open sidewalk? Why not target specific districts with such a law, if the Haight Ashbury upscale bo ho shopkeepers need some space? Why make this city-wide? Why give police more authority to harrass homeless people, who often have no other place to go...where are the shelters, Gavin Newsom? Where are the extra beds? The social services for people sleeping on our streets? What about the many citizens who harrass homeless people? Treat them with disinterest, leave them in their own filth?
San Francisco is becoming not only Sanctuary for the Rich, but now, a 'closed' city, not an open one...losing its tolerance, its counter cultural tolerance...becoming a place of surveillance and policing...
You can't sweep homeless under the rug, shove people off sidewalks or your parks become a problem? When will it be illegal to sit on a chair in a park?

Yuppies in sidewalk restaurants should be illegal.

This is a step backward for humankind, Sit/Lie - I spend a lot of time in the Haight and I have never been harrassed by a marauding pack...I will think twice about buying anything from the crap yuppie stores there in the future...

Even the Romans let people bath in their city fountains...

What a shame.

Angry young citizen

Posted by Guest mbh on Nov. 03, 2010 @ 11:49 am