Sit /lie goes down at the Board of Supervisors

Supes put out the fire on sit /lie for now, but it'll heat up again in November.
Rebecca Bowe

At the June 8 Board of Supervisors meeting, a controversial ordinance that sought to ban sitting or lying down on the sidewalk was voted down 8 to 3, with Sups. Michela Alito-Pier, Sean Elsbernd, and Carmen Chu voting in favor.

Proponents of the law, which was backed by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascon, framed it as a measure to promote "civil sidewalks." Yet opponents believed that the law would be used as a tool against the homeless.

Alioto-Pier said the law was needed to give police a new tool for dealing with people who congregate on the streets and intimidate passersby, saying residents and businesses were bothered by "the presence of dogs or shouting."

Yet a number of supervisors spoke forcefully against the ordinance, saying it was not an appropriate solution to the problems that Alioto-Pier and other sit/lie backers had raised concerns about.

"I don't believe that this is the San Francisco way to to approach the challenges that we face," said District 8 Sup. Bevan Dufty, who goes along with Newsom's proposals more often than his progressive colleagues and is typically a swing vote on the board. Dufty referenced a former, similar San Francisco law that was ultimately repealed. "That was a law that didn't want to see gay men congregating at 1 a.m. outside a bar," he said. He called for a more substantive approach, saying, "We can do better."

Sup. David Campos also spoke against it. "It doesn't actually address the issue of civility," he said. "The case for this legislation simply has not been made." He noted that day laborers who wait for hours on the sidewalk in hopes of finding work could be targeted when they sit down to take a rest.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi said he thought greater enforcement of existing laws and community policing would be more effective than the proposed ordinance. Later in the meeting, he proposed a measure to be placed on the November ballot that would require police to adopt a foot beat patrol program and a community policing policy.

The board also voted unanimously in favor of a proposal by Board President David Chiu to create a neighborhood community justice task force "to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors regarding the creation of restorative and community justice programs." Chiu pitched the idea as a more meaningful response to hostile behavior on the streets in neighborhoods such as the Haight, where calls for a sit /lie ordinance originated.

"We're very pleased about what happened today," said Andy Blue, an activist who organized a citywide campaign opposing sit / lie. But he said it wasn't over yet, since Newsom has already moved to place the proposal on the ballot. "We know we're going to face an uphill battle," he said, "because we're going to be in a campaign with some very well-funded opponents." But Blue said he felt confident that once the information got out to San Franciscans, "they'll vote against it in November."





I'm sure that's the worst fear of those who oppose it - they know this will pass by a landslide if submitted to voters. Which it will be this November.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Jun. 09, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

Thanks to Rebecca Bowe for the article on the supes' defeat of the Civil Sidewalks Law. This is the most detailed account of their vote that I've seen yet in the media. Congrats for the reporting.

As Rebecca Bowe points out, the supes have created a task force to come up with recommendations for dealing with the problem of uncivil and illegal behavior on sidewalks.

That's nice. But I thought we already had a task force to deal with such problems. It's called the board of supervisors. They get paid $96,000 a year each to come up with solutions.

The supes fumbled the ball in dealing with sidewalk incivility. No one should be surprised. They can't maintain civility among their own members. So why should anyone expect them to look after civility in the city?

Luckily, we have a democratic process at hand for when the supes fail to do their job. It's called the initiative process.

The Civil Sidewalks Law will go to the voters, just as Care Not Cash went to the voters after the supes fumbled that ball.

Onward to the voters!

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 09, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

I hope it passes by a landslide in November.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

If you maintain it will, I'd ask you back that up with evidence. Centrists like myself are swayed by Campos' (1) and Dufty's (2) arguments. We agree with moderates on the problem, but:

(1) It's over-broad and selectively-enforced, violating a core tenet of good legislation.
(2) It was once targeted at gay men. Harvey Milk himself inveighed against sit/lie. Hell, Herb Caen even shot it down.

Separately,you might have gotten away with one or the other. But taken together, those are dealbreakers. When anti-sit/lie activists say it's "UnSanFranciscan" and can quote Harvey Milk and Herb Caen in the same breath, they win the argument, full stop.

Come up with a better law and we'll talk.

Posted by generic on Jun. 09, 2010 @ 5:09 pm

Legislating for something that should be a function of government is never a good idea. You rarely get what you really want.

The law is over-broad, I agree and will probably not stand up to a challenge under the California Constitution. I think the challenges and rulings on Seattle's law in 1996 will not stand against a challenge.

Furthermore the current struggles a similar law face in Palo Alto and the defeat of similar legislation in Portland would suggest that these laws are at best a stop-gap measure.

I've heard hearsay that students at Hastings are already drafting challenges as project work.

Posted by Luke on Jun. 10, 2010 @ 5:10 pm

The pro sit-lie people have lots of money to waste on their campaign (the rumor is that the Chamber of Commerce is investing $500 grand - more money than it takes to fully fund a homeless drop in center for an entire year), but that doesn't matter. Sit lie will lose at the polls for the same reason it lost at the Board: it's an ineffective proposal that makes innocent behavior illegal and does nothing to increase public safety. We can have safe sodewalks AND civil rights -- we don't have to choose between one or the other.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 09, 2010 @ 10:45 pm

"Sup. Ross Mirkarimi said he thought greater enforcement of existing laws and community policing would be more effective than the proposed ordinance."

It just amazes me that the progressive cult is so easily duped by people like Mirkarimi, he ignores the people in his district complaints, and then he wants a mulligan. They treat his whining as if it is high logic, after his neglect abetted the situation.

It cracks me up that progressives think that the rest of us are so easily manipulated.

"I hear and obey Master Mirkirimi"

Posted by glen matlock on Jun. 10, 2010 @ 12:03 am

This is Sam. It would appear that I have been banned. For this comment, I've had to use my partner's name and email address because it would appear that The Guardian has put MY name and email address in their spam filter to block my comments. I have been unable to comment for the past 24 hours when I've attempted using my name and email address. But other people don't seem to be having any problems commenting.

The Guardian seems to prefer the comments from those who are FOR sit-lie, since their comments are here. Those baiting commenters have not ended up in the spam filter. I oppose sit-lie. Each time I've attempted to comment to say that and other comments, I ended up in the spam filter, no matter which thread topic it was on. Even when I type nothing but the word "test" using MY name and email address, I ended up in the spam filter. With this name and email address I had no trouble commenting---no spam filter---so it would appear that I (Sam) have been banned. I could talk about that in detail, but why bother. This says a lot more about The "status quo" Guardian than anything else. They claim to believe in freedom of speech and they charade as "progressives." Riiiight.

Posted by mike on Jun. 10, 2010 @ 2:13 am

Sit/Lie on the November ballot will do much the same as Gavin's answer to Homelessness, Care Not Cash.

As if washing the feet of the homeless once every 60 days has had any impact at all.

Sit/Lie is equally onerous, and just as anti-democratic.

Posted by Rick H on Jun. 10, 2010 @ 5:39 pm

Tommi Avicolli Mecca, the vocal opponent of the proposed Civil Sidewalks Law (formerly the Sit-Lie Law), will be happy.

I was down on Castro Street earlier tonight (Thursday, June 10). There were four or five clumps of migratory alcoholics and addicts flopped out on the sidewalk all along the west side of Castro Street between 18th Street and Market St.

In front of Walgreen's, at 18th and Castro, there was one clump of about six, with a pit-bull. One of them, a male, was shouting "Crack is back! Crack is back!"

On the other side of 18th Street, a disheveled male with a scraggly beard was screaming at the top of his lungs, over and over, "Are you gay? Suck my balls!"

This is the worst concentration of migratory alcoholics and addicts that I have ever seen on Castro Street.

No one should be surprised. For weeks now, Tommi Avicolli Mecca, as part of his protest against the Civil Sidewalks Law, has been spreading this message: the Castro welcomes itinerants to come by and flop out on the sidewalks.

He has held weekend flop-ins, where groups of the opponents of civility have flopped down on the sidewalk with signs, encouraging others to do so. They’ve shouted and yelled, smeared chalk graffiti on the sidewalks, and scoffed at the concept of sidewalk civility.

He has succeeded in getting his message across to the migratory alcoholics and addicts across the city, and especially to those from the Haight. They have responded to his welcome call and followed his example.

I predict that residents of the Castro will soon see what residents of the Haight have already seen - increasing harassment and abuse on the part of migratory alcoholics and addicts, including violent homophobic attacks on residents and visitors.

Tommi Avicolli-Mecca has a lot to answer for. And so does Bevan Dufty, the supe from the Castro, who voted against the Civil Sidewalks Law at the supes last Tuesday.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 10, 2010 @ 11:36 pm

It would be nice to read more about the real burden faced by mostly locally owned businesses in the Haight (and elsewhere) whose ability to make a living is seriously impeded by rude, aggressive, and hygiene-impaired people roaming the retail corridors.

While I appreciate the issues and challenges facing homeless folks and their advocates, local merchants who provide jobs and tax revenue for the city and create a valued quality of life for neighborhoods are losing customers left and right.
They have sympathy for the homeless and don't want day laborers rounded up, and some may think that the sit/lie ordinance isn't the best answer. But right now it appears to be the only answer for many, and their frustration mounts as their foot traffic declines,

Posted by Guest Hut Landon on Jun. 11, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

We are living through the worst economic disaster in the U.S. since the Great Depression.
This is "the real burden faced by mostly locally owned businesses in the Haight ". The declining foot traffic is not limited to Haight Street.
This is a nation wide problem, brought on by a world wide economic melt down.
You may have noticed something about this in the papers.
Anyone with the smarts to open their own small business is also bright enough to realize that their " ability to make a living is seriously impeded" by the crash of our economy, and that a law making it a crime to sit on the sidewalk does absolutely nothing to solve this.

Their are two possible explanations for your statements:
1. Ignorance
2. Willful ignorance.

Posted by GuestGene on Jun. 11, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

I live I'm SOMA near a drop in center. Many of their residents spend their day shooting up, getting drunk, yelling at the top of their lungs, fighting, buying and selling drugs, and urinating... within ten feet of my front door. Sometimes there is urine that leaks in my outer front door. The police don't do anything even though I call them all the time. The homeless shelter across the street refused to even acknowledge that they might have the power to suggest to their residents that they be better neighbors and told me flatly, "once they leave here we have no say in what they do." even though they can see their resident behavior from across the street and moreover I never suggested that could control anyones behavior only that they might consider how to address the issue with those to whom they provide services. Apparently that was too much trouble for them. It is scary to walk in and out my front door, not to mention a health hazard given the amount of vomit and urine on the sidewalk directly in front of my house. I'm just a student. I can't afford a car or a place with a security gated parking lot. I don't live in a loft/compound complex that insulates me from the sidewalk or my community. Nor would I want to really, but something has to change. I love SOMA and I have worked in many social service settings outside of SF where having a dialogue with those whom
we served about the expectation that they be considerate members of the community was part of the persecutive that do so would help them advance or at least remain stable. I am not interested in persecuting the homeless, but something has to change. What do they mean when they say "better community policing" is the way to address this problem? Does that mean the police will try and get through to the people who provide social services in the area to help them help their their clients to be more respectful of the community that is providing for them? Will the drop in centers care enough about their residents wellbeing that they will begin to focus on these issues as a means of providing better case management services that take into account issues of societal integration. I would love nothing more than to be able to partner with the local agencies as we are all residents of this neighborhood. I feel like a prisoner in my own home when I elect to not go to the store while their is a drunken hang out happening immediately at my front door. And I worry for the safety of my guests when they are arriving at my place and must move through a sidewalk so crowded with drunk, angry, loaded, and often yelling individuals that they have to walk in the streets to move around the crowd. SOMETHING HAS TO CHANGE.

Posted by Christopher on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 4:24 am

Thank you, Christopher, for your thoughtful comments above. I'm sorry to see the conditions you have to put up with.

You are not alone. Many people throughout SF can recount similar stories.

The problem is that the System is broken. It enables the addiction of migratory addicts and alcoholics. It thwarts the constructive efforts of residents who want to make their neighborhoods safe, clean, and peaceful.

Change in reforming the System will not come from the board of supes. The board is dysfunctional. It cares more about conditions in foreign countries than about safety and civility in SF neighborhoods.

This board is not able to maintain civil behavior among its own members. How then will it provide for civility in the city?

Nor will change comel come from the board's enablers. By these, I mean the city's doctrinaire progressives. They have turned what was once a popular movement for reform into a machine for promoting the careers and turf of certain cheesy politicians.

Change will come from the people. Change will start to manifest itself this fall and winter.

The catalyst for change will be the Civil Sidewalks Law. A rallying cry will arise throughout the city: Stand up for neighborhood safety and civility against both the dysfunctional supes at City Hall and the nomadic addicts and alcoholics in the neighborhoods.

A big release of energy is coming. We will witness a new dynamic in the political life of the city.

The people will prevail.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 7:30 am

"The police don't do anything even though I call them all the time.'
Posted by Christopher on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 4:24 am

How will making it a crime for any of us to sit on a public sidewalk address this problem?
It sounds like you need the Mayor and Police Chief Gascon to direct our police officers to enforce the many existing laws the people outside your building are breaking.

Posted by Homace on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

Some of the opponents of civility claim that the answer to the public safety crisis in the Haight and elsewhere is better enforcement of existing laws, not the passage of a new law.

However, these are the same people who have repeatedly opposed calls in the past for effective enforcement of existing laws. "Stop, you're attacking the homeless!" they have shouted, every time there was a push to enforce existing laws.

In fact, however, only a tiny fraction of the perpetrators are San Francisco residents who have become homeless. Most are migratory addicts and alcoholics who flock here from elsewhere in search of easy access to drugs and poor law enforcement.

Homelessness Inc pretends that they are homeless San Franciscans, which is not the case. Homelessness Inc is in a symbiotic relationship with the migratory addicts and alcoholics. This relationship brings many millions of dollars to Homelessness Inc, and also hundreds of jobs. Most of the funding comes from SF taxpayers.

To deal with the assaults on our neighborhoods, we need two things: (1) passage of the Civil Sidewalks Law; and (2) more effective enforcement of existing laws.

The Civil Sidewalks Law is needed because it recognizes the dreaded "T" word - Turf.

The migratory addicts and alcoholics who flock to SF, colonize public places as their turf. They get away with this turf-grabbing because existing city policy delcares that a sidewalk cannot be obstructed, only individuals.

This is an absurd declaration. Drugged-out squatters occupy and colonize sidewalks as their turf even when no individuals are present to be obstructed.

The drugged-out squatters then use the turf to engage in a host of activities that destabilize neighborhoods - drug dealing, assaults on residents, the whole bit.

The Civil Sidewalks Law is a mild precautionary measure that will help counteract the turf-grabbing by the migratory addicts and alcoholics. As a result, there will be fewer instances of assaults, drug-dealing, etc.

At the same time, existing laws should be better enforced. The big problem here is D.A. Kamala Harris. The police write citations and make arrests, but the D.A. has only a so-so record of prosecution.

So-so is no longer good enough. She has to get on top of things.

Let's take back public sidewalks from the drugged-out thugs who now colonize them as their own private turf.

And let's stand up to the catcalls of Homelessness Inc, which opposes both the enforcement of existing laws and passage of the new one.

Posted by Arthur Evans on Jun. 15, 2010 @ 8:11 am

"The police don't do anything even though I call them all the time.'
Posted by Christopher on Jun. 13, 2010 @ 4:24 am

How will making it a crime for any of us to sit on a public sidewalk address this problem?
It sounds like you need the Mayor and Police Chief Gascon to direct our police officers to enforce the many existing laws the people outside your building are breaking.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 15, 2010 @ 9:39 am

I agree with the Comment about the Police. If the Police currently "can't do anything" then what makes you think that yet another Law will change that? It won't.

Plus any new law will be challenged as unconstitutional. It is called the Bill of Rights (Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Assembly).

Posted by Rick H on Jun. 16, 2010 @ 12:53 pm