Why Newsom loves sit-lie


To the surprise of exactly nobody, Mayor Gavin Newsom is putting his sit-lie law on the November ballot. And I think he's thrilled about it.

The last thing the mayor wanted was to have the supervisors approve its own version. He'd much rather have his name on it. This way, he not only gets a wedge issue to attack the progressives in the fall; he gets to run his statewide campaign as someone who's cracking down on the homeless. It's tough for a San Francisco politician to win in more conservative parts of the state -- but if he can say he stood up to those crazy "ultra-liberals" on the board and is willing to beat up on the poor and homeless, he can shed some of that liberal image.

But it's not clear that the strategy will work at home. Even David Latterman, a political consultant for Scott Wiener and other downtown-backed candidates, downplayed the role that sit-lie will play in the fall election. "It's just a wedge issue and it's not going to change people's minds on who they support," Latterman told a crowd that including Chron columnist CW Nevius -- who is perhaps the most enthusiastic backer of the measure -- during a post-election wrapup at SPUR on June 10.

And among the DCCC candidates in this election, the only one to really champion sit-lie and make it a part of his campaign was David Villa-Lobos, who is also running to replace Chris Daly on the Board of Supervisors, but who finished 26th out of 30 candidates in District 12.

The law also seems a little hinky. It would ban sitting on the sidewalk -- or "any object placed on the sidewalk, like a crate or folding chair," according to the Chron. Everywhere I go in the city these days, people are sitting on folding chairs on the sidewalk -- typically eating at a restaurant or cafe that has outdoor seating. I suspect many of those eateries have no specific permits to put chairs on the sidewalk; they just do it, which is fine, and nobody minds.

But technically, I guess, outdoor diners could be cited under the mayor's law. Or the cops could just ignore them, and decide how and where to enforce the law. Which is never a good thing.

I asked the mayor's press office for clarification on this point, and I'm still waiting for a response.

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