San Francisco residents, community and business leaders gathered at a police station in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood today to speak out in favor of an ordinance that would prohibit sitting and lying on city sidewalks.
The ordinance, as proposed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, would prohibit sitting and lying on any city sidewalk between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
It is meant to give police a tool for cracking down on intimidating street denizens, particularly in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, but opponents have said it would violate civil liberties and go against San Francisco culture.
Today’s event was organized by the neighborhood organization Community Leadership Alliance and held at the city’s Tenderloin police station.
CLA executive director David Villa-Lobos said the event was “to let everyone know that there is plenty of support for sit/lie” because “the support hasn’t been publicized as much as the opposition.”
Protests were held over the weekend against the ordinance, and on Tuesday, Supervisor Chris Daly seemingly mocked the proposal by introducing a ban on lying on sidewalks, defining lying as “making false statements with deliberate intent to deceive.”
Daly was not immediately available to comment today on his proposal.
Arthur Evans, who said he has lived at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets for 35 years, said he was “outraged at the way the critics of this law have misrepresented it.”
Evans said opponents of the sit-lie ordinance claim it is an attack on the homeless, and would criminalize sitting on the sidewalk.
But he said that was false, since “it provides for warnings only for first-time offenders.
Most places where this law exists, there are very few citations, and they hardly ever go to court.”
Evans also said that walking down his street, he has found that very few of the supposedly homeless people there are from San Francisco.
Rather, he said many of the people are part of “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.”
Scott Caroen, the chairman of the CLA, said the group supported the sit-lie proposal because it “feels our sidewalks should be enjoyable and a place for social gathering.”
Agreeing with Caroen was Edward Evans, a disabled man who is the chair of senior and disabled concerns for the Community Resources Action Project in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood.
“We need to be able to traverse our sidewalks in peace and harmony,” Edward Evans said. “As it is, there is no peace and harmony, so we need to be able to have the police use this as a tool so that we can create a better neighborhood, not only for the residents, but for the merchants that support us here.”
Six members of C-Two Hotels, which owns and operates a half-dozen hotels near the Union Square area of the city, also came to today’s meeting in support of the sit-lie proposal.
Lucio Bustillo, director of operations for the company, said if the ordinance was passed, “the economic terms are going to be good for the city.”