A week after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted down a controversial ordinance intended to quell bothersome street behavior, Mayor Gavin Newsom, true to his word, took the issue today to the voters.
Newsom submitted the so-called sit-lie measure for the November ballot, which if approved by a simple majority of voters would ban sitting or lying on public sidewalks, or on objects placed on the sidewalk, between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. citywide.
The ordinance to promote “civil sidewalks” would allow exceptions for medical emergencies; wheelchairs, walkers and children in strollers; permitted business activities; parades, rallies and performances; and fixed benches and chairs installed by the city and nearby private property owners.
It would also permit sitting in line on the sidewalk for goods or services as long as doing so did not impede pedestrians.
The Board of Supervisors voted down a similar proposal 8-3 on June 8 after weeks of impassioned public hearings. Many who oppose the ordinance claim it would be used to criminalize homelessness. Others simply question whether it would have its intended effects.
Police argue existing laws aren’t enough to curtail what some have labeled “thuggish” behavior by some street denizens toward passersby.
The issue has come to the forefront particularly in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, where some merchants and residents have complained about increasing incidents of street youth sitting outside local businesses and accosting pedestrians as they walk by.
They say the behavior discourages people from shopping and diminishes quality of life in the neighborhood.
Similar laws are already on the books in Santa Cruz, Palo Alto and Berkeley.
The proposed ordinance cites the need to maintain “public safety, thriving neighborhoods and a vital economy” in San Francisco.
If approved, police would first issue a warning. A subsequent violation would be an infraction punishable by a fine of between $50 and $100 and/or community service. Further violations would be misdemeanors punishable by steeper fines and/or jail time.