sit-lie11.jpgHaight Voters Rejected Sit/Lie: But Money and Votes from City’s Richest Hoods — Pacific Heights, Seacliff, West of Twin Peaks — Made for Successful Measure L

In its brief time on earth, the Sit/Lie initiative — known as Civil Sidewalks to supporters, Measure L to voters and all sorts of nasty names to its vocal detractors — made quite an impact on San Francisco.

Articles about the initiative ruled news cycles beginning in December 2009, when the first tales of a new Haight-bred “street thug” phenomenon entered Chron columnists C.W. Nevius’s rotation, to February, when the measure was first introduced at the Board of Supervisors by Mayor Gavin Newsom — who, the story goes, was inspired to prohibit sitting and lying on public sidewalks from 7 am to 11 pm after a walk down Haight Street with his infant daughter — right up until the election.

And why not? With such imagery — packs of unruly street kids (and their dogs) terrorizing iPhone-toting taxpayers, spitting on babies and inspiring the Stanyan Street McDonald’s to get rid of its dollar menu on one side; the vestiges of the Summer of Love and examples from other cities where sit/lie laws were either ineffectual or stricken from the books in court — Sit/Lie stories had to dominate.

But if the Haight kids inspired San Franciscans to pass a law reminiscent of anti-gay statutes, that same generation of transient terrors didn’t frighten their own neighborhood very much. Haight voters rejected Measure L, preliminary election results show, with the voting precincts immediately abutting Haight Street rejecting the measure by a score of 1406 against to 1275 in favor.

In fact, Sit/Lie fared poorly in most voting precincts where one can actually find homeless people sitting on the street.

Sit/Lie lost overall in District 5, which includes the Haight. In District 6, which includes the Tenderloin and Sixth Street, the city’s most notorious Skid Rows, the measure won — but just barely, and mostly because of support from voting precincts in Rincon Hill, South Beach. Sit/Lie lost among voters on Sixth Street and in the Tenderloin.

So where did Sit/Lie do well? The measure’s margin of victory citywide was 23,000 votes, which is exactly the sum total of the winning margins Measure L enjoyed in supervisorial Districts 2 (Marina/Cow Hollow, Pacific Heights, Seacliff), 4 (Sunset/Parkside) and 7 (West of Twin Peaks, Ingleside Terrace, St. Francis Wood). In other words, in the San Francisco neighborhoods with a dearth of people using the sidewalks as a futon, Sit/Lie killed.

Peep the raw data for yourself, but here are some hand-picked nuggets to ponder: in posh Seacliff, Sit/Lie won by a 2-to-1 margin. In the Marina, Cow Hollow and Russian Hill north of Broadway, Sit/Lie won by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. And Sit/Lie’s biggest win, an astonishing 5-to-1 pummeling, came in Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Pacific Heights voting precinct, where 249 voters — including, presumably, the former mayor and her husband, Richard Blum — voted in favor of Sit/Lie, to 53 bum-loving rich folk against.

This disparity seems a bit odd, especially when the need for a clean Haight was a key bit of Sit/Lie’s drumbeat, so The Appeal phoned Maxwell Szabo, the political consultant charged with running the campaign, for an explanation. Reached via telephone while visiting family in Southern California, Szabo, president of the San Francisco Young Democrats and an employee of Alex Tourk’s at Ground Floor Public Affairs, declined to speak on the record.

Gabriel Haaland — a queer activist and SEIU 1021 political director who was vocal in his opposition to Sit/Lie — offered his own explanation. That Sit/Lie had traction in the Haight is “simply untrue,” according to Haaland.

“I live two blocks from where the epicenter of [the problems inspiring sit-lie] supposedly is,” he said. “I walked up and down the street and talked to my neighbors, and people were opposed to it.”

“Most people felt this was a political stunt,” added Haaland. And an elite one: a veritable parade of the city’s elite bankrolled the measure, from professional fundraiser/local news org bankroller Dede Wilsey to venture capitalists Ronald Conway and Pete Thiel and possible mayoral candidate Joanna Rees, combined to dump some $400,000 in petty cash on the measure, while the No on L effort ran on fumes: a paltry $20,000.

We’re not one to preach, but Dede, baby: if you want poor folk out of San Francisco so badly, next time make like a Huffington and charter a bus or sixty.

“It’s like I was telling people all along,” said Andy Blue, the local advocate who ran the No on L campaign out of little else than sheer will, seemingly. “This (sit/lie) was financed by people who live in neighborhoods where there are no people hanging out on the sidewalk.”

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  • Sniffy

    I live a few blocks from Haight & Cole and voted for it.
    Not everyone thinks the same.

  • Sniffy

    I live a few blocks from Haight & Cole and voted for it.
    Not everyone thinks the same.

  • modelenoir

    Sniffy,

    You mean when the article mentioned that the vote was “1406 against to 1275 in favor”, that those people were not thinking the same? Thanks for clearing up what I always (incorrectly) thought was a very clear concept: that yes and no are the same thing. Now I know that they are not.

    Love,

    Me

  • modelenoir

    Sniffy,

    You mean when the article mentioned that the vote was “1406 against to 1275 in favor”, that those people were not thinking the same? Thanks for clearing up what I always (incorrectly) thought was a very clear concept: that yes and no are the same thing. Now I know that they are not.

    Love,

    Me

  • Sniffy

    yer so welcome!

  • Sniffy

    yer so welcome!

  • KWillets

    I live on Haight, and L got 57.6% of the vote in my precinct.

    I’m having trouble following — were gay people not allowed to sit on the sidewalk?

  • KWillets

    I live on Haight, and L got 57.6% of the vote in my precinct.

    I’m having trouble following — were gay people not allowed to sit on the sidewalk?

  • Brock Keeling

    Gay people LOUNGE on the sidewalk.

  • Brock Keeling

    Gay people LOUNGE on the sidewalk.

  • Alex

    1406 to 1275 doesn’t really say much. It’s a pretty close race, not enough to justifiably say that the Haight strongly voted against it, but you can’t deny that it had “traction” in that area. Those numbers speak for themselves.

    Also, to the author, calling this measure reminiscent of anti-gay statutes really trivializes the struggles of the queer movement.

  • Alex

    1406 to 1275 doesn’t really say much. It’s a pretty close race, not enough to justifiably say that the Haight strongly voted against it, but you can’t deny that it had “traction” in that area. Those numbers speak for themselves.

    Also, to the author, calling this measure reminiscent of anti-gay statutes really trivializes the struggles of the queer movement.

  • KWillets

    The struggle for gay lounging is always dear to our hearts.

  • KWillets

    The struggle for gay lounging is always dear to our hearts.

  • KWillets

    I just looked up our adjacent precinct on Haight, and L got a whopping 62% there, the next block 60%, the next 57, 55, 52…

    Except for one precinct in Buena Vista, the entire Lower Haight and much of upper Haight, from addresses 0 to 1100+, voted for L in overwhelming numbers. In fact I think you have to go past Masonic to find a minority in favor. I’m a bit confused here, as I don’t have time to figure out how the remaining few blocks of Haight tilted the total the other way. But those rich folk in Buena Vista sure voted against it.

    The 62% were voting at the $42 million HUD Hayes Valley HOPE VI Housing Development, not exactly Presidio Heights.

  • KWillets

    I just looked up our adjacent precinct on Haight, and L got a whopping 62% there, the next block 60%, the next 57, 55, 52…

    Except for one precinct in Buena Vista, the entire Lower Haight and much of upper Haight, from addresses 0 to 1100+, voted for L in overwhelming numbers. In fact I think you have to go past Masonic to find a minority in favor. I’m a bit confused here, as I don’t have time to figure out how the remaining few blocks of Haight tilted the total the other way. But those rich folk in Buena Vista sure voted against it.

    The 62% were voting at the $42 million HUD Hayes Valley HOPE VI Housing Development, not exactly Presidio Heights.

  • Chris Roberts

    KWillets —

    Sorry, but those numbers you present simply aren’t true.

    The below five voting precincts are the Haight Ashbury between Stanyan St and Buena Vista Park.

    3534 (Stanyan to Cole between Waller and the Panhandle): 184 for, 227 against
    3535 (an Tetris-shaped precinct between Page and Masonic and Haight and the Handle) 170 for, 147 against
    3536 146 for, 172 against
    3546 138 for, 155 against
    3547 111 for, 130 against

    In the Lower Haight, it lost even worse:

    3539 183 for, 229 against
    3541 127 for, 202 against
    3542 100 for, 146 against
    3543 118 for, 219 against

    Sit-lie lost in every Haight precinct save that Tetris piece.

  • Chris Roberts

    KWillets —

    Sorry, but those numbers you present simply aren’t true.

    The below five voting precincts are the Haight Ashbury between Stanyan St and Buena Vista Park.

    3534 (Stanyan to Cole between Waller and the Panhandle): 184 for, 227 against
    3535 (an Tetris-shaped precinct between Page and Masonic and Haight and the Handle) 170 for, 147 against
    3536 146 for, 172 against
    3546 138 for, 155 against
    3547 111 for, 130 against

    In the Lower Haight, it lost even worse:

    3539 183 for, 229 against
    3541 127 for, 202 against
    3542 100 for, 146 against
    3543 118 for, 219 against

    Sit-lie lost in every Haight precinct save that Tetris piece.

  • KWillets

    OK I found it — the N and O columns in the spreadsheet are labelled “Yes” and “No”, but they’re the reverse. Apparently there are “Not Yes” and “Not No” voting tabulations.

    But that means Upper Haight voted for it…crap I have to get back to my day job.

  • KWillets

    OK I found it — the N and O columns in the spreadsheet are labelled “Yes” and “No”, but they’re the reverse. Apparently there are “Not Yes” and “Not No” voting tabulations.

    But that means Upper Haight voted for it…crap I have to get back to my day job.

  • SFArtist

    The link to Dede, etc. does not work!

    Evidently, a sizeable percentage of the population are fascists.

  • SFArtist

    The link to Dede, etc. does not work!

    Evidently, a sizeable percentage of the population are fascists.

  • dana

    I threw together some quick and dirty maps using that initial vote statement and SF’s free GIS data (http://gispub02.sfgov.org/website/sfshare/index2.asp). My apologizes for any errors (I am aware a handful of precincts dropped off during my data merge). I will try to clean things up, put it in an easier to read/browse format later in the week when I have free time.

    Measure L Yes Percentages by precinct:
    http://polkapolka.net/sitlie/sitlie.png

    This is a huge file , 3mb, it shows the actual numbers votes by precinct:
    http://polkapolka.net/sitlie/sitlienumbers.png

  • dana

    I threw together some quick and dirty maps using that initial vote statement and SF’s free GIS data (http://gispub02.sfgov.org/website/sfshare/index2.asp). My apologizes for any errors (I am aware a handful of precincts dropped off during my data merge). I will try to clean things up, put it in an easier to read/browse format later in the week when I have free time.

    Measure L Yes Percentages by precinct:
    http://polkapolka.net/sitlie/sitlie.png

    This is a huge file , 3mb, it shows the actual numbers votes by precinct:
    http://polkapolka.net/sitlie/sitlienumbers.png

  • Jimbo

    Maybe the takeaway from this breakdown is not that the rich people are trying to stomp down the homeless, but that those who don’t live in the Mission, the Haight, or the Tenderloin care about what happens to the City as a whole, instead of just our little hyper-localized parcels of it. I know all politics are local, but there’s “local” and then there’s “local.” If we’re going to start caviling about how different areas of the city are voting on measures that might not affect them significantly, then Chris Daly and Bevan Dufty shouldn’t be voting on outlawing Happy Meals at the McDonald’s on Ocean Avenue.

  • Jimbo

    Maybe the takeaway from this breakdown is not that the rich people are trying to stomp down the homeless, but that those who don’t live in the Mission, the Haight, or the Tenderloin care about what happens to the City as a whole, instead of just our little hyper-localized parcels of it. I know all politics are local, but there’s “local” and then there’s “local.” If we’re going to start caviling about how different areas of the city are voting on measures that might not affect them significantly, then Chris Daly and Bevan Dufty shouldn’t be voting on outlawing Happy Meals at the McDonald’s on Ocean Avenue.

  • areallyniceguy

    1406 against to 1275 isn’t exactly a pummeling. I live in Lower Haight and gladly voted for Prop L. When the dick-tards started spray painting “No on L” signs on our sidewalks and bus shelters, I decided to contribute money to the “Yes on L” campaign.

    You’re welcome…

  • areallyniceguy

    1406 against to 1275 isn’t exactly a pummeling. I live in Lower Haight and gladly voted for Prop L. When the dick-tards started spray painting “No on L” signs on our sidewalks and bus shelters, I decided to contribute money to the “Yes on L” campaign.

    You’re welcome…

  • Shameless

    I live in SOMA near 7th & Market. People sleep outside my building most every night, and about once a week I’m woken by a drunken fight outside my window at 3am.
    My boyfriend and I talked a lot about sit/lie. We were always clear we’d vote against it. We’d sure like a quieter street without random bedding and occasional poop on the sidewalks. But interacting with local homeless folks every day, it’s clear that a mean-spirited law is just a way of trying to paper over a very complicated problem, and would result only in making the lives of people who are really struggling even more of a struggle.
    Thanks for this article, Chris. I really appreciate this breakdown. It’s been clear all along that sit/lie was at its core a cynical attempt to sow disunity within progressives and bring voters to the polls to vote for more conservative candidates. Looks like that worked in the Castro, at least, with Wiener getting elected.
    Finally, I am queer, and in response to earlier comments, I think sit/lie shares a lineage with anti-gay laws. I think we’ve all heard someone say “I don’t care what they do, I just don’t want to be exposed to it.” Enough said.

  • Shameless

    I live in SOMA near 7th & Market. People sleep outside my building most every night, and about once a week I’m woken by a drunken fight outside my window at 3am.
    My boyfriend and I talked a lot about sit/lie. We were always clear we’d vote against it. We’d sure like a quieter street without random bedding and occasional poop on the sidewalks. But interacting with local homeless folks every day, it’s clear that a mean-spirited law is just a way of trying to paper over a very complicated problem, and would result only in making the lives of people who are really struggling even more of a struggle.
    Thanks for this article, Chris. I really appreciate this breakdown. It’s been clear all along that sit/lie was at its core a cynical attempt to sow disunity within progressives and bring voters to the polls to vote for more conservative candidates. Looks like that worked in the Castro, at least, with Wiener getting elected.
    Finally, I am queer, and in response to earlier comments, I think sit/lie shares a lineage with anti-gay laws. I think we’ve all heard someone say “I don’t care what they do, I just don’t want to be exposed to it.” Enough said.

  • KWillets

    In my experience, no one has ever gotten better by sleeping on a sidewalk.

  • KWillets

    In my experience, no one has ever gotten better by sleeping on a sidewalk.

  • holly

    In my experience, no one has ever gotten better by being cited for sleeping on a sidewalk.

  • holly

    In my experience, no one has ever gotten better by being cited for sleeping on a sidewalk.

  • Bubbles

    Opposing random bedding and poop on the sidewalk isn’t cynical. In San Francisco, sleeping and pooping outside is not at all a necessity. It’s a preference for people differently saned or in altered states. It’s okay for a community to set standards and ask them to be met. I don’t believe gay civil rights is at all comparable: instead consider how it’s okay to restrict smoking in commercial districts. Noxious behavior is noxious behavior, impeding my equal right to enjoy public spaces…

  • Bubbles

    Opposing random bedding and poop on the sidewalk isn’t cynical. In San Francisco, sleeping and pooping outside is not at all a necessity. It’s a preference for people differently saned or in altered states. It’s okay for a community to set standards and ask them to be met. I don’t believe gay civil rights is at all comparable: instead consider how it’s okay to restrict smoking in commercial districts. Noxious behavior is noxious behavior, impeding my equal right to enjoy public spaces…

  • notthesame

    Wait, what’s wrong with not caring what gay people do? I don’t care what you do. I don’t care what you do so much that I think you should be able to get married.

    I’m straight, do you care what I do?

  • notthesame

    Wait, what’s wrong with not caring what gay people do? I don’t care what you do. I don’t care what you do so much that I think you should be able to get married.

    I’m straight, do you care what I do?

  • BTinSF

    I live in District 6 (and not on Rincon Hill) and voted for it.

    Why should anyone be surprised that the city’s business community (“elite”, “movers and shakers”) were strongly for it? To a large extent, business in SF means tourism and I know from watching their reactions and listening to their comments that tourists are very turned off by disheveled drunken bums, nasty stoned kids and the eliminations from their bodies on the sidewalks. And I shouldn’t need to, but I’ll remind that the presence of those same tourists is what employes a lot of less than elite San Franciscans.

    The bottom line for me is that sidewalks are for walking and standing and there’s no reason anyone should need to obstruct them by laying around on them. Even the least objectionable homeless could find elsewhere to sleep if they wanted to and, for the good of the rest of us and of the city, we need to make them want to. That’s putting aside the other things they do on them . . . . A lot of the behavior SF’s extreme liberals want to protect is really just passive-aggression towards the middle class and otherwise better off.

  • BTinSF

    I live in District 6 (and not on Rincon Hill) and voted for it.

    Why should anyone be surprised that the city’s business community (“elite”, “movers and shakers”) were strongly for it? To a large extent, business in SF means tourism and I know from watching their reactions and listening to their comments that tourists are very turned off by disheveled drunken bums, nasty stoned kids and the eliminations from their bodies on the sidewalks. And I shouldn’t need to, but I’ll remind that the presence of those same tourists is what employes a lot of less than elite San Franciscans.

    The bottom line for me is that sidewalks are for walking and standing and there’s no reason anyone should need to obstruct them by laying around on them. Even the least objectionable homeless could find elsewhere to sleep if they wanted to and, for the good of the rest of us and of the city, we need to make them want to. That’s putting aside the other things they do on them . . . . A lot of the behavior SF’s extreme liberals want to protect is really just passive-aggression towards the middle class and otherwise better off.