sit-lie11.jpgThough the folks who lobbied for SF’s controversial sit-lie ordinance claim that it’s already working, actual enforcement of the law is on hold — indefinitely.

Enforcement of the law, which says that “between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m., it is unlawful to sit or lie down upon a public sidewalk, or upon a blanket, chair, stool, or any other object placed upon a public sidewalk,” would begin, supporters say, with “a respectful warning from SFPD.” If that warning’s ignored, “there will be a citation issued.”

But apparently, it’s not that simple — though the law went into effect went into effect Dec. 17, six weeks after voters agreed to it in the November 2, 2010 election, police said at that time that it was still developing training and enforcement policies, as well as a public education campaign that would run this January (have you seen any of this campaign? I haven’t).

Fast forward to mid-February, and SFPD still isn’t ready, as they are, in the words of ABC7, “still deciding exactly how it will enforce the law.”

According to the Chron, at issue is “the department’s inability to track warnings handed out to sitters or liers.” SFPD interim chief Jeff Godown tells the Ex that to solve this problem they’re “developing a computer database to track warnings given by officers” and that “It should be another couple of weeks before we get ready to roll it out.”

“The warning is per-person, not per incident,” Lt. Troy Dangerfield, tells the Chron. “A week later, if we see you, we don’t have to give you a warning again. … If I warn you today, that is good for the rest of your days.” That’s right folks, apparently there is no statute of limitations for sitting and lying in San Francisco.

Training for officers on how to enforce this law is also taking longer than anticipated — “My concern was to make sure that we had everybody trained correctly, that we make sure that we get it right,” Godown told the Ex — and, apparently, trainers are having trouble getting all officers to view the 20-minute video to teach them how to enforce the new law.

Of course, all this might be moot — San Francisco’s Coalition on Homelessness is reportedly preparing a legal challenge to the sit/lie ban, which some folks, like former CA State Senate president John Burton, suggest might be unconstitutional.

Others, like political pundit Greg Dewar, say that this is all a pointless exercise. The law, says Dewar, is “as useless as all the other laws we’ve passed” and that “it’s a safe bet than in a year from now, aside from adding more lines to the law books, very little will be any different than it was a year ago.”

“With laws like this, it’s all about enforcement,” Jennifer Friedenbach, director of the Coalition told the Ex. “One minute you can have a police chief that wants to just go hard core on one particular community. They could use this law and do just that.”

How “hard core” SFPD plans on being remains to be seen, however, with Godown only able to say that enforcement will begin “In a matter of weeks.”

“I’m in no hurry,” he told the Chron.

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the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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