yellowpages.pngA constitutional challenge to San Francisco’s so-called Yellow Pages law claims the ordinance “harms the neediest city residents most of all.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco late Tuesday, alleges the law will hurt San Francisco’s “poorest, oldest and least English-proficient” residents.

It was filed by the New Jersey-based Local Search Association, formerly known as the Yellow Pages Association, a trade group of publishers of print and electronic commercial search directories. The suit is slated for a case management hearing before U.S. Magistrate Elizabeth Laporte on Sept. 20.

The law, passed by the Board of Supervisors and signed by Mayor Ed Lee last month, will restrict the distribution of Yellow Pages phone books in the city.

Under a three-year pilot program scheduled to go into effect next year, distributors of printed commercial telephone directories will be prohibited from leaving the books on doorsteps unless residents agree in advance or in person to accept them.

The lawsuit charges that the measure will hurt vulnerable low-income and elderly people who may not have access to the Internet and who depend on the Yellow Pages when they urgently need services such as medical aid, emergency repairs, a lawyer or a funeral home.

The suit also claims the ordinance violates two federal and state constitutional rights of the publishers: the First Amendment right of free speech and the 14th Amendment right of equal treatment under the law.

It charges that Yellow Pages publishers are unfairly singled out for the ban while publishers of advertising circulars are not prohibited from distributing their materials.

The law, proposed by Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, is intended to cut down on blight and the costs of recycling unwanted phone books.

Chiu said, “I am confident San Francisco’s new law will stand up to court scrutiny.”

“We carefully crafted the legislation to address the significant environmental harm and blight caused by mass over-distribution of yellow pages while still allowing for them to get into the hands of all who want them,” the supervisor said.

Julia Cheever, Bay City News

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