Mayor Takes Sit Lie Law to Streets

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     A controversial proposed ordinance in San Francisco that would ban  sitting or lying on public sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. was passed at  committee Monday, but its legislative sponsor acknowledged it will likely die  at the full board as the issue moves to the November ballot.

          Homeless advocates have lambasted the sit-lie ordinance proposed  by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascon as an attack on the  homeless.
         
    Supporters of the measure claim it will give police the ability to  curb harassment of pedestrians and stimulate patronage of local businesses.
         
    Newsom has said that if the Board of Supervisors does not pass a  "meaningful" sit-lie ordinance, he will place the issue on the November  ballot. The exact ballot language is still being drafted, Newsom spokesman  Tony Winnicker said today.
         
    Despite expressing serious reservations about the ordinance before  the Board of Supervisors, the three-member Public Safety Committee sent it --  without recommendation -- to the full board, where it is expected to be heard  June 8.
         
    "The mayor has asked us to have a vote on this, and I think we all  should weigh in on this," committee chair and board president David Chiu said  after today's hearing.
         
    "It is clear that this measure is not going to pass at the Board  of Supervisors," said its co-sponsor Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier at an  event in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood this afternoon, where supporters of  a sit-lie ballot measure gathered to kick off their campaign.
         
    The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood has become the center of the  sit-lie debate, where some merchants and residents say migrant bands of  street youth are becoming increasingly violent.
         
    Kent Uyehara, the owner of a Haight Street skateboard shop, hosted  today's event. He said a group of merchants and residents, the Civil  Sidewalks Coalition, are trying "to take back our neighborhoods."
         
    Uyehara believes a sit-lie ordinance is the only way to do that.  He was joined at his shop by Gascon, who repeated his claim that police "lack  the tools to deal with this problem effectively." He said the current laws  were not enough, and that a sit-lie ordinance could be "very surgically  used."
         
    Winnicker said the sit-lie ballot initiative will "let the voters  decide, as the board clearly is not taking the opportunity to be responsive  to the small business owners and the neighbors who have to deal with this  kind of behavior every day."
         
    Alioto-Pier insisted it was not subverting the political process  to bring the measure directly to the voters after it fails at the board.
         
    "If it's something the people want, they'll pass it," she said.
         
    Alioto-Pier said the law would help small businesses, which  provide 60 percent of the city's jobs and "are the backbone of San  Francisco," she said.
         
    Chiu and the other committee members, Ross Mirkarimi and Bevan  Dufty, all expressed concern earlier about whether the measure, as proposed,  would have its intended effects.
         
    Chiu and Mirkarimi maintained that there were several  anti-loitering laws already on the books that were not being fully enforced.  Mirkarimi stressed that mandated police foot patrols in trouble neighborhoods  would help.
         
    Chiu has proposed a companion ordinance -- also forwarded to the  full board but with recommendation -- that would incorporate community and  restorative justice models that bring together victims, residents and  merchants without necessarily criminalizing some behaviors.
         
    Dufty said the current street violence and other behavior in  certain neighborhoods is "not acceptable" and the current enforcement process  "does not seem to be working."
         
    Dufty said he still had questions about whether the ordinance as  proposed "is the right thing to do." However, he was the lone vote against  sending the ordinance on to the full board, acknowledging it does not have  the support to pass.
         
    Newsom has until June 15 to submit his measure for the November  ballot. It would require a simple majority of voters to pass.
     

    Bay City News