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Fox News reports on a battle currently underway in the uber-liberal left coast city of San Francisco over the issue of allowing the homeless, panhandlers, etc. to sit and/or lay on the sidewalk during the day. Proponents say the recently-approved ban is necessary, citing safety concerns. Opponents say the ban is ‘heartless’ and takes away from the city’s ‘culture.’ Ahem.
A new law targeting those who hang out, and lie down, on the sidewalks and streets of San Francisco has some asking whether this city, known for its “love thy neighbor” attitude, has perhaps decided some neighbors aren’t welcome.
In November, 53% of voters here passed Prop. L, which forbids people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The ordinance is very similar to anti-sit/lie laws in Berkeley, Seattle, and other liberal cities, and received strong support from Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascon.
After civil rights advocates and the progressive majority on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors opposed the idea, Mayor Newsom pushed to get it on the ballot.
Critics like Andy Blue call it cruel and heartless, words not normally directed at “The City by the Bay.”
“If we’re only going to embrace certain people than not only will we make San Francisco a less vibrant and progressive place, but we will cease to be that beacon for the world, and the world needs San Francisco,” says Blue, a community activist.
Residents argue the violent transients and their dogs have nothing to do with the iconic street culture for which the Haight-Ashbury District is known.
“There’s a difference between an individual that’s contributing to the society and being part of the cultural fabric of a neighborhood, versus an individual that is sitting on the street with their very scary dog, to the point that I am scared to walk down the Haight with my family,” says resident Kathleen Shanahan.
But critics say cracking down on the sidewalk gatherings will alter the neighborhood’s unique character, and cause the city to suffer more economically.
Watch Claudia Cowan’s video report here:
I would support such a law here in Charlotte if we had this issue but fortunately we don’t. Apparently this has been a long-standing problem in SF – particularly in the Haight Street area – and local law enforcement there have said that the existing laws on the books did not go far enough. From an October piece on the then-proposed Proposition L:
Mayor Gavin Newsom, with Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, introduced the sit-lie ordinance in March to the Board of Supervisors. The board rejected the resolution with a veto-proof majority, led by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, whose district includes the Haight.
Newsom proposed the sit-lie ordinance and put the measure on the ballot because the police and community who were trying to address the issue on the sidewalks didn’t feel like they had the tools, said Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker.
“They’re saying what exists isn’t enough, that they need the tool, and that’s why the mayor put this on the ballot,” Winnicker said.
Police Chief George Gascón, who originally proposed the idea, says it would be a way for officers to use their judgment if an unruly person would not stand up and leave the sidewalk. The sit-lie law would allow officers to force someone to stand up. The Police Department would not comment on this story because of city rules barring the endorsement of ballot measures.
Don’t you love this? Liberals vs. liberals in a debate that seems to be about whose “civil rights” are more important – businesses trying to attract customers, and people peaceably trying to walk down the sidewalk without getting verbally or physically harassed, or the harassers themselves? And the fact that this is a law that other liberal cities have had to put on their books is ceertainly an illuminating one. Aren’t liberals the ones who are supposed to be the most “compassionate” when it comes to the homeless and other street people?
Gotta say, though, that I find the whole “this law will take away from our culture” argument truly astonishing. Really? Homeless people and/or panhandlers “add to the culture” of a city? I don’t think so. One of the primary responsibilities of a city is to keep its residents safe and that’s what this law – one supported by a majority of San Franciscans – aims to do. People will stop traveling to touristy areas of a city if they don’t feel safe. Duh. This is not to pick on the homeless, but the brutal reality is that some homeless people will not leave you alone, and if the harassment continues everytime you visit a particular section of town, you’ll simply stop visiting.
This reminds me of a story I read few years back in the Charlotte Observer about a revitalized neighborhood in Charlotte called “NoDa”, an “artsy” liberal community that has come to prominence here in the last ten or so years. As a result of steady revitalization efforts – including building cute shops and homes, eventually the lower income people who had lived and/or worked in the area for years before the investing and building and revitalizing had started were slowly pushed out. The article had some of the newer residents excitedly talking about how their property values kept rising, but also lamenting on how the “culture had eroded” some because some of the struggling old-time street vendors, panhandlers, “artists”, etc were no longer able to live/work in the area, and they were trying to come up with “solutions” to bring back the “character” of the neighborhood. These same people worried about how to go about the delicate balancing act of “bringing back the character” of the neighborhood while at the same time keeping it safe from the very people they wanted to “bring back.”
Seriously. It was like noblesse oblige on steroids.
Anyway, I have to give San Franciscans a little bit of credit here for the rare vote for sensibility. Now if they would just do something about that dreadful needle exchange program …