Four months after voters approved the sit-lie ordinance, San Franciscans still await police enforcement. So some Haight Street merchants have taken matters into their own hands, which is working but provoking a backlash.
Some shop windows now display signs warning passersby not to sit or lie on the sidewalks in front of their business. But street kids and other opponents of the law are combating these measures with pro-loitering graffiti painted directly on area sidewalks.
In the windows of a liquor store at the corner of Haight and Cole Streets, where as many as 20 people once congregated, a bright pink sign now explains store rules. “NO Loitering! NO Trespassing! NO Sit & Lie! NO Open Containers! NO Excuses!” it reads.
For the most part, street kids seem to be heeding the store’s request. Elsewhere on Haight Street, though, it’s a different story.
“We Will Prevail,” “Sit N Lie” and “No We Won’t Go” appear in brightly spray-painted colors or black and white sprawling letters along a half-mile stretch of the street. They are painted on sidewalks and in crosswalks, and in front of store entrances.
Manager Austin Miller of Coffee to the People said since the law passed, the mentality on the street has become more “us versus them.”
Indeed, on a recent afternoon, more than a dozen homeless people and street kids were found sitting or lying on sidewalks between Masonic Avenue and Stanyan Street. Some begged for spare change while others played guitars.
But if the congregation gets too large, Miller said, he asks them to leave.
“If you treat them with respect, they are more willing to do the same to you,” he said. “But sometimes, people are just a-------.”
Haight Street was the focus of the legislation designed to combat loitering and occasionally violent encounters. The law makes it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Down the street at John Fluevog Shoes, manazger Monica Sanders said that if the homeless population gets out of hand, she asks them to leave and won’t hesitate to call police. She said the homelessness can prevent customers from entering her business.
Sanders said she’s seen about a 30 percent decrease in homeless activity since the law passed. After 14 years working on Haight, she is hopeful the new law will finally solve the problem.
Police enforcement, however, is stalled at the printer. Interim police Chief Jeff Godown recently said that officers are trained, but multilingual educational materials are still being printed. Godown pledged that enforcement would begin “sometime this month.”
The ins and outs of sidewalk politics
Voters approved an ordinance to keep street people from loitering in The City.
- It is illegal for anyone to sit or lie on city sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- There is a provision to provide social service access for those who need it.
- Police must give a warning before issuing a citation.
- Repeat offenders found within 24 hours can be fined between $300 and $500 and/or receive 10 days in jail.
- A repeat offense within 120 days could lead to a $500 fine and/or community service and/or up to 30 days in jail.
Source: SF ballot initiative