As the controversial sit-lie ordinance makes its way to the Board of Supervisors for debate Tuesday, Mayor Gavin Newsom is already prepping for potential defeat.
The mayor has started crafting his own ballot measure that would go to voters in November, pre-empting any potential for the board to vote down his proposed legislation banning sitting or lying on city sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with 30-day jail sentences and $500 fines for repeat offenders.
While the ordinance passed through the board’s Public Safety Committee on May 25, supervisors expressed reservations.
“I think there is a real problem, but we already have laws on books that, if properly enforced, can address those problems,” Supervisor David Campos said.
Regardless of the outcome, Newsom has remained unwavering about putting the issue before voters come November. He has until June 15 to file a ballot statement, and the Mayor’s Office is still talking with stakeholders to help draft specific language for a ballot measure, according to Tony Winnicker, spokesman for Newsom.
“They can’t be trusted to resolve and meaningfully address a problem that small businesses deal with every day,” Winnicker said of city supervisors. “Now it’s voters’ turn to act.”
The issue has pitted civil-rights activists against business owners, especially in the Haight, where merchants have complained about the incessant loitering, sitting and lying on sidewalks near businesses.
On the other end of the debate, civil-rights activists say the law would have unintended consequences like criminalizing homelessness.
“The law itself doesn’t make sense, and the Police Department and the Mayor’s Office haven’t made a good effort to justify the proposal,” said Bob Offer-Westort, civil-rights organizer for the Coalition on Homelessness, which is opposed to the ordinance.
Although a recent poll conducted by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce showed that there’s strong public support for a sit-lie ban, with 71 percent favoring it, political support has been much weaker.
“I don’t think the case has been made as to why this law is needed,” Campos said.