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San Francisco voters may ban homeless encampments

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The number of homeless encampments cropping up across The City has spurred a ballot measure enabling police to remove them. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco voters will decide in November whether to ban homeless encampments and empower police officers to remove them within 24 hours.

In an effort reminiscent of the 2010 voter-approved sit-lie law, Supervisor Mark Farrell has placed on the November ballot a measure that would amend the police code to make it illegal “to place an encampment on a public sidewalk.”

Police would have the authority to remove an encampment after giving 24-hour notice and offering shelter options. There are other laws that prohibit such behavior, like the health code, but this would be “a policy directly on point that addresses the issue,” Farrell said.

The measure was placed on the ballot with the support of supervisors Scott Wiener, Katy Tang and Malia Cohen.

Tuesday was the deadline for Mayor Ed Lee and board members to place a measure on the ballot with four signatures. The encampment measure was among five in total, addressing everything from affordable housing developments to soda taxes.

The encampment proposal was criticized by homeless advocates. Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the San Francisco Homeless Coalition, said it fails to make strong enough connections to solutions for those homeless and called it “fodder for people’s political campaigns.”

Farrell denied the measure is motivated by the upcoming election season. “This issue is important enough that the voters of San Francisco should weigh in,” he said.

The measure comes amid a highly charged political environment. In November, Board of Supervisors elections will determine whether a progressive majority will remain on the board, counterbalancing the more moderate mayor and his allies.

There is also a hotly contested race for the District 11 Senate seat between supervisors Jane Kim and Wiener. Wiener has already criticized Kim for her support of a “right to rest” state law. Despite the criticism, Kim leads Wiener in the June primary.

“This is not housing. It is a political move,” said Supervisor John Avalos.

Calling it “a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” Avalos refuted supporters’ claim there are adequate housing resources. “Everyone knows that is not the case. It’s not a humane approach.”

Farrell agreed there was a shortage of resources, but said The City is making a large investment in homeless services in the upcoming fiscal year.

The ballot measure comes amid increasing pressure on elected officials to respond to the homeless issue. Just last week, the board unanimously approved legislation mandating the creation of six Navigation Centers within two years.

Mayor Lee has also created a new homeless department, headed by Jeff Kositsky. But Farrell said he didn’t talk to Kositsky about it. “Jeff has his hands full,” Farrell said. “We all have different policy ideas.”

In a text message, Kositsky said, “Haven’t read it.”

Avalos had been working on a different approach to homeless encampments. In discussions with the Homeless Coalition, he has been drafting legislation that would impose strict guidelines on any sweeps of encampments. That would include a 15-day notice and a plan to house those living in encampments before the sites were cleared.

Under Farrell’s measure, police would need to give 24-hour notice before clearing an encampment and also offer housing, shelter and homeless services.

The City could not enforce the prohibition of encampments “unless there is available housing or shelter,” the measure says.

Personal belongings seized when removing the encampment would need be to stored with the Department of Public Works for at least 90 days. The City would also be required to post a notice of an encampment removal, stating the location, date and time, description of what was removed and how to reclaim the items.

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  • Tod1732

    “The City could not enforce the prohibition of encampments “unless there is available housing or shelter,” the measure says.”

    In other words,homeless people camped on your doorstep get to stay there forever.

  • sffoghorn

    The red cape has been waved. Will the progressives charge the red cape again, doing what they’ve been bred politically to do but which they know intellectually will result in the matador inserting yet another sword into their bodies?

    The conservatives know how to play this game, to bait progressives into taking unpopular positions that they’re not powerful enough to successfully frame.

    Why do progressives continue to fall for it and when will the progressives ever take the initiative to pro-actively frame the debate in terms favorable to homeless people?

  • Martin

    Supervisor John Avalos is the most repulsive schmuck on the Board of Supervisors. The self aggrandizing irrelevant pointless piece of garbage needs to be put out to pasture. That said, I hope something substantive can eventually be done to help the homeless, as only God knows what that might be since nothing seems to work.

  • Paul Bearer

    Voting on something that is already illegal. That makes so much sense.

  • baruchzed

    The city spends $30,000 a year per homeless person…to NOT provide housing! Imagine if the city used that money to provide housing!

    If voters approve this then they may as well set up extermination camps because that is what they are saying…that homeless people do not deserve a place in this world. Appalling selfishness.

  • BFlatlander

    Imagine that roughly HALF of these people are mentally ill. Imagine that they can’t be responsible for a key.

    No, the reality of it is that this is a NATIONWIDE problem, and it is not San Francisco tax payers responsibility to deal with this. It is EVERYONE’s responsibility to take care of it. Our Federal tax dollars at work. Regional FEMA camps to house the truly homeless, Federally run mental institutions for those who are mentally ill. Banishment for those who are bums only interested in living on the street and stealing bikes. Prison for those who return.

  • disqus_Wz58Qq14ii

    By banning the encampment where do you want them to live. This ban is not going to solve the problem of homelessness.

  • Howard Epstein

    Farrell should amend the legislation to exempt the block that Avalos lives on. Tent cities should be allowed to stay there forever.

  • De Blo

    Yes, finally. There is absolutely NO situation in which folks camping on our streets, sidewalks, or parks should be tolerated.

  • De Blo

    Avalos is horrific and destructive to all San Franciscans but he is actually not the worst supervisor. That distinction goes to Campos. Thankfully, both are termed out of office. Fortunately, there are good candidates running who can save the City from these failures – Josh Arce in District 9 and Ahsha Safai in District 11. Residents, get out and vote for them, donate your time and money and save San Francisco from the Avalos-Campos corrupt machine.

  • De Blo

    Yes, it will. All of these homeless are moving to San Francisco because they know that we coddle them and allow them to commit whatever crimes they want. Enforce these laws and send them back to Michigan, Texas, and their hometowns.

  • LStoll

    Total junk. These Druggies and bike thieves deserve nothing. Avalos is trying to turn SF into a third world hell hole.

  • De Blo

    ‘Progressives’ have caused the homeless and other crime problems. Hopefully the voters will step up and make the right decision, which is a 100% zero tolerance policy for camping, litter, pollution, drug sales and use, sit-lie, graffiti, crime, panhandling, harassment, loitering, and violence. Bums need to get out of San Francisco and go home or go to prison.

  • De Blo

    We should not be spending a single taxpayer dollar on these professional homeless organizations like the Homeless Coalition. It is biggest we keep funneling millions of dollars in services to homeless that homeless are moving into the City and destroying our quality of life.

  • John O’Grady

    All good, but instead of prisons, work camps. Make them pay for their room and board, just like everybody else. Otherwise banish them to a ghost town in the desert.

  • sfmission

    Ban encampments and they (or you?) will have to become responsible adults and take of themselves properly with a 40 hour per week job. They will have to try to be responsible instead of getting drunk every night, breaking into cars, stealing bikes, shooting up, fighting, and assaulting people. They (you?) can do all that here now so why live anywhere else eh? The natural course is that less (you?) will stay in San Francisco is they can’t be total assholes with the city enabling them. My guess is they will be miserable being responsible here or move out of the city. (I say “move” like they actually had an address here at all…LOL). Either way they will still be assholes. They (you?) don’t care about laws until they have to be physically forced to leave. They know which home owners call the cops and which ones fix the problem on their own. Which home owners porch do you think they (you?) return to? SF Govt. and its residents complain complain complain and do nothing nothing nothing. How’s that working out for ya?

  • sfmission

    Your name sounds German. The extermination camp is actually not a bad idea. That would cut way down on cost.

  • sfmission

    If you know where he lives than place an ad on craigslist and pay homeless to camp out on his lawn—all 6,000

  • sffoghorn

    The boosters caused homeless by redeveloping affordable housing into convention centers and luxury condos, eliminating the low rent housing stock.

  • sfmission

    Tod1732,
    That sounds like SF. Where can I reference the information you have provided in your post. I agree the city seems to be pro homeless (thanks to David Campos who will be termed out soon enough)

  • chasmader

    I heard he left his wife and shacked up w/ his girlfriend

  • chasmader

    We are less than 50 Square Miles and you want us to be the nation’s homeless shelter/service provider

  • chasmader

    Work camps make more sense. At least the program will pay for itself

  • chasmader

    I really do not care where they live, so long as they go back to where they came from.

  • Broderick Kaplan

    This is a complex issue; in this article, opinions are strongly polarized.

    Is the ballot

    • a political maneuver?

    • a form of gentrification in San Francisco?

    • an “attack” on homelessness?

    • an attempt to centralize homeless and better their access to social services?

    My concern is that the police force is inferred to be the arm of the City. Historically, the police force was developed to protect private property. In scraping homeless off of San Franciscan streets the area may be gentrified, real estate prices heighten, and NIMBYism becomes a policy-sanctioned attitude. This is in keeping relations between the City and businesses mutually beneficial.

    Logistically, this bill would result in an influx of residents to homeless housing/shelters. This article does not sufficiently address the efficacy of this product. Additionally, these shelters may gain or lose access to State/City support based on their resident populations.

    While these homes/shelters may be well-intentioned, they are not necessarily productive, safe, or healthy environments. Even if these needs are met, the nature of these institutions is such that they cannot foster community between residents and surrounding neighborhoods. This handicaps attempts to reintegrate homeless into the society.

    It is disheartening, though not surprising, that ballots addressing homelessness always concern the allocation, movement, and use of space. The police can effectively handle regulations of territory and possessions. What we are ill-equipped to do not only as a State, but also as a public is consider/act on humanitarian issues (like homelessness) as problems of human rights and duty. In translating homelessness into an issue of space, “solutions” seem cleaner, simpler, and definitely more profitable.

    To the voter: think not of the tent on the sidewalk, but question what kind of society sees it as acceptable treat people as nuisances to be shepherded like cattle out of sight and mind, and whether you want to live in such a society.

    Your decision is not to approve or revoke this ballot, but to decide what kind of ballot is worth proposing.

    Change the ballot and you change the conversation.

  • Clark Halbert, age 55

    Haters will be Haters. I have lived in The City for 37 years. The BORED Of STUPIDIZERS has made “The Homeless in San Francisco” an issue for decades & they still haven’t figured out how to house them permanently . There are all kinds of crazies out there on the streets of S.F. A lot of them are vets.There are some of the homeless that don’t trust the shelter program so they would rather find a place outside to camp out. Can’t we get some space for them in parking lots S. of Market for those that take the shelter experience ? I was always told “If there is a will there is a way”

  • Left Unsaid

    There should be no storage of homeless belongings.

  • vetipie

    I think you are the JUNK, calling those less fortunate than yourself, “druggies and bike thieves”. The biggest druggies are the ones in the Oligarchy. You do realize many of the outside people are those who the state ejected from mental hospitals and mental health care facilities a few years back. Enough with your classism, and turning your nose down at the poor, you are disgusting.

  • vetipie

    How about we evict you and give your house to the poor. You snooty classist fool

  • vetipie

    Where do you expect them to go? With the corrupt Imperialist Govt spending trillions on their illegal wars, and the city abusing funds, its going to get a lot worse. As the tech industry keeps flooding the city with ignorant self obsessed workers, the rents of $4500 will get worse. People like yourself will become homeless too, and then someone above you can look down their nose at you, and judge you. People like you disgust me.

  • vetipie

    the brain of an ignorant, self absorbed white boy

  • vetipie

    OMG you people are gross, and belong in Nazi Germany, you classist, narcissists

  • vetipie

    I am disgusted and ashamed that these comments come from San Francisco residents. Every one of the negative comments against the homeless, is classist, narcissistic, self absorbed ignorance. Just because someone has no money or no place to live, does not mean they should go into work camps, or be swept away like dirt. So many of these people were thrown out of mental health care facilities years ago, or they are just less fortunate than you. These are human beings, and you can look down your long pointy white noses at them and judge, and know you could be one of them one day soon. Get off your privileged white rear ends and do something to help. Fate has a way of catching up to you.

  • De Blo

    It is the professional whiners who coddle these homeless people and give them no incentive to improve their lives. The one action we can all take is to pass this ban on camping and make sure that it is enforced. No homeless person should be able to continue preying on San Franciscans and polluting and destroying our City. These folks refuse to work and pollute, litter, and commit other crimes. If you hate San Francisco so much, then I suggest you move to another part of the country and take some of these homeless invaders with you.

  • De Blo

    vetipie, you are extremely racist.

  • De Blo

    Like all real San Franciscans, I am happy that our property values are improving and that our quality of life is improving. As for these criminal homeless invaders, they need to go back home and stop stealing from San Franciscans and destroying our City. To people who cannot afford to live here, please move to a place you can afford or get a better job. Stop trying to hurt San Franciscans.

  • Sar Wash

    I am sure some idiotic people who have not invested in our community do not want the value of our homes to increase, but I can assure that all native and long-term San Franciscans want our property values to improve and are happy that we have the best economy and the healthiest real estate market in America.

  • Sar Wash

    Be sure to vote for Josh Arce for District 9 supervisor so we do not end up with a Campos clone in office.

  • Jack

    It is already illegal to block a sidewalk and put up a tent. Enforce the law now.

  • Steven Gripshover

    Yes please, I don’t want to see these homeless people in my hood anymore.

  • chasmader

    Well, clearly your college never assigned you Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” when you took Freshman English Lit.

  • robo94117

    Political water testing. Watch for Farrell’s name to pop up more in the near future, sponsoring bills he cares little about, cutting ribbons, kissing babies and policement. Apparently he’s being groomed to run for Mayor by the Willie Brown/Committee on Jobs machine. I guess because he’s rather innocuous, and hasn’t really done anything.

  • Left Unsaid

    Own my home b itch. Come and take.

  • sfmission

    I am surprised you don’t understand. I don’t think many care where they go and long as they don’t stay. Sorry. We are not responsible for the homeless. ALL techies can’t be ignorant and self obsessed ? That’s mathematically impossible. The fact that techies have a college degree means they have worked very hard to get where they are and deserve a good standard of living like any other hard working educated individual. Now another generalization: homeless don’t become homeless over night. Drugs, alcohol and mental illness take them down that path over time. In fact the city charter reads that a percentage of new apartments have to be given to low income and homeless are low income. The SF welfare system pays the highest of any county here in California, dare I say the US (and Mexico). San Francisco is a city that normally allows anything to happen. Its changing in SF like it has changed in many other cities for the better. I know change can be hard especially when you have no control over it.
    I am sorry your disgusted. Many Many people don’t care. They do care about having clean and safe neighborhoods without unstable drunks and mentally ill homeless urinating, defecating, fighting, assaulting, burglarizing cars, shooting up and doing god knows what ever else they please in crazy anything goes San Francisco.

  • sfmission

    No wait. I know. He disgusts you?

  • sfmission

    6,000 Homeless in San Francisco. Send them all to live with Vetipie. Better start building 6,000 toilets. Your home is going to become a health hazard over night. Now that’s disgusting,

  • sfmission

    Another one saying “Where do you want them to live”?. Give all 6,000 your address if your concerned for their wellbeing. An encampment would keep our neighborhoods cleaner and our neighborhoods safer. Ever watch a homeless guy bend over and take a shit between cars at 8am as your going to catch your bus for work? You ever almost step on a dirty needle? Ever almost step in human shit? Take a wiff of your neighborhood? Does it smell like piss? Yeh. I think you truly understand that a ban will solve a lot of the issues caused by the homeless.

  • sfmission

    Sound like you have it all wrapped up. You solve homelessness for us.

  • sfmission

    If they truly don’t trust the homeless shelters that they should let the city know. Shelters have rules and not being able to drink and fight and steal prevents many from getting a bed by their own choosing. Decades of homeless issues and no change? Now a positive change and some are still saying “Where do YOU went them to go?” They could stop drinking, stop shooting up, take a shower, look for work and a room share.
    Nahhhh. They don’t want to.

  • sfmission

    So you believe the 6,000 homeless in San Francisco all had affordable housing and lost their homes because of luxury condo developments? Your assuming they all want to live in a nice clean safe home. Homeless workers have already told all of them about ways to get into homes and off the street. Some want to live on the street and not in a home. If the city has to have a percentage of new developments open to low income and they are not taking the offers now they wont be given the offers later because they don’t want them. Low income is about $50K right now? Homeless certainly qualify.

  • sffoghorn

    There were 4000 SRO units at what is now Moscone before redevelopment. That could easily have housed a good 2/3 of today’s homeless.

  • sfmission

    Putting down others who are tired of drug addicts leaving needles and shit on the sidewalk. Sorry govt evicted them from facilities. Open your home to all of them so their well taken care of. Some have never showered in years. Try to deny your disgust by not throwing up. Try it.

  • sffoghorn

    4000 units of SRO housing would be a place that people who would otherwise be homeless might instead live indoors. That housing was destroyed in redevelopment.

  • chasmader

    What you have to understand, is that the Homeless-Industrial Complex in San Francisco has a vested interest in not solving homelessness, otherwise, they’d be out of a job

  • sfmission

    Sure its a girl?

  • chasmader

    He’s straight, thank God. I wouldn’t want him as one of us.

  • Jerry Howe

    Let is be real here. Camping and storing all of you possessions on the public sidewalk is wrong and illegal, Force these people to leave the streets, and if they do not of take what the city offers, they will have to find greener pastures elsewhere.
    That is what all of the surrounding Bay area communities have done except Oakland and Berkeley.

  • Jerry Howe

    Public storage on the sidewalk is wrong, illegal, and cannot be tolerated any longer. It has nothing to do with being an elitist. It is a very working class value and only a lunatic would think that it is normal and justified.

  • disqus_Wz58Qq14ii

    I see. You dont care about anyone but yourself. Why did you move there if you are concerned about the homeless?

  • disqus_Wz58Qq14ii

    How do they get a job without an address? You dont actually have any solutions. Your just spewing out nonsense.

  • disqus_Wz58Qq14ii

    Yeah, being homeless in SF is amazing!