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SF outlaws bicycle ‘chop shops’

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A man works on a bike while sitting in an encampment chop shop near Ninth and Brannan streets in San Francisco’s South of Market District Thursday, July 20, 2017. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)
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San Francisco has outlawed bicycle “chop shops.”

The Board of Supervisors approved in a 9-2 vote Tuesday legislation introduced by Supervisor Jeff Sheehy that bans bicycle chop shops and empowers Public Works to seize the bikes and parts.

Sheehy’s proposal was introduced in February, but faced significant backlash. Critics argued it would only criminalize homeless residents and not address bike theft.

SEE RELATED: SF bicycle ‘chop shop’ crackdown law headed toward approval

In response to those concerns, Sheehy amended the proposal to have Public Works enforce the law, not the Police Department as initially proposed. Public Works is authorized to call the Police Department “as necessary to complete the removal and seizure,” according to the legislation.

Sheehy said the proposal addresses “the severe problem of bike shops on our streets” and that “we’ve worked hard to address many community concerns.”

Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Sandra Fewer opposed the legislation.

Ronen questioned whether the proposal would combat bike theft at all. “I want legislation that deals with theft,” Ronen said.

But Sheehy said his focus was on keeping the sidewalks clear.

Supervisor Malia Cohen noted that chop shops are signs of criminal activity. “We have a crime racket,” Cohen said. “This is one more tool to address it.”

The San Francisco Homeless Coalition opposed the legislation. Jennifer Snyder, a representative of the group Neighbors United, said in an Aug. 31 letter that “while purportedly attempting to address the very real issue of bicycle theft, it instead panders to the prejudicial premise that all those who live outdoors and own multiple bikes and/or parts must have stolen that property, while failing to reduce bike theft.”

The letter continued, “In fact, these seizures seem unwarranted and unconstitutional. Much like stop and frisk, it assumes guilt without cause and relies on profiling.”

Public Works is empowered by the law to seize the bicycle and bike parts that meet the definition of a chop shop.

The definition of a chop shop includes at least five bicycles, a bicycle frame with gear cables or brake cables cut, at least three bicycles with missing parts (handlebars, wheels, forks, pedals, cranks, seats or chains) or at least five bicycle parts.

When seizing the items, Public Works must issue a notice of violation describing the violation, date, location and description of items seized along with the process for the person to reclaim the items.

A person may reclaim their items within 30 days.

The Bicycle Coalition initially opposed the proposal, but with the amendments supported it. The Bicycle Coalition also called for other measures to crack down on bike theft.

The board’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee will vote Wednesday on legislation proposed by Supervisor Norman Yee requiring the Police Department to create dedicated crime units in district stations to address car break-ins and bike thefts.

The board set a goal in 2013 to reduce bike thefts by 50 percent by August 2018, using the 817 reported bicycle thefts in 2012 as the baseline. In 2016, there were 780 reported bike thefts.

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