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Sit-lie effort spurs ballot bickering

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Even if voters approve a law in November to make it illegal to sit or lie on San Francisco sidewalks, it may not go into effect.

The November measure was placed on the ballot by Mayor Gavin Newsom after the Board of Supervisors rejected it. It has the support of police Chief George Gascón and business advocates who say it’s necessary to combat intimidating and disruptive behavior. Opponents say the current laws are adequate, if only police enforced them.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu added a provision Thursday to a proposed November ballot measure that could void the controversial sit-lie law. With the change, if the measure that requires police to operate a foot-patrol program passes, as does the sit-lie law, and if the patrol measure receives more votes, the sit-lie law would not take effect.

Foot patrols are “a more effective vehicle to address safety and civility in public spaces and to protect the interests of merchants and citizens than an outright ban against person sitting or lying upon public sidewalks,” the amendment said.

The provision was blasted by the Mayor’s Office.

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“David Chiu has set a new world record for pettiness and amateurishness at City Hall, and all he’s done is ensure that the Civil Sidewalks measure will pass and their poorly conceived foot patrol measure that takes away power from the chief of police will fail,” Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman Tony Winnicker said.

Winnicker’s comment was “remarkably uncivil for the mayor behind Civil Sidewalks. The voters should decide,” said Chiu’s legislative aide Judson True.

Such a provision is not without precedent. In fact, Newsom used it himself in another fight at the ballot box.

Newsom put a measure on the November ballot that would close a hotel tax loophole. A signature-gathering campaign with the support of progressive members of the Board of Supervisors and labor unions put a similar measure on the ballot that would close the hotel tax loophole but also increase the hotel tax. Newsom’s measure has a provision that if more people vote for his measure, it would prohibit the hotel tax increase.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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