After weeks of committee hearings deliberating the merits and necessity of a proposed sit-lie ordinance, this afternoon the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted down the measure, which is now likely to come
before voters on the November ballot.
Since March, when Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced the measure, his office has delivered a steady message: if the ordinance fails to pass at the board, the mayor will let the voters decide in November.
Newsom's ordinance, supported by Police Chief George Gascon, would make it unlawful to sit or lie on a public sidewalk between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
“It's been clear from the beginning of the debate that the board wasn't serious about the issue,” Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said.
Instead, Winnicker said that the board prevented meaningful discussions by creating distractions, using arguments similar to those employed against the voter-approved Care Not Cash program, the welfare-slashing program which then-Supervisor Newsom unveiled in 2002.
Homeless advocates have contended the sit-lie ordinance would criminalize homelessness and be used as a tool to push them out of neighborhoods. They also argue that the law would put day laborers, who stand on their feet for hours at a time waiting for work, at risk.
Proponents argued that the proposed law responds to complaints originating from the community in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, where frustrated residents and business owners have complained of aggressive panhandling and fear for their safety, and arms police with a useful tool to enforce civility on sidewalks.
But some supervisors were not convinced that the need for the legislation has been made.
“It allows incivility so long as the person is not sitting down,” said Supervisor David Campos, who argued that the police already have the tools needed to proactively address the groups of street thugs blocking sidewalks and harassing passersby.
Campos said that adding another law to the books that doesn't get to the heart of the issue is “an admission of the fact that (the police) are not doing what they're supposed to do.”
“The case for the legislation has not been made,” Campos said.
While the board voted 8-3 this afternoon against the sit-lie measure, they unanimously approved a related issue on the table: the creation of a Neighborhood Community Justice Task Force.
The task force, described in legislation introduced Board President David Chiu introduced May 4, would make recommendations to the board “regarding the creation of neighborhood-based restorative and community justice programs.”
Restorative justice is currently employed by the Tenderloin's Community Justice Center as well as in drug and community courts.
The seven-member, unpaid task force would be appointed by the supervisors and made up of residents, business owners, homeless and youth service providers and those with experience in “restorative justice models.”
Chiu stressed that the approved legislation would keep the task force on a short leash by requiring a presentation of findings to the board within three months of commencing its mission.