San Francisco police start going after loiterers, enforcing sit-lie ordinance

Police quietly rolled out enforcement of the sit-lie ordinance late last week, but it appears no one has been cited for violating the law.

Park Police Station Capt. Denis O’Leary said he was advising his officers “to go easy in the beginning and just admonish people.”

“I haven’t seen a cite yet,” said O’Leary, whose district includes the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood.

The ordinance banning sitting or lying on public sidewalks was passed by voters in November to give police another tool to combat nuisance and threatening behavior among some people living on the streets. Merchants, particularly in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, had complained about aggressive street youths bothering passers-by and dissuading patrons.

The ordinance went into effect in December, but police have said the delay in enforcement until now was to make sure officers were properly trained, and the public was informed.

Police have printed cards they plan to use as written warnings before issuing citations. The cards handed out will include The City’s 311 information line, which provides contacts for services including shelters, medical clinics, mental health services and substance abuse treatment.

“We’re going to use it as a community policing tool to provide access to services,” Police Department spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

Fines for repeat offenders will range from $50 to $500, and they will receive community service or possibly jail time.

Dangerfield also said officers have the discretion to merely give a verbal warning that is not recorded.

“The whole goal is compliance,” he said.

With a few exceptions, the law prohibits sitting or lying on sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. daily.

Some local Haight merchants sounded surprised that police had begun enforcing the law.

“I haven’t seen any signs of it [being enforced],” said Brian Molony, a founder of the Haight Ashbury Merchants Association and owner of Martin Mack’s, a Haight Street pub.

James Preston, owner of Positively Haight Street at the corner of Haight Street and Masonic Avenue, said he was unsure whether a new law would change any of the worst behavior.

“Even if you cite them and arrest them … to these guys it’s nothing, it’s part of the routine,” he said.

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