Sit-lie clashes with San Francisco policies

A proposed anti-loitering law contradicts scores of city policies that aim to turn sidewalks into vibrant social gathering places, city planning officials found.

Mayor Gavin Newsom introduced sit-lie legislation after moving into a home near the Upper Haight neighborhood, where hordes of young people spend hours lazing on sidewalks.

Residents of the former hippie bastion have said during City Hall hearings that they are intimidated by the loafers.

If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the sit-lie law would outlaw sitting or lying on footpaths citywide between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with 30-day jail sentences and $500 fines for repeat offenders.

Sitting on blankets and fold-up chairs on sidewalks also would be illegal.

The proposed law would give police officers new powers to tackle problems with chronic loiterers.

But the Planning Commission voted 6-1 on Thursday to oppose the legislation after hearing the results of an analysis by Planning Department staff. The nonbinding vote serves to advise lawmakers.

Streets take up one-fourth of The City’s land, and San Francisco has worked in recent years to re-engineer its sidewalks as gathering spaces to help address a shortage of public open space.

The use of sidewalks as gathering places is considered particularly important in high-density neighborhoods, such as South of Market and the Tenderloin, where there are not enough neighborhood parks to meet the needs of residents.

Commission Chairman Ron Miguel said Thursday he often sits on a street bench while his grandchildren sit on the ground nearby. “Technically, that’s prohibited [under the sit-lie law],” Miguel said.

Newsom’s Pavement to Parks program, for example, has converted a handful of street-side spaces, including one at 17th and Castro streets, into areas where neighbors can lounge and chat.

Under the sit-lie law, it would be illegal to sit down in such parklets unless a permanent bench was installed, commissioners were told.

“Overall, policies in the general plan say that sidewalks are not just for movement; sidewalks are places to gather,” Planning Department Legislative Analyst AnMarie Rodgers told commissioners Thursday.

“The sidewalks should supplement our parks system, especially in dense areas where people don’t have access to parks,” Rodgers said.

Current San Francisco policies say sidewalks should be considered part of The City’s open space system, according to Rodgers.

Nicolas King, an official in Newsom’s Office of Criminal Justice, told commissioners the media had blown the legislation out of proportion and that police would use discretion when enforcing the proposed new law.

“It’s really not that much of an exciting proposal,” King said. “It’s not going to be something that results in a police state.”

jupton@sfexaminer.com

Penalties under proposed sit-lie law

No penalty would be given if the violator heeds a warning and stands up at the request of police.

First offense: $50 to $100 fine and/or community service

Second offense within 24 hours: $300 to $500 fine and/or up to 10 days in jail

Second offense within 120 days: $400 to $500 fine and/or up to 30 days in jail

Source: San Francisco Planning Department

Bay Area NewsLocal

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Giants pitcher Anthony DeSclafani (26) starts against the Colorado Rockies at Oracle Park on April 11, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photography by Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner).
Giants finish sweep of Rockies behind DeSclafani’s scoreless outing

Even with fans back at Oracle Park, San Francisco Giants pitchers have… Continue reading

Kindergarten teacher Chris Johnson in his classroom at Bryant Elementary School ahead of the school’s reopening on Friday, April 9, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD students are going back to the classroom

After more than a year of distance learning, city schools begin reopening on Monday

Keith Zwölfer, director of education for SFFILM, stays busy connecting filmmakers and studios with public, private and home schools<ins>.</ins><ins> (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner) </ins>
Streamlined SF film festival focuses on family features

In the early days of the San Francisco International Film Festival, the… Continue reading

“Gay Passover,” a fun Haggadah, includes some cocktail recipes. <ins>(Courtesy Saul Sugarman)</ins>
A Passover journey toward something different

It was nice to see my family, and I look forward to reconnecting with friends

Oakland A’s left fielder Tony Kemp fielded a fly but missed the catch in the April 5 game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at the Oakland Coliseum. <ins>(Chris Victorio/Special to S.F. Examiner)</ins>
Bay Area sports for week of April 11, 2021

A look at the upcoming major Bay Area sports events (schedules subject… Continue reading

Most Read