Supes pass legislation to increase penalties for sideshow drivers

San Francisco is clamping down on the dangerous sideshow driving craze that has led to deadly violence and increasingly kept...

San Francisco is clamping down on the dangerous sideshow driving craze that has led to deadly violence and increasingly kept families up at night during the pandemic.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved legislation Tuesday from Supervisor Ahsha Safai to increase towing penalties for drivers caught recklessly burning rubber on city streets.

Drivers busted for engaging in sideshows will have their cars impounded for a minimum of two weeks for their first offense or as long as nearly a month for repeat offenses.

“This is not a phenomenon that is new to the Bay Area, it’s not new to San Francisco. But it’s something that under Covid has grown extremely out of control,” Safai said. “We are trying to send a message that we are not going to tolerate this in San Francisco any longer.”

There have been more than 2,043 calls to police over sideshows since the beginning of 2020, according to Police Chief Bill Scott. The stunt-driving events have also resulted in 61 incident reports being generated, 613 officers responding, nine vehicles being towed and 17 arrests.

Sideshows have also resulted in shots being fired in nine incidents, one homicide, four collisions, one pedestrian being hit and one aggravated assault, Scott said.

“There are laws existing that deal with reckless driving that are on the books,” Scott said. “What this legislation is really meant to do is re-enforce and re-emphasize.”

The legislation was unanimously approved despite Supervisor Dean Preston raising questions about whether it was needed when state law already allows police to impound vehicles.

“There is a lot of discretion in the state code, it allows for it to be as little as one day or even an afternoon,” Safai said. “We are enhancing the penalties.”

Supervisor Sandra Fewer said she was in North Beach over the weekend when she noticed street racing on Columbus Avenue. She has also seen “extreme” driving in the Richmond District.

“We have to be firm on this because it is so dangerous not just for residents but because someone going 100 miles an hour just crashed into a building and actually died of his injuries,” Fewer said.

While supported by all members of the board, former Supervisor John Avalos has criticized the legislation.

Avalos, who is challenging Safai in the November election, recently tweeted that “I don’t trust the police to effectively stop donuts with enforcement action.”

“For those who do insist on doing side shows and endangering our communities I believe they should be held accountable under a restorative justice framework — impounding a car and requiring public service for the release of the car would be appropriate,” Avalos said.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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