Government

Mayor seeks to put sit-lie ordinance on November ballot

A group of people on Telegraph Avenue, long a destination for travelers and transient people. Photo: Nancy Rubin

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is asking that the City Council consider putting a sit-lie ordinance on the November ballot and the issue will be discussed at the council’s June 12 meeting.

“We’ve been making substantial progress making our streets more civil,” Bates told Berkeleyside. “We want to have people feel comfortable when they walk in the city.”

Bates said an ordinance could be similar to those in force in Seattle, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Santa Monica. Unlike the San Francisco ordinance, however, his intent is to have an ordinance that would only apply in Berkeley’s commercial zones from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Berkeley law currently makes lying on sidewalks an offense, but Bates said “it’s very difficult to enforce” that provision.

The sit-lie ordinance in San Francisco passed in November 2010 with 54% of the vote, and it went into force in January 2011. It covers sidewalks citywide, not just in commercial areas, and requires the city to maintain an outreach plan to provide access to social services to those who need them. Officers are required to give a warning before they issue a citation. A single offense brings a $100 ticket, and subsequent offenses may result in 30 days in jail.

SFWeekly recently wrote about the results of a report from City Hall Fellows which questioned the effectiveness of the San Francisco ordinance. San Francisco police are, according to the report, repeatedly ticketing “an older homeless population, many of whom suffer from both mental and physical health conditions”. SFWeekly wrote that “the ordinance is a total failure in actually dissuading San Francisco’s homeless from sitting on public pavements”.

Any sit-lie ordinance would likely involve fines of $50 to those who don’t comply, and would cost the city around $30,000 to implement according to reports. It is likely to have the most impact on downtown Berkeley and Telegraph Avenue.

As part of a $1.2 million Property-Based Improvement District for downtown, hospitality ambassadors are currently reaching out to homeless and transient people. The ambassadors’ role is to monitor behavior on the street and remind people to abide by ordinances if necessary. A particular focus has been BART Plaza. The staff also work closely with social services for individual cases.

Telegraph Avenue, long a destination for travelers and a transient youth population, recently saw the introduction of a regular police patrol — a response to complaints from merchants and shoppers about the increase in the number of people loitering on the sidewalks.

Bates said a Berkeley sit-lie ordinance “is an important statement to make on creating more civil streets.”

Related:
Police step up patrols on Telegraph to keep sidewalks clear [05.01.12]
Newly cleaned up downtown hopes to attract more retail [04.04.12]
Anti sit-lie campaigners take protesters to City Hall [04.27.11]

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  • Guest

    If the comments section here is an indicator of popular opinion among Berkeleyans, it looks like this city is about ready to say enough is enough.  Good thing, too.  Being trapped in the sixties is becoming old fashioned, the resistance to adapting to today’s needs is conservative, and homeowners and students are living at the whims of degenerates (yeah, I totally put a label on a whole bunch of people, I’ll do time in purgatory for it). 

    Pass this and watch our home values and tax revenues from retail SKYROCKET.  For many of us who are born and raised in the flats of Berkeley, that kind of thing matters.  For hipsters who choose to live out a daily grind because they think it’s noble, on the other hand …. 

  • The Sharkey

    It is difficult to enforce those laws because they are behaviors that happen quickly, are difficult to prove, and harder to catch someone in the act of doing. The only way the cops can catch people doing this stuff is for them to literally follow them around all day, wasting time that they could be using to try to track down the Chief’s son’s iPhone

    You’re right that honey is how you catch flies, only the flies are the street people and the honey is Berkeley’s permissive attitude towards anti-social behavior and abusive use of public space.

    Enabling attitudes like yours are why Berkeley has so many more street people per capita than the average California city.

  • Nkbickel

    How does fining or jailing people with no money and likely drug, drink or mental problems help them or the general public?  Yes, I am disturbed by passing disturbed and disturbing folks on the downtown streets,
    but I’m not sure this is the solution.

  • Guest

    How about making an actual contribution to this discussion by proposing an alternate strategy, rather than just shooting this one down?  

    Also, these people don’t just HAVE problems, but are CAUSING problems for this city’s residents, visitors (students, etc.), and small business owners.  Since our retailers are affected, so are our tax revenues, which means schools, libraries, etc. are affected.  

    Many of us, here, are rightfully becoming a little bit pissed and fed up, especially because it’s mainly not people with mental problems or who are simply laid off, but young, able-bodied assholes who spit in our faces. 

    So will you please make a contribution to the discussion?  We need all the help we can get right now. 

  • Guest

    Hey, Sky, who’s “we”. I’m born and raised here and want gutter punks and vagrants to cut their crap out so my city can be nicer and have a better chance at economic prosperity.  Don’t speak for Berkeleyans.  After all, you should know that our community is “diverse” enough to have a DIVERSITY of opinion concerning this matter.  

    And just because we don’t want to be a hippy/hobo museum anymore doesn’t mean we’re deciding to be Walnut Creek.  You’re so goddamn stupid on so many levels, Sky. 

  • justme

    Thank you for  “post” -thinking.

  • Paul Kealoha Blake

    I write in opposition of the Civil Sidewalks Ballot Measure I enclose current reports and articles on the potential costs and consequences facing the Sit/Lie Ordinance which our Berkeley effort is modeling itself after.2010 ‘sit-lie’ law could cost city thousands to jail repeat offendershttp://sfpublicpress.org/news/2011-04/2010-sit-lie-law-could-cost-city-thousands-to-jail-repeat-offendersSan Francisco’s Sit/Lie Law Radically Ineffective, Report http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/25/san-franciscos-sit-lie-law_n_1546614.html As a Downtown property and business owner (East Bay Media Center 1939 Addison Street) I find the Sit/Lie effort to be both an economic and social travesty only awaiting the pull of an administrative trigger. There are currently in existence many laws and cures for nuisance and misdemeanor offenses in our business districts.  I do not wish to increase the cost of doing business in Berkeley by simply creating more costly and unenforceable work for our highly paid Police Department.  Additionally, threatening the Constitutional rights of a highly marginalized segment of our community without working collectively toward other less expensive and controversial remedies, appears both mean spirited as well as short sighted. As a business owner in the Downtown District, as well as a business patron in the Telegraph Ave. District, I personally see no significant loss in revenue that can be attributed directly to sitting on sidewalks.The Downtown has been neglected for decades with blight brought to us by landlords who drive businesses out through unimaginably high rents and leases. We all pay for those decisions.  Instead of holding these landlords and realtors accountable for these crime attracting and blighted properties, we instead scapegoat homeless youth while cutting funds to social services that can help us all. Regarding Telegraph Ave, I again turn to the City and landlords in the business district as a greater determinant of revenue loss than homeless youth sitting on curbs.The heart of the district, Haste and Telegraph, remains a gaping wound to revenue generating businesses and real property.  We have 3 out of 4 corners of that intersection vacant and non-productive causing significant revenue loss as well as presenting the area as blighted and struggling.  This has absolutely nothing to do with sitting on sidewalks.I urge the leaders of our community to address these very real problems.  There are few significant benefits in conducting a potentially contentious and expensive public relations campaign, on behalf of those hoping to appease a constituency that is seeking a scapegoat for much deeper systemic inadequacies. Respectfully,Paul Kealoha-Blake

  • Bruce Love

     The first of your two links got messed up, Paul.

  • The Sharkey

    As a Downtown property and business owner (East Bay Media Center 1939
    Addison Street) I find the Sit/Lie effort to be both an economic and
    social travesty only awaiting the pull of an administrative trigger.

    When’s the last time you had a bunch of gutter punks camp out in front of your business, Mr. Blake?
    You’re a fair distance away from the trouble areas most people here are talking about.

  • justme

    Mr. Blake- Do you have information about the specific cuts to social services that have exacerbated street level problems in the downtown core?  I believe most Berkeley-based agencies received level (or just slightly reduced) funding in the most recent fiscal year.  Thanks

  • Guesttoo

    Passing a resolution does not fix problems.  Education, awareness, finding the middle ground that works for the majority active participants within a community will assist addressing these issues.  

    It’s interesting to find that a lot of people who are vocal against the sit/lie ordinance do not want to participate within the existing governing structure where they actually have a mailing address and can vote on the issue.  Many of these vocal people are just passing through not really contributing to the community but spanging from it. 

  • Paul Kealoha Blake

    Perhaps the most recent and pertinent lack of support would be funding cuts to one of the only youth shelters in town YEAH.  YEAH has operated as a seasonal shelter in Berkeley and this year tried to go year round, but failed.  Services for at risk youth may be one step we could look at that may be less expensive than another unenforceable law that will drive the cost of doing business in Berkeley up… as if it isn’t expensive enough now.  Thank you for your reply.

  • Paul Kealoha Blake

    Your reply reeks with disrespect as well as exhibiting a general lack of knowledge regrading me or the issue.  Do you want a date or a report on who has camped on my doorstep and how I resolved it?  I think we both know that your response is not genuinely directed at the issues I address, however with respect to your inquiry, I have had very difficult and chronically ill individuals on my doorstep.  I have generally sought a collaborative solution that resulted in directing those individuals to services and aid through conversation and personal help.  Your use of the term “gutter punk” allows you to dehumanize individuals and avoid seeking any real solutions.  It is you who is a fair distance from actual collaborative solutions.  As a Berkeley resident and business I don’t want to pay for your inability to consider less expensive and more engaging solutions.  

  • The Sharkey

    Do you want a date or a report on who has camped on my doorstep and how I resolved it?

    If you can document anything showing that you have problems in front of your business that come anywhere near the situation in front of the Library right now I’d love to see it. So sure, please back up your claim and provide the dates and reports for everyone to look at.

    As a Berkeley resident and business I don’t want to pay for your
    inability to consider less expensive and more engaging solutions.

    The “solutions” you refer to have lead to the problems we now have. Directing people to services isn’t working. The homeless problem in Berkeley is getting worse, not better.

  • The Sharkey

     

    …another unenforceable law that will drive the cost of doing business in Berkeley up.

    I see no  mention of additional taxes on businesses associated with this proposed ordinance. Can you please link us to the information you’re using that shows that a sit-lie ordinance would “drive up the cost of business” in Berkeley? Would this increased cost you’re referring to be more or less than the potential increase in business from a cleaned-up downtown business area?

  • Paul Kealoha Blake

    I apologize for the faulty links.  I will provide you what I can as soon as I can, thank you for the notice and question.

  • justme

    Thanks for the information about YEAH. I knew of their intention to operate year round v. just the traditionally bad weather months.  I am sorry to hear they were not able to launch that effort.  I know they took great care working with some very challenging youth including arranging  outdoor kennels for their pets.  I believe they also followed a “harm reduction” philosophy for meeting the youth “were they are at” and then encouraging sobriety/recovery/treatment.  So many of the street youth are under the age of 18 and considered runaways.  It gets complicated helping them without (and even with) law enforcement, etc  Justme

  • sick of downtown

    She’s back, now that the punks’ve been relocated from Kittredge to the BART plaza.

  • Bruce, put up or shut up

    Then what WOULD you like done, Bruce “Love”? Shall we all go downtown and hug these people? I wish you’d stop commenting merely to be argumentative and present your own statement on what should be done, apart from letting the town fall apart. Do you have any ideas of your own? Or are you merely addicted to the argument?

  • Bruce Love

     

    I wish you’d stop commenting merely to be argumentative

    I don’t.

    Then what WOULD you like done, [….] Or are you merely addicted to the argument?

    For starters, if we’re to have a discussion, we could do without that kind of BS. 

  • N Goldengaul

    I like this from Shelley:

    Power, like a desolating pestilence,
    Pollutes whate’er it touches; and obedience,
    Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
    Makes slaves of men, and of the human
    frame
    A mechanized automaton

     

  • Bruce, put up or shut up

    Can you answer the question? That would be the best way to have a discussion. What would you like done? How should the problem be solved? 

  • bgal4

    Surely you do KNOW that the term gutter punks is self created and identified by those who live that lifestyle.

    And there presence in People’s Park and Telegraph is responsible for plenty of the  increased aggression.

    YEAH has spent plenty of wasted hours in People’s Park teaching conflict resolutions methods to those who self identify as aggressive gutter punks.

    “I left after my pops got five years for shoplifting Christmas presents
    for me and my sister,” Pockets says. “They put us in a group home –
    three days later we were gutter punks on the streets of D.C.”

    http://liveweb.archive.org/http://archive.dailycal.org/article/4030/ex-_gutter_punk_tells_all

  • bgal4

     Surely you do KNOW that the term gutter punks was created by those who live that lifestyle.

    And their presence in People’s Park and Telegraph is responsible for much of the  increased aggression.

    YEAH spent plenty of wasted hours in People’s Park teaching conflict
    resolutions methods to those who self-identify as aggressive gutter
    punks.

    “I left after my pops got five years for shoplifting Christmas presents for me and my sister,” Pockets says. “They put us in a group home – three days later we were gutter punks on the streets of D.C.”

    http://liveweb.archive.org/htt

    http://www.latimes.com/travel/

  • The Sharkey

    In discussions we’ve had about this in the past, Bruce’s solution seems to be roughly “keep doing what we’ve been doing, only more of it.

  • sky

    Actually, a lot of the people that you are bothered by don’t actually live outdoors… many of them are here because of the services that are available… many of them would have been institutionalized or otherwise “helped” before Reagan… 
    Berkeley has way more mentally and physically handicapped people per capita than any other California city as well… what is the point?

  • Juliemichellew

    I am fully on board with this idea, but actually would hope that it could be extended to our neighborhood parks (during the evening hours as well). My family spends a lot of time at Willard Park which has basically become a full time hang out and night time camp ground for the transient population. Two weeks ago two people from two different “camps” got to arguing and started wailing on each other.. a knife was pulled and police responded quickly.. but this was early in the morning when the toddler park was filled with parents, nannies and little children. It was frightening and not uncommon.

  • Guestorius

    She’s been hanging out on that corner, with occasional forays further north, since 1993 at least, probably longer.  Whatever the local compassionate advocate types think they’re doing on her behalf, and for the other lifelong street people, it’s not working. 

  • Lhasa7

    This rationale was identified by Albert Jay Nock decades ago as “the principle … that if a spoonful of prussic acid will kill you, a bottleful is just what you need to do you a great deal of good.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/U72IP5XT25WVFARUDALARZZYPE GP

    The solution to people laying or sitting on sidewalks is simple — benches

  • Reagan James

    She hangs out at the bus stop at University and San Pablo for the most part now. She lives in a group home on San Pablo and Sanford area.Her day pass allows her to annoy people while the group home probably sucks up here entire SSI check.Just sayin…

  • robbie terhaar

    im one of those street kids every one thinks is a problem… my names ROBBIE TERHAAR. go ahead and arrest me for sitting down… we are not moving even if the law passes. we will never leave till were allowed to have our rights back…. just so you guys knoq, if the no sit/lie law passes it also means you damn yuppies and housies cant even sit down anywhere in berkeley…….

  • robbie terhaar

    im one of those street kids every one thinks is a problem… my names ROBBIE TERHAAR. go ahead and arrest me for sitting down… we are not moving even if the law passes. we will never leave till were allowed to have our rights back…. just so you guys knoq, if the no sit/lie law passes it also means you damn yuppies and housies cant even sit down anywhere in berkeley…….

  • robbie terhaar

    just so you know, if you guys get rid of us then the gangsters and all the rest of the people from places like east oakland are going to come in and start robbing and beating people up….. go ahead and get rid of us. it will be your worst mistake…….

  • robbie terhaar

    she is still there, she is just always moving because we keep her away from us street kids

  • robbie terhaar

    it is against our constitional right to not be able to sit down were ever we like!

  • robbie terhhar

    yes it will. if we can sleep on sidewalks then we will be on your front lawns and porches.

  • robbie terhaar

    they dont cause it. they make it worse….. we sleep in such large groups because the berkeley police are targeting people sleeping alone were there are no witnesses so they can beat us up once again

  • George Dorn

    I don’t understand. Did YEAH have its funding cut, or was it unable to get a funding increase? Two different things.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Role-Guy/100002741724974 Role Guy

    Benches, is that your attempt at humor?   The answer is bounce, as in bounce the vagrants and bums off the street and parks, any public areas.  The problem won’t go away, it only gets worse.  That’s why other cities finally took action.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Role-Guy/100002741724974 Role Guy

    Heard a councilman named Worthington (sp?) on the radio today.  He sounds like a flaming liberal or progressive.  If he gets in the way as he is trying with a lawsuit against the council the problems Berkeley is faced with will only get worse, and the city more divided.  This guy is poison in the council chambers. He sounds like he has no solution, but is trying to block the mayor and others who do have one. Santa Cruz has suffered through years of government idealists like him for years, and finally has leadership that might get something done.  I guess it’s still Bezerkley.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Role-Guy/100002741724974 Role Guy

     Sitting down is OK.  But a blanket, dogs, junk, drugs, a few bums with you is a far cry from sitting down to tie your shoes.  Get real with your perspective.  Look at the photo at the top of this article.  That is a big problem for most reasonable people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Role-Guy/100002741724974 Role Guy

     So what;’s your solution?  You can’t leave things like they are already…something has to be done.  Quit ignoring or letting it carry on without some cleanup actions.