Measure S: Will it help or hurt the homeless?

Measure S would prohibit sitting on the sidewalk, during certain hours, in Berkeley’s commercial districts. Photo: Emilie Raguso

On Nov. 6, Berkeley voters will decide whether to approve a controversial ordinance to ban, in most cases, sitting on sidewalks in the city’s business districts from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Measure S is Berkeley’s second attempt to pass a law limiting where and when people can sit on sidewalks. (A 1994 attempt, which included lying on the sidewalk as well, later was repealed by the City Council, after initial approval by voters. The ACLU challenged the law before it went into effect and, in 1997, “a newly elected Berkeley City Council voted to repeal the sit-and-lie ban.”)

Supporters of Measure S have poured more than $90,000 into the campaign, while those opposed have raised just under $16,000, according to campaign reports filed with the city clerk’s office. (See a breakdown of the contributions at Berkeley’s Voter’s Edge.)

The proposed ordinance counts among its proponents developers such as the Beacon Group (which owns 2150 Shattuck, the old Power Bar building) and Panoramic Interests (which sold its large property holdings to Sam Zell’s Equity Residential REIT and now is involved in infill development); opponents include the ACLU of Northern California and Patricia Wall of the Homeless Action Center.

Posts related to the measure have resulted in more than 1,000 reader comments on Berkeleyside. The proposed ban has spurred coverage in local, regional and national media outlets.

A parade of giant puppets representing saints and prophets delivered a letter opposing Measure S, signed by 50 local clergy, to the City Council on Oct. 16 in Berkeley. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Supporters say Measure S will clean up Berkeley’s business districts to make them friendlier to shoppers, while helping connect those in need with social services.

Those rallying against the proposed ban on sitting say it’s part of an increasing trend to criminalize homelessness, and that its passage would in no way bring help to those living on the street. Rather than passing laws to hide or criminalize the homeless, advocates say, cities would be better served by investing in services and supportive housing to address the root causes of the problem.

Those in favor of Measure S point to stories from other cities, such as Seattle and Santa Cruz, that similar bans have improved conditions. Opponents counter that evidence of purported improvements is scant, and say the data that do exist indicate no significant changes.

Measure S: FAQ

The Measure S item on the Nov. 6 ballot is complicated. Here are some commonly asked questions about what the measure would do and how the two sides differ.

What does Measure S restrict?

If passed, Measure S would prohibit sitting on sidewalks in commercial districts from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. except in a medical emergency; when using a wheelchair or other mobility device; during a permitted street event; or when using seating such as fixed benches or café chairs. The law would apply to any sidewalks next to commercially zoned property, such as Telegraph Avenue, much of Shattuck Avenue, University Avenue, San Pablo and Solano avenues, and the streets surrounding the UC Berkeley campus. 

What is the penalty for someone found sitting in these areas? 

Someone violating these rules would first be advised of the ordinance, multiple times, by one of the city’s Hospitality Ambassadors and asked to move along, “so that police get involved only in rare cases,” said John Caner, who runs the Downtown Berkeley Association. Next would come a warning from a police officer and a chance to comply. Warnings would be in effect for 30 days; on the 31st day, for example, a new warning would need to be given. Those found in violation a second time, within 30 days of a warning, would receive a $75 fine or community service. Additional citations may be charged as infractions or misdemeanors. The ordinance would go into effect July 1, 2013. Caner said “very few citations are ever written” in cities with similar ordinances, and that the existence of the law will spur the homeless to settle elsewhere: “The day the ordinance went into effect in Seattle, people basically disappeared.” Caner said “95%” of the interactions with homeless individuals will involve Berkeley’s Ambassadors rather than police.

Bob Offer-Westort, coordinator for the No on S campaign, said the law is not so benign, as small fines could escalate and send people to jail. When court costs are taken into account, the initial fine is really $200, he said. Later violations could cost up to $1,000 and lead to six months in jail, he said. Court appearances would take place in Oakland, he added, making them hard to reach for those on limited budgets. Court dates would likely take place months in the future, making them difficult to keep track of; missing court dates could lead to bench warrants and jail time, he said.

So where could people go to rest if Measure S does pass?

Caner said there are “over 30 benches and planters” for people to sit on downtown. They can also go to parks, public spaces like the library, or “they can go outside the business districts.”

Do other cities have laws forbidding sitting in certain instances? 

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty surveyed 234 cities with ordinances about various types of prohibited conduct; 33% of them, as of the November 2011 report, had a prohibition against sitting or lying in particular public places. Law center staff surveyed 154 service providers, advocates, and people experiencing homelessness, and said 19% reported arrests, citations, or both, for sitting on the sidewalk.

Do these laws work? 

According to the Yes on S campaign, 60 cities, including Santa Cruz, Santa Monica and San Francisco have passed similar ordinances: “All cities have seen improved merchant areas. We expect even better results because Berkeley has two important advantages: an existing Ambassador program and a commitment to waive citations for persons entering services.”

Santa Cruz passed a civil sidewalks ordinance in 1994. Former five-time mayor of the city, Mike Rotkin, said that, while it has not solved all the problems, the net result has been a “dramatic reduction in problematic behaviors with few citations ever issued in the process.” In an Opinionator piece published on Berkeleyside, he writes, “Pacific Avenue is now a vibrant commercial district… Business tax receipts bear witness to the success of the turnaround… Santa Cruz has maintained its soul… but [is] now just a bit more welcoming with mutual respect for everyone.”

Opponents disagree that the laws are effective.

Are there any data on whether these laws achieve their goals?

Opponents of the law say there isn’t much evidence to show that the ordinances help businesses, or the homeless. Offer-Westort pointed to a March 2012 report from the non-partisan City Hall Fellows that looked at the impact of San Francisco’s 2010 sit-lie ordinance. According to the report, most business owners surveyed in the Haight, the area most targeted for enforcement, reported no improvement or a worsening in the street scene, that the ordinance did little to change behavior of the homeless, and that the same people were cited repeatedly. The report noted that there had been no misdemeanor convictions as a result of the ordinance, and that police said “the law provides a tool to ask people to move along without having to issue a citation.” In most cases, wrote the City Hall Fellows, people left and no citation was issued, though they sometimes just sat on another sidewalk nearby. The fellows found that homeless individuals were not consistently offered services, and that there wasn’t a reliable system in place for tracking individuals who had been connected to services.

Several Berkeley Law students released a report last week, after being approached by a “coalition of community groups and individuals opposed to Measure S,” that found “no meaningful evidence to support the arguments that Sit-Lie laws increase economic activity or improve services to homeless people.” The students surveyed “key stakeholders” in 19 sit-lie jurisdictions. They acknowledged “the scarcity of data” but said, given supporter claims about sit-lie laws, they expected more: “Our literature review did not reveal any evidence of Sit-Lie’s efficacy in other jurisdictions, and of the fifteen survey responses we received, none directed us to any evidence in support of their views about the positive or negative impacts of Sit-Lie.”

Do homeless people on the streets affect businesses?

Hundreds of business owners have signed up in support of Measure S. Alberto Malvestio, whose ALMARE Gelato sits next to the BART plaza at 2170 Shattuck, is one of them. He said his sales drop off 30% when groups of homeless people gather in front of his shop to party and play music. He said he’s tried both to speak with people outside and, when that didn’t work, to call police. It had no effect, he said.

“I can see the feeling of the customers when they sit here with their kids, that bad things are going on. They don’t like it. They take the kids away. They are shaking their head, saying ‘Oh my god, what’s going on here?”

Malvestio said he wouldn’t have opened at his current location had he known how big an issue the homeless youth would be. (He provided the video above.)

A 2011 survey of UC Berkeley students said cleanliness and safety concerns were among factors that caused at least half of them to avoid Telegraph Avenue and downtown most of the time. Offer-Westort, however, cited a 2010 report that found downtown and Telegraph seeing smaller decreases in sales tax revenue than many other business districts in Berkeley. In the report by then-City Manager Phil Kamlarz, five steps are suggested to improve the economy: support a “Buy Local” campaign; encourage night-time businesses on Telegraph and downtown; help market available commercial space; improve the permit process for new retail; and continue to support Business Improvement District efforts. Offer-Westort said any of these solutions likely would have more of an impact on improving the city’s business climate than would Measure S.

Sales on Telegraph Avenue and in downtown appeared to be slightly more buoyant than other areas of Berkeley, according to a 2010 city report. Source: City of Berkeley economic report, Oct. 26, 2010

What’s the size of Berkeley’s homeless population and what services exist?

According to a June 2012 report prepared by the city manager, Berkeley had a population of 680 homeless residents in 2009, the most recent year available. The city operates 135 year-round emergency shelter beds, 70 emergency beds in the winter and 163 transitional housing beds. The city also pays for additional seasonal emergency shelter services; through one, 50 people can receive shelter for up to 40 nights. In another, the city provided 393 nights in hotels for 49 families and 20 individuals. Berkeley funds daytime drop-in centers through programs such as Building Opportunities for Self Sufficiency, the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center, the Berkeley Drop-In Center, and Berkeley Food and Housing. In 2011-12, the city spent $2.8 million on homeless services. Learn about the city’s Mental Health division here.

Shattuck Avenue is one area of Berkeley where the homeless most commonly congregate. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Will this law help homeless people get connected with services?

Caner, of the Downtown Berkeley Association, said Measure S will help connect people to services in multiple ways. Fewer people will come to Berkeley to live on the street because of the law, he said, freeing up existing services for those who are here. Additionally, Measure S will give downtown Hospitality Ambassadors, many of whom have lived through addiction and recovery, more of a reason to speak with the homeless and learn about their needs: “The fact is, if you have more boundaries, you have more reason for interacting and encouraging people into services.” Caner said Ambassadors receive training from Berkeley’s Mental Health division and that agreeing to services would result in waived penalties for violations. Offer-Westort, of No on S, said there is no language in the ordinance itself to guarantee services or the waiver of penalties. He said the city’s Ambassadors are not qualified to help connect youth or those with mental health problems to care they might need. Offer-Westort said penalties such as jail time and warrants also could result in people losing access to key services or losing their spot in line for housing. He added that the city has limited services available specifically for youth, who make up a large portion of the population living on the streets in the business districts.

But a lot of homeless people don’t actually want services, right? 

Offer-Westort said, of the “literally hundreds” of homeless people he knows, the vast majority would like to be in housing, and many others would like to be in shelters. But the shelters are full, he said. Some of these people, those with addictions, for example, may not be interested in housing that forbids all substance use, smoking or drinking. “They don’t want a ‘tough love’ approach,” he said. “But saying that certain services are inappropriate is different from being across-the-board service-resistant.”

Davida Coady, who runs Options Recovery, an organization that aims to help people escape homelessness and drug addiction, said Measure S would “give teeth” to Ambassadors to help them make a better case for offering services. Coady said she’s been concerned to find that some advocates are “more into the wants of the homeless” than interested in providing structure and intervention. She said people generally do not get into treatment without some kind of intervention, such as from family or a job. People who are homeless aren’t likely to have these kinds of support systems, she said, so they need more structured intervention that can arise from repeated interactions and growing relationships with the city’s Ambassadors.

Will the law be selectively enforced, and used to target the homeless?

Advocates for the homeless say Measure S would be one of a growing number of local ordinances passed nationally to target the rising homeless population. Offer-Westort described the ordinance as “a law plus a wink and a nudge,” which would not be used, for example, to stop a lemonade stand or Girl Scout cookie sales: “It’s trying to make it a crime to be a certain kind of person. It’s extremely problematic in a democratic society to apply laws only to one group of people and not to others.” Caner, of Yes on S, said, “It needs to be equally enforced. If somebody is sitting down on the ground eating an ice cream cone, an Ambassador will inform them: Go sit on a bench.” Sitting in the Cheese Board median on Shattuck Avenue, which already is prohibited, would not be impacted by the ordinance, he said. It’s already prohibited under current city code, and that won’t change. Alan Schlosser, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, said it’s not that simple: “Most people in Berkeley know it’s not going to be enforced against them. It clearly is a law that is punishing conduct that’s innocent. Sitting on the sidewalk should not be a crime.”

So will Girl Scouts be able to sell their cookies, or not?

Caner said Measure S does not address where sales can, or cannot, take place. He said the city handles permit applications for vendors who sell items, such as arts and crafts, on the street or sidewalk. Measure S, he said, does not relate to that activity. He said the city also has free speech zones, which allow for other types of behavior. He said, theoretically, Girl Scouts who wanted to sit while they sell cookies could set up in front of existing benches or planters.

Doesn’t Berkeley already have laws to address problems, such as lying down, aggressive panhandling and the like?

Caner said existing laws are tough to enforce; lying down isn’t allowed, but “if you have an elbow up it doesn’t count as lying.” Blocking the sidewalk isn’t allowed, but “you have to block the entire sidewalk.” Drinking is not allowed “but it’s difficult to catch people.” Caner described the law against aggressive panhandling as “pretty subjective” and “difficult to enforce.”

Offer-Westort said asking police to focus on these kinds of “quality of life” laws keeps them tied up from dealing with more serious crimes. Added Schlosser of the ACLU, “There are plenty of laws on the books that deal with the kinds of conduct that are causing the problems. I don’t think the city should expand police power to target innocent conduct.”

Luke, 22, (sitting, left) said he would likely move on to Oakland if Berkeley voters pass Measure S. Here, he sits in front of a vacant storefront on Shattuck, and tries to sell handmade jewelry, Oct. 16, 2012, Berkeley, CA. Photo: Emilie Raguso

What do some members of the homeless community think?

Drew, 23, who goes by the name Purple, said, to him Measure S is just another way to criminalize the homeless. He described himself as “normal” — “not crazy, not a drug addict, not violent” — and said he’d chosen to live on the streets and travel, essentially, to drop out of the rat race and pursue a life of “infinite freedom.” He said the real culprits hurting local businesses are the landlords who are driving up rents, and that homeless people are just the scapegoat.

Luke, 22, said Berkeley’s “been around too long” to change the culture: “People have been coming here for years and years and years.” He said he once had a house and went to college, but didn’t like it, so he decided to travel and sell jewelry on the street. He said many of his friends are watching Measure S closely, and plan to leave town if it’s passed rather than risk being sent to jail for minor offenses. As for himself? “I’d go to Oakland.”

In a nutshell, why is Measure S the answer?

Said Caner: “We really need to help out the local merchants. We need to improve our public spaces. Unfortunately, with the encampments of street people that often are on Telegraph and Shattuck avenues, and often there are drugs and alcohol involved, it has a chilling effect on people coming to downtown and to Telegraph and the merchants suffer accordingly. The encampments often involve sitting in groups, often with dogs, often with pitbulls. That can cause a lot of discomfort. And people sort of feel a lot of times that they have to walk the gauntlet when there are these large groups…. If we’re effective in changing behaviors and also discouraging Berkeley as being a mecca for certain types of activity, hopefully we’ll see less strain on city services, and can actually focus a lot of our services and our funding on those who are truly in need.” He said Berkeley is “the only progressive city on the West Coast” without a sit ordinance.

If Measure S isn’t the answer, what is?

Said Offer-Westort: “Young homeless people are a group that has been tremendously alienated by society already. The good solution is creating options where people are able to get back into society, and enter situations where they are able to be tolerated. Using the criminal justice system, it’s more like they’re being shunned. Demonizing homeless youth has been tremendously counterproductive.”

Said Schlosser: “I think some people would prefer for there to be no homeless people in the city. That just is not tolerated in our system. We can’t prohibit people who are poor from being visible. Panhandling is as protected as soliciting donations for charities. As long as there are people in need, that’s going to be part of our world.”

Who’s for it and who’s against it?

See a full list of supporters here, and a list of those against Measure S here.

How can I learn more?

Op/Ed: Say yes on Measure S: help those living on the streets [10.29.12]
Op/Ed: Five lies about Measure S — from both sides of the debate [10.24.12]
Op/Ed: Yes on Measure S mailer is full of falsehoods [10.24.12]
Op/Ed: Measure S is a step backwards for Berkeley [10.10.12]
Op/Ed: Measure S: We can do better with civil sidewalks [09.19.12]
Mayor Bates defends his handling of raucous meeting [07.12.12]
Berkeley sitting ban goes to ballot after raucous meeting [07.11.12]
Opponents of Berkeley sitting ban gear up for fight [07.09.12]
Berkeley sitting ban progresses toward November ballot [06.13.12]
Proposed sidewalk sitting ban prompts debate, protest [06.12.12]
Mayor seeks to put sit-lie ordinance on November ballot [06.01.12]
Police step up patrols on Telegraph to clear sidewalks [05.01.12]
Newly cleaned up downtown hopes to attract more retail [04.04.12]
Anti sit-lie campaigners take protest to City Hall [04.27.11]

Clarification: The original story reported that the 1994 ordinance was withdrawn by the Berkeley City Council. This was changed shortly after publication, but has been returned to its original state. We have included some additional context about the earlier ordinance.

Read more about Measure SVisit Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of the city’s 10 ballot measures. Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to Nov. 6.

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  • The Sharkey

    My hope is that, if Measure S passes, it will be easier to lobby for additional public seating and public restrooms in Berkeley’s major business districts. Adding more seating and public restrooms would make areas like Shattuck and Telegraph even more pedestrian-friendly than they already are.

  • The Sharkey

    Most of the homeless-by-choice kids I see hanging around in front of the library harassing people don’t seem to be particularly weak – I think that’s why so many people find them intimidating.

  • Berkeleyan

    Some of us enjoy The Sharkey’s contributions.  Speak for yourself, anonymous. 

  • Berkeleyan

    Force them (the homeless) to sit on the sidewalk?  Yeah, THAT will totally fly if measure s doesn’t pass.  

  • Berkeleyan

    Sharkey, I tend to agree with you, but you are TOTALLY wrong on this one.  Now what, may I ask do you REALLY think will happen if there are public restrooms and seating made available?  C’mon, Sharkey, you’re smart.  Tell me!

  • Berkeleyan

    Luke will not go to Oakland.  People who are a combination of poor and struggling not to be poor will resent his little opting-out-of-society Siddhartha ass and kick the crap out of him.  He’s in Berkeley ’cause we’re a city of pushovers.

  • Charles_Siegel

    Incidentally, in response to earlier claims that the downtown Ambassadors “harass” the homeless, I asked two people I know who sell Street Spirit downtown about the Ambassadors.

    One said that the Ambassadors never even talk to him and he has never seen them harass any homeless people.

    The other said the the Ambassadors talk to her and tell her news about other homeless people whom she knows, but they have never harassed her, and she has never seen them harass any homeless people.

    These people both spend a lot of time on the streets of downtown, so I have to conclude that harassment by the Ambassadors is very rare, if it exists at all. 

  • The Sharkey

    The potential for abuse is high, but they make it work in a lot of European cities so I think we could look at some of them as models and figure out how to make it happen here. Nothing fancy, nothing with much in the way of privacy or amenities, but just a place off the street for people to do their business.

    The lack of public restrooms in major cities here in California has always perplexed me. Everybody poops, nobody likes it when people relieve themselves in the street or on the sidewalk, but we don’t make public bathrooms available.

  • Guestoria

    Or they could build a parking lot, as they originally intended.  After aggressive panhandling and other antisocial behavior, lack of parking is the next worst problem holding that area back.

  • Guestoria

    Not to mention a bunch of angry old derelicts who also need to do the same.  There are PLENTY of street people in their forties, fifties, and sixties who behave just as badly as the young gutterpunks.  The aging Boomer bohemian set has been tolerating them for decades out of misplaced nostalgia for the sixties. 

  • Guestoria

    Exactly.  When I see people doing that, I want to give them a piece of my mind for exploiting their kids like that.  It’s disgusting.  I don’t, because they probably wouldn’t get the point, and it would just make the kids feel worse.

    Also, can we please drop the pretense that everyone who panhandles is homeless?  There are plenty of chronic panhandlers in Berkeley who are housed.  That’s how they’re able to keep it up, decade in, decade out.

  • Guestoria

    I’ve had a LOT of homophobic comments directed at me over the years by both young street punks and aging hippie panhandlers.  That’s one of the reasons I simply don’t walk down Telegraph anymore.  (Sorry about that, Moe’s and Amoeba, and thank you 

    So yes, I’d agree that they’re pushing some sort of lifestyle on the rest of us.  It involves pot, resentment, blocking doors, and apparently also disdain for gays and lesbians.  It’s all very…progressive. 

  • Guestoria

    The Dalai Lama would tell us we weren’t spiritual enough, and then ask for money — just like any other professional activist.  The Tibetan merchants on College probably see right though him, the same way they see through the No on S campaign.

  • relocated midwesterner

    It targets the homeless that need the most help and aren’t a nuisance, and I’m not convinced it will address the homeless that bug people, I can see how you conflated these arguments, reading back through my posts.

    Thanks for the dialogue.  It’s definitely affected the way I view the measure.  I’m open to other’s views being different than my own, but my vociferous opposition to this and telling people that this is anti-Berkeley (its anti ‘my’ Berkeley experience to clarify, if that helps) is no different than those espousing the need for this measure.  

    It seems to me that both pro and anti folks tend to agree on wanting cleaner streets, its the method of attacking the problem that’s an issue.  I view measure S as a surgical approach (cutting out the bad, which will inevitably get some good tissue too) vs a holistic approach which takes aim at the cause rather than the symptom.  If I step back a bit at look at it from a larger perspective though, and I think some pro-S people have pointed this out, that with the status quo, Berkeley ends up taking the responsibility for a lot of the nation’s homeless.  I guess I’m a bleeding socialist liberal and I’m okay with that.  

  • Devin

    really? could you direct me to that.  Moved to Berkeley in 2002 for school, haven’t left since.  I didn’t work in Berkeley for a few years in there, but always lived here (western, northern and southern neighborhoods at this point).  

  • anon

    Don’t do that. It makes those of us who at least don’t mind you wince and shake our heads in disgust. Respect anonymity.

  • anon

    Totally agree with the call for more public restrooms. Come on, Berkeley!

  • anon

    Discounted AC transit?
    Hmmm… how does one go about proving one is homeless?

  • The Sharkey

    I prefer pseudonymity to anonymity.
    Switching your screen name so you can make attacks and pretend to be someone else is tacky.

    If someone really wants to stoop that low, they should at least have the sense to use a different e-mail address so it isn’t attached to their old Disqus history.

  • The Sharkey

    My apologies – you’re right. Poor reading and jumping to conclusions on my part.


  • The Sharkey

    So what’s the “holistic approach” to this situation?

    Part of the reason the push for Measure S is so strong is that opponents haven’t given any reasonable alternatives that would actually change anything.

    Let’s not forget that the No on S folks who claim to care so much haven’t been doing anything to try to solve the problem on their own. It’s not like the City Council shot down a bunch of alternate proposals before settling on Measure S. Everything alternative the No on S crowd has come up was reactive, no proactive.

  • Howie Mencken

    Sharkey’s got the zeitgeist nailed. BL, well…uh…he just got nailed.

  • relocated midwesterner

    yeah, I can’t stand obstructionist, stalemate politics myself.  But I guess in this instance I don’t think its bad enough to warrant legal action.  My holistic approach would be to dump all the money being spent on this campaign, into training for “ambassadors” and services.  

    I also think (just to complicate this further) that the real issue is whether we cater to the homeless at all (which speaks to the root issue of why they’re so abundant).  It seems to me that we either offer all these services (which most seem inclined to offer in Berkeley) and deal with the resulting fall-out (homeless people on our streets – some are going to be really dirty and mean) or we don’t.  All the nuanced, in between positions ignore this simple dilema and complicates the matter and results in petty bickering (against progress, against civil rights, assisting a bad lifestyle, ignoring the weak…).  I think the answer is we can’t have our liberal cake and eat it too.  But we can make this post REALLY skinny! :)

  • The Sharkey

    Unfortunately that won’t work. The money spent on this campaign so far (just over $106k) would pay for city homeless services for about 3 months.

    Like I said, so far the anti-S crowd can’t seem to come up with any realistic alternatives other than just leaving everything the same as it is now.

    On a side note, why do you keep changing your screen name in this discussion? It makes things a little confusing.

  • relocated midwesterner

    But that’s the discussion though isn’t it.  Pro-S or maintain the status quo, right?  So I’m for maintaining the status quo.  Along the lines of looking at the bigger picture, I think increasing foot traffic and therefore sales in commercial districts will only increase pan-handling and homeless, albeit now standing.No one seems to address this ironic repercussion.  Thoughts?

  • relocated midwesterner

    apologies for changingmy screen name, I was trying to unify my posts from different times under a single name – its just more confusing.

  • Greg

    “This is like my writing dozens of climate scientists about global warming, getting vague responses from 15 of them, and then telling the press that my study finds there is no evidence about global warming.”

    Unless there are thousands of peer-reviewed papers on the economic impact of “Sit/Lie” laws easily conjured by a laymen armed with a web browser and an internet connection your analogy is a bit silly.

    The dearth of data on the subject is largely the point.  The claim made was that effectively none was uncovered even after “extensive” literary review.  I believe the report states the only jurisdiction to publish a report on its effects was San Francisco.  Is that true?  I don’t know.  If your analogy holds you’d be able to disprove it pretty easily, Charles.  Can you find existing data on the subject?

    The report also liberally sprinkles in disclaimers about the reliability of their original research into the economic impacts of “Sit/Lie” laws.  Note, if this group were issuing a report on a “climate change” initiative they very likely would NOT have attempted their own original research (or bothered to solicit scientists to divulge their privately held data).  It would not have been necessary.  Again, it is is readily available, and *that* is their point.

    Note, this “research” also included rudimentary analysis of public economic data.  It was not solely based on the aforementioned surveys.  Again, there are, in my opinion, adequate disclaimers.  Their numbers are essentially worthless.  They seem to acknowledge this.

    This brings us to what I think is the biggest problem with the report.  Implied is the belief that the onus is on those who wish to enact a law to support their claims about its purpose.  While I’m sympathetic to that notion, it is naive.  

    This has been put to a ballot.  Effectively there is no one accountable for the outcome, and the decision rests with an electorate that would largely be uninterested in (or incapable of) understanding the data if it were available.  Why waste the resources?

    Preemptive apology:  Since line feeds disappear from about 50% of my posts I’ve inserted HTML break tags.  It may result in excessive spacing, but it is better than the alternative.

  • Greg

    Buried in there is the word “literary”.  Replace it with “literature”.

  • Guest

    I think that insinuations were more “Bruce Love”‘s style; facts he had frequent difficulties with.

  • Greg

    “I wrote the original “Ambassadors” proposal and and believe that they are a key component to making this work.”

    Interesting, then you are probably a great person to ask: 

    How is this supposed to work?

    What training will the “ambassadors” receive?

    Have the “ambassadors” been granted any sort of authority/protections not offered any other person on the street?

    I really don’t mean to confrontational, this just sort of intrigues me.  My ignorant guess would be that most of the “street punk” contingent will ignore any requests originating from anyone who isn’t a police officer.

    This probably means significant police resources will be required for any sort of results to be visible.

    Without training the risk of escalation that might put an “ambassador” at risk for criminal charges and/or physical harm seems pretty high.

    Since Measure S seems a forgone conclusion at this point I sincerely hope this is something you have addressed.

  • Greg

    Sorry about the formatting.  I think I know why the line feeds go missing at times (cut-and-paste seems the likely culprit), but I’m still adding the HTML break tag to be certain.

  • XD

    The problem lies with the press suggesting that the report conclusively shows that these laws do not help, when in reality the report says that nobody really knows.

  • The ambassadors were originally designed as an outreach program to help people on the streets into services. I had served on the Board of Options Recovery and was told by Dr. Coady (the ED at the time) that Berkeley was considering proposals for outreach workers. 

    So I contacted Roland Peterson of the Telegraph Business Improvement District and made a presentation to their board. I also contacted Deborah Bahdia of the Downtown Berkeley Assn and  told them about it.  Roland and Deborah were eager and got on board. I wrote the proposal and budget.  The idea was that Roland and Deborah would supervise the employees.  They would also interview Options graduates (among others of their own choosing) for the positions. 

    Options graduates needed work, and they knew what life on the streets was like. As peer counselors, they’d be able to guide the people on the streets who needed it into recovery.  

    So that was the idea — I wrote it up, was part of the presentation to the council and it happened.  (Like “boom” it happened.  You spend your life working on things that never materialize and this happened fast).

    As for their training, you’d have to ask Options, TBID, and DBA about that.  I know they receive training, but I wasn’t involved in putting that part of the program together.   I do know that as part of the original program, they were not to act as police / enforcement officers.  If they saw illegal activity, their only job in this regard was to witness and report.

    As an interesting aside to all of this, it should be noted that the Ambassadors are doing this at a fraction of what it would cost the City to do it.  I think the first budget was $200,000 over two years (uh, don’t quote me on that…but pretty sure that was it).  With that we had to hire up to 6 part time Ambassadors, train them, supervise them, provide uniforms, etc.  It was a paltry budget.  But it’s what we had to work with so we went with it.  

    So that’s what happened.  Major props go to Davida, Deborah and Roland for implementing the project, to the Ambassadors themselves for doing the difficult work.  As for my role, I knew all the players at the start of the project, and have a background in finance and organizing and was just the “glue” that put it together at the beginning.  I hope all I have all the details right — it was a while ago.  

    PS — Options is in downtown Berkeley, in the veterans building – they offer 12-step based recovery services as well as sober-living housing (which is key).  It’s also free for those who can’t afford it (most can’t).  If you have a friend in need it’s a good place to start.  They do great work on a shoestring down there.

    PPS — I just found the proposal in my filing cabinet!  The original proposal was dated 4/24/2008.  

  • Greg

    Thanks for the reply George.

    Maybe it just didn’t register, but I *think* this is the first I’ve read that the “ambassadors” had a connection to Options.  That is a pretty fantastic detail.  It should be trumpeted a bit more in my opinion.

    My real question was more about how the “ambassadors” will be used for enforcement of Measure S.  What will the protocol be?  Specifically, what happens when someone is uncooperative?  Do they simply call the police?  Do they engage?

  • Greg

    This isn’t something I’ve seen, but I’m not sure you can fault the report for that if it has.

    Regardless, the comparison to “global warming” is utterly preposterous.  There certainly is no lack of readily available data on that subject.

  • Charles_Siegel

     The analogy was obviously not meant to be exact.  You show correctly that it is not exact, but you do not say anything that challenges my main point:  the study found no evidence one way or the other (that sit-lie laws help or don’t help), but the press reported only that the study found no evidence that sit-lie laws help.

    I didn’t realize that the study acknowledges that their numbers are “essentially worthless,” as you say.  It would have been good if the press reported that fact also, rather than taking the study seriously.   Better yet, the press should have just ignored a study that admits it is “essentially worthless.”

  • Charles_Siegel

     You focus on the analogy, but you missed my main point, which I will repeat:

    “The press has reported this study as finding that there is no evidence that these laws help.”

  • Greg

    Charles, you’ve missed the point entirely.

    Effectively the report says that although the proponents claim to have identified a problem, a cause, and a solution no reliable data has been presented to support this, nor were any published studies found.

    Because there was nothing found they went ahead with some rudimentary back-of-the-napkin level research.  There were ample disclaimers about why those numbers could not be considered reliable for a variety of reasons.  Their conjecture was that they could possibly be used as a preliminary step to at least suggest if “Sit/Lie” showed promise or not.  That is all.

    Additionally, they claimed to survey major stakeholders in 15 current “Sit/Lie” jurisdictions.  The purpose there seemed to be to solicit proprietary data that might exist.  They claim to have received none, but again, there is a disclaimer that fewer than 20% of the targets actually responded to their query.

    Again, their point on this matter is that there is no data is support of the claims.  Just because their rudimentary method of trying to create their own is flawed this doesn’t invalidate that claim, nor does *this* make their report worthless.

    If you know of data and can contradict this claim please post it.  In earnest I’d love to read it.

    And further, if there really is no evidence available then the claim that there is no evidence to support the economic claims of “Sit/Lie” proponents is in fact correct.

    Again, implicit in stating the result in this manner is that the burden of proof is on those who made the claims and are pursuing action.  Now, I’m being earnest when I say *that* is something I personally think is flawed.  This is a public referendum, such rules clearly don’t apply.

    What is particularly irksome about your analogy is that it suggests to the casual reader that in fact such corroborating evidence does exist, and that the students’ report ignored it and/or they did not perform due diligence. Maybe this is the case?  Honestly, I don’t know.  If it is you should be able to provide evidence to support the claim.

  • right on, berkeley.  i’m glad to see my city san francisco and your city berkeley are moving in the same direction.
    we are not trying to criminalize the
    homeless. we are trying to criminalize the homeless industry with all its paid
    advocates, a bureaucratic

    program without quantifiable benefits to anyone, including the
    homeless. i live in san francisco’s castro district and my neighbors and i are fed up
    with progressive policians making excuses for people defecating and
    leaving their needles and liquor bottles everywhere.   i hope s passes and i nod my hat to you.  i love you berkeley.

  • rejco

    All that money donated for the sidewalk law could have housed all the people sitting on the sidewalk …

  • rejco

     Options Recovery Services is all 12-step religious AA/NA cult nonsense; they have a 100% FAILURE RATE!

  • rejco

    Another MAKE-BELIEVE CRIME created out of thin air……

  • anonymous

     Oh well, only $100,000 has been spent so far–kicking people who are already down is cheap at the price.

  • anonymous

     Still waiting for the data?

  • anon

    Hi George: I have some questions too:
    Where is the budget for the Ambassador program coming from? Are they paid by the DBA and Telegraph Business Association or the City of Berkeley? 
    How does Block-by Block fit into all of this? Are they still using people form Options recovery?
    Thanks for coming on here & answering questions!

  • ja

    This is an extremely biased set of “FAQs” that mostly cites arguments made by proponents of S (i.e. “Why is Measure S the answer?”) Come on…