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 (A 1994 attempt, which included lying on the sidewalk as well, later was repealed by the City Council, after initial approval by voters.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?

Related:
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

    Yeah, because liking one thing about a city means you must like all other things about that city too, right? Not a jab? Come on, at least be honest if you’re going to pull the old canard about how anyone who doesn’t like things the way they are should just move to Walnut Creek.

    He really should be in a city that does nothing for or even criminalizes homeless people, like a Walnut Creek.

    Would you care to point to the laws in Walnut Creek that make it illegal to be homeless? I think the ACLU would like to hear about that.

  • Gordon Wozniak

    Emilie,

    The table in your article showing the decline in sales tax revenue for different business districts from 2008 to 2010 is a couple of years out of date and may not reflect the current economic climate. 

    Recent sales tax data for the 1st quarter of 2010 to the 1st quarter of 2012 shows that sales tax revenue for all business districts is up 7.2% from $12.55 to $13.45 million, whereas for the Telegraph Business District, sales tax revenue is down -0.4% from $0.907 to $0.903 million. 

    Sales tax revenue from businesses located in the Telegraph Business district peaked at about $1.1 million back in 2000 and have since declined to $0.90 million, a decrease of -18% over the last decade. Since business revenues had already declined for 8 years before the economic crash of 2008, there may have been less room for further decline for the years between 2008 and 2010. 

    However tax data from the last two years seems to indicate that Telegraph Ave is not experiencing any economic growth, whereas businesses citywide have grown by 7.2%.

    Gordon Wozniak
    Berkeley City Council

  • Just Sayin

    Only if they are illegal immigrant puppies…

  • Chris

     Charles, I’ve disagreed with you before, but not here. Very well put!

  • Chris

     How else should we add order to the “chaos” that is downtown? Just curious if there is another, better, option as you see it.

  • relocated midwesterner

    you don’t have to like it, just not pass laws to criminalize it.  that’s the point.  If he thinks this is a good way to go about fixing a city, there are plenty of precedents out there.  

    You don’t have to pass laws saying “not having a house is a ticketable offense” to criminalize and marginalize the homeless, but I think you know this.  Either way, I’m happy to side with you on the more benches and public restrooms issue.  Power to the pee-full! :)

  • guest

    “businesses citywide have grown by 7.2%?”  Is this the same as “sales tax revenue for all business districts”?  is Telegraph included in “all”?  

  • Gordon Wozniak

    Telegraph is include in the sales tax revenue for all business districts.

  • The Sharkey

    Why not? Why do you get to dictate what Berkeley is, or how Berkeley residents should feel about issues? What law says that attitudes and opinions within the boundries of the city of Berkeley cannot change over time?

    How does asking everyone to go sit on a bench or in park or anywhere else in the city that isn’t a small number of commercial blocks marginalize anyone?

  • Devin

    Thanks George -

    This is one of the most genuine, non-sensationalistic defenses of Measure S that I’ve read to date and I appreciate a post that simply states your position without a ton of vitriol or attacks to help solidify your position.  In spite of my several misgivings, I was so close to saying, aw heck, might as well throw the shop keepers a bone when I read the line “Also, the council can amend or repeal this measure without a vote of the public.”  That’s some seriously nice fodder for anti-S’ers and is probably enough for me to vote no.  

  • tor_berg

    Maybe so, Laura. I regret that it’s a police matter, at all. But you and I aren’t the ones who made it so, so perhaps you’re right.

  • emraguso

    If you have a good source, I would very much like to look at it. What I’ve been told and read is that council repealed it on their own, but I would very much like to see additional information about it. I didn’t have much luck when trying to get more information about it online. 

  • emraguso

    Thank you, Gordon! Do you have a link to new data on this? I was hoping to review that as well. 

  • bgal4

    We, as a society, authorize police to complete certain tasks specified by civil and criminal code. Yeah, the cops have a role, and if you ever have a chance to speak with the mobile crisis unit, you will learn how important that function is when dealing with a crisis. Our buddy Officer Jim was excellent in assisting people in crisis, again the mobile crisis street team can underscore this.

  • The Sharkey

    The Council also could have passed this measure without a vote of the public, Devin. But when’s the last time the Council did something like that? Not as long as I’ve been in Berkeley, at least.

  • The Sharkey

    I also had a hard time finding information about it. From what I gathered the City Council repealed the entire law rather than defend the panhandling provision t in court, but I wasn’t able to find any particularly trustworthy sources.

    This seems like the kind of information that the city ought to have available online in public records, but I couldn’t find it.

  • relocated midwesterner

    because its not “everyone”, its a law directed at the homeless – that alone is sufficient to marginalize them (and, yes I know its all people sitting down, not just the homeless – but this is misdirection as only the homeless really use the sidewalk as a seat).  

    And I don’t speak for Berkeley or what others can or can’t do; just voicing my opinion about the direction I want Berkeley to take.  I’m all for change, like measure T, want to see Berkeley prosper…etc, but I don’t view this as a progressive step forward for Berkeley, fingering an already down-trodden group as the cause for the economic problems of 2 streets that have only improved since I moved here.  

    If kids really annoy me, I can rally the troops of people who don’t like kids, point to all the diseases they spread, the financial hardship and stress they cause and try to get the outlaw children law passed in Berkeley but I would expect people to stand up for their rights, especially since its a group that needs our help more than others.  

    For all those pictures of inappropriate signs and garbage strewn everywhere, I can think of just as many held by very respectful, quiet, sad-looking people that are simply imploring for help.  

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Interesting, so if memory serves, the council member whose district contains the declining mess of Telegraph is … Kriss Worthington, the same guy who opposed Measure S so vehemently that he disrupted Council proceedings when it came up?  And is now running for mayor?  Talk about failing up!

  • do unto others

    All homeless people lie in the middle of the sidewalk all day and abuse people?! really.  Have you also failed to see the difference between killing people and sitting down?!  

    There are clean, pleasant homeless people in the world that need the money provided by panhandling in a commercial district, some with children.  I find your post offensive, and I think you should consider life on the streets for a couple minutes before posting something like this.  

  • hilldah

    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.”Luke said he and friends would go to Oakland.  Great.  Bye bye Lune and friends.

  • guest

    They can take their lifestyle elsewhere.  Nobody supports my lifestyle, why should I support theirs.

  • guest

    40% of the homeless in Alameda County are in Berkeley.  Berkeley spends approximately $5,000 per homeless person, if the figures are correct, more than any other City of its size.  I don’t understand why you are opposed, everything you stated above would make one think that you would favor it.  This measure is about gangs of homeless taking over the sidewalks in commercial areas at certain times of the day.  This measure in no way criminalizes homelessness, it just asks that these groups of young people take their act elsewhere during business hours.  If they need services they will be given the information where they can get services.  You know full well that these punks don’t want services, they simply want to push their lifestyle on the rest of us.  Vote YES on S.

  • guest

    Josh what is so wrong about asking them to sit on benches, etc.  Or if they need to lie down to go to a park?

  • Howie Mencken

    “If people are neither a harm to themselves or others — and I’m sorry but sitting on the sidewalk does not constitute harm…” 

    That depends on how you define “harm”. Used to be you could say any damn thing you wanted. After all, words alone can’t hurt anyone. Now the hate speech laws can get you into plenty of trouble if your not careful. It’s not the talking, it’s what you say. It wasn’t just the sitting and laying that brought this on. It’s sitting and laying while spewing crap from both ends that did it.

  • Howie Mencken

    With friends like you the homeless don’t need enemies. KIds are pretty resilient, but being used by your parents to increase the begging haul? That is a shame that never heals.

  • Wanderer

    The logic of Measure S supporters is deeply faulty. They say that “the homeless” keep people away from businesses. Data about retail decline in Berkeley is posted. What isn’t posted is retail decline everywhere! The economy is in weak condition. Affluent retail districts outside Berkeley have vacancies.

    Measure S supporters say they’re not targeting the homeless. But if the homeless stay, not sitting on the sidewalk, the same timid customers will not appear. There are a lot of people who don’t want to shop in a funky, urban mixed environment like Berkeley. They like shopping malls. They’re not coming.

    Finally, if “the problem” is people sitting on the sidewalk why don’t we put in benches, so people would have somewhere to sit. But the sponsors of S don’t want street people to have a place to sit, they want to drive them out. I’ve seen a lot of propositions in Berkeley in the time I’ve lived here. Some were good, some were bad, some were confusing. This one–an attack on the weakest citizens in society in an ostensibly progressive city–is morally odious.

  • anonymous

     read the study– the number of residents in Berkeley is totally irrelevant. 

  • Anonymous

    I’ll pay his bus fare. Actually, the homeless get discounted AC Transit passes I think so we already did.

  • anonymous

     In the olden days, when there was no online,  reporters knew how to get information other ways .  Court decisions even then were a matter of record, even perhaps even online now.  Ask the Berkeley city attorney.  Ask Linda Maio.  Go to a library.

  • The Sharkey

    You say that Measure S specifically targets the homeless, but then admit that it doesn’t.

    You tell people who don’t agree with you to get out of Berkeley, but then say you aren’t trying to speak for Berkeley or tell other people what to think.

    Come on. You seem like a reasonable person, but the way you’re discussing this issue isn’t.

  • anonymous

     I’ve always suspected that those stores were actually funded by the CIA or perhaps Richard Blum.

  • The Sharkey

    I believe he was asking for an online source that would have been a better target for the link in this story.

  • The Sharkey

    The study is totally irrelevant and fatally flawed, because it had such a miniscule pool of respondents.

  • anonymous

     And if they’re hungry, let them eat cake.

  • The Sharkey

    It’s so great that you already know exactly what will happen if Measure S passes!

    Can I borrow your crystal ball this week? I’m thinking about going to Golden Gate Fields on Sunday and would love to know the outcome of a couple of the races.

  • anonymous

    “they simply want to push their lifestyle on the rest of us “– you mean it’s kinda like gay marriage, contagious?

  • emraguso

    Given that this was a minor point in the story, I will admit that I did not do a huge amount of research on it. I don’t think the city would likely want to comment on anything relating to this measure since it’s an election issue, so I’m not sure how far I’d get with the attorney. If this had been a more central issue, I would have spent more time and effort trying to get to the bottom of it. There was a lot of other ground to cover, and the reporting above reflects more than two weeks of interviews, research, reading of studies, etc. 

  • The Sharkey

    By the way, when did you move to Berkeley?

    I just ask because few months ago when making comments on some stories about Pacific Steel you mentioned that you don’t live in Berkeley.

  • The Sharkey

    Oh! I didn’t realize that you were the article author!
    I ran into the exact same problem you did (lack of online resources) and found essentially no credible/nonbiased linkable information about it online.
    Still, even from Neumann’s account it seemed clear that the law was struck specifically because of the provision about panhandling (protected speech) rather than because of the provision about sitting on the sidewalk.

  • Guest

    Why does anybody in their right mind want to sit down on a filthy sidewalk? Only in Berkeley! and Santa Cruz! and other places that attract riff-raff, bug-infested, worthless ne’er-do-wells.

  • Guest

     “…I will continue to live in a place that feels its their duty to take in and care for the needy…”

    WHO are you kidding? These are not NEEDY people; they are angry young derelicts who need to GROW UP, CLEAN UP, and GET A JOB.

  • PragmaticProgressive

    Completely and totally irrelevant.  If they’re hungry, we have shelters and other agencies that serve meals.  They can get up from the bench or the grass in the park and trundle over for a good meal.

    But sprawling on the sidewalk in busy commercial areas is not OK and banning that does nothing to reduce their food options.

  • Howie Mencken

    “an attack on the weakest citizens in society…”

    That’s exactly what I felt when my neighbor and her two kids (one eight and one in a stroller) described being hit up for change on Shattuck near BART, then followed and “F” YOU’d for half a block when they declined to contribute. 

  • Bob Offer-Westort

    There’s a lot that you’re saying that has merit, but it doesn’t actually address anything I’ve said, or have anything to do with Measure S. Measure S doesn’t do anything other than make it a crime to sit down. The other things you’re talking about could happen just as easily without Measure S. I’ve actually worked on a program to improve police referral abilities through the Crisis Intervention Team in San Francisco. I think that improving knowledge of local services across the board is useful, and that it can help to decrease one of the biggest problems in social services access: bad referrals (referrals to services that don’t or no longer exist, or that are inappropriate for the specific individual seeking services). I think there are almost certainly aspects of this that you and I would disagree on, but I don’t think those disagreements lie where you think they do.

    And none of this has anything to do with a sitting prohibition.

  • bgal4

    We agree that the city and non-profits are NOT focused on developing informed strategies and implementation plans for programs we already fund. Sadly, this ordinance is the city of Berkeley operating at the top of its game.

    I will be voting for Measure S, despite its flaws, because the conditions on Telegraph are intolerable.

    Demand UCB build housing in Peoples park, much of the problem will disappear.

  • Nick Taylor

    For those sit/lie homeless that are mentally ill, allowing this behavior only enables non-treatment and invites greater potential disaster. For those that “choose this as a lifestyle” I can only say that if you move to Oakland or elsewhere, or don’t come to Berkeley because you can’t lie on the commercial street all day, then fine. They come to the city center and Tele to panhandle, to sell their crappy stuff and to bum dope and cigarettes off each other. Why is this a good thing? I don’t think it is, and anything that returns the business district to the patrons and honest business owners trying to make a living is good by me. I patronize these businesses downtown, and there is NEVER a place for me to sit because they seats and plaza is  TAKEN OVER by the same stinky bums all day. I don’t even go to Telegraph anymore. It’s pitiful.

  • anonymous

     Supporters of Measure S say “they can still sit on the benches, just not on the sidewalk”.  But you say the seats are already crowded–what’s the logic here?  If S passes the seats will be even more crowded.  Why not instead force them to sit on the sidewalk if they want to sit at all?

  • anonymous

    To the Management: comments from The Sharkey are getting boring.  Whatever happened to Bruce Love, who at least offered facts with his comments?

  • The Sharkey

    No, it’s a lot closer to the behavior of door-to-door evangelical Christians.

  • The Sharkey

    Don’t be a boor, Margaret.