Proponents of criminalizing sitting or lying on San Francisco sidewalks have seen their prospects of success steadily dwindle in the last week, starting with the creative and well-covered Stand Against Sit-Lie protests on March 27 and continuing through last week’s Planning Commission vote against the measure to yesterday’s debate on BBC’s The World, in which opponent Andy Blue clearly bested proponent Ted Loewenberg.
In fact, Blue and his grassroots band of progressive allies deserve tremendous credit for flipping the momentum on the issue away from the narrative pushed by Mayor Gavin Newsom, Police Chief George Gascon, and the reactionary Haight area property owners from Loewenberg’s Haight Ashbury Improvement Association.
While Newsom and Loewenberg tried to argue this was about giving police another “tool” to use against violent street ruffians, Blue and the progressives have correctly pointed out that the overblown examples proponents cite (ie hoodlums punching passersby, barricading businesses, and spitting on babies) are already illegal and that the law actually punishes the simple act of lounging in public.
That argument by progressives got strong support from a Planning Department report on how the sit-lie ordinance cuts against a variety of city policies and goals that promote open space and using sidewalks for more than just transportation, a view that the Planning Commission endorsed on a surprisingly lopsided 6-1 vote, with even Newsom’s appointees crossing him on the issue.
Few members of the Board of Supervisors have embraced the push for sit-lie, so it’s likely to be dead-on-arrival when the board considers it later this month, but Blue’s group isn’t taking any chances. Stand Against Sit Lie is planning another day of creative protest – with more sidewalk picnics, games, and maybe a return of Chicken John’s sidewalk hot tub – on April 24.
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