Sidewalks are for ???

Yesterday the Ballot Simplification Committee looked at two ballot measures that made changes in the Hotel Tax law. Today it dealt with two measures that propose very different approaches to maintaining pedestrian-friendly sidewalks in the city.

Current city law does not prohibit sitting or lying on sidewalks unless an individual is willfully disturbing pedestrian traffic. The ballot measure tentatively titled “Sitting or Lying on Sidewalks” would prohibit all sitting or lying on public sidewalks in the city between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. Exceptions would be made for medical emergencies, wheelchairs, children in strollers, lawful sidewalk businesses, authorized parades and a few other situations. Police would be required to warn offenders before citing them for violating the law, and penalties are set at fines of $50 to $500 depending on whether it is a first offense or a repeated offense. Repeat offenders could also be sentenced to up to 30 days in jail. The ordinance would require the Police Department to make written reports to the Mayor and Board of Supervisors about the effect of enforcing this prohibition. It would also require the City to have an outreach plan to provide social services to people who chronically sit or lie on public sidewalks.

The second proposition considered today does not appear at first to have any relation to the Sit-Lie ordinance. The “Community Policing and Foot Patrol” proposition requires the Police Department to adopt a written community policing policy governing police interactions with the community, focusing resources on high crime areas, and encouraging citizen involvement in combating crime. The proposition would also require the Chief of Police to establish comprehensive Foot Patrol Programs for all police stations. These programs would include designated foot patrols, MUNI patrols, reviews of foot patrol routes and regular community input and guidelines for foot patrol officers. The proposition would require the Police Department to report on the program to the Board of Supervisors twice each year.

Although the Community Policing proposition does not mention the issue of sitting or lying on sidewalks directly, it does include the provision that if the proposition is adopted it would override the Sit-Lie proposition. If both propositions are adopted by the voters, the provisions that take effect would be determined by the number of votes cast for each:

  • If the Community Policing proposition receives more votes and the Sit-Lie proposition, then the Sit-Lie proposition will not take effect.
  • If the Sit-Lie proposition gets more votes than the Community Policing proposition, then both propositions will take effect.  .


The League, as well as other voter education organizations, is likely to have a hard time explaining these two propositions to voters, especially if proponents and opponents of each bill mount ad campaigns to confuse the issues.

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