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Success of SF sidewalk sitting ban a surprise to some at Democratic election-night event

SF Public Press
 — Nov 4 2010 - 11:02am

As the election results were streaming in projected on a large screen behind performers at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco Tuesday night, the disappointment with the passing of Proposition L was palpable.

Proposition L, the highly scrutinized sit-lie ordinance backed by Democratic Mayor Gavin Newsom, will restrict people from sitting or lying on sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., with certain exceptions.

“That law passed? That sounds crazy,” said Harrison Gough, a 23-year-old businessman who joined the crowd at the event, sponsored by the San Francisco Democrats and the San Francisco Labor Council, for the camaraderie, the booze and free appetizers.

Proposition M, Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi’s Foot Beat Patrol measure to encourage a police presence on San Francisco streets, lost. It had a “poison pill” written into it, which would have allowed it to nullify Proposition L if M received enough votes to pass — even if that meant fewer votes than L. Proposition M got only 47.7 percent of the vote, so Proposition L, which got 53.6 percent, was able to come out unscathed.

In favor of Proposition L was a well-funded campaign called Civil Sidewalks. Newsom and Police Chief George Gascón said the ordinance was in the best interest of San Francisco’s businesses, specifically tourism.

“San Franciscans, while they tend to be very tolerant, are saying ‘enough is enough,’” Steve Falk, CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, told the Bay Citizen Tuesday evening. “And we need to clean up the situation on San Francisco’s sidewalks.”

Throughout most of the night, partygoers at the Great American Music Hall were entertained by an all-female surfer-punk band, The She’s, as well as a solo male acoustical guitarist. Partygoers were huddled about in groups socializing, but little could be heard concerning politics. 

As the night drew on people became progressively more inebriated and their focus continued to wane. Only when it became clear that Jerry Brown was beating Meg Whitman in the race for governor that any coordinated cheer emerged.

Around 9:30 p.m., Tim Paulson, executive director of the Labor Council, addressed the crowd with some encouraging commentary. “How many people think there’s hope?” The crowd responded with a hearty, “Yeah!” even though it was unclear whether he was referring to national, state or local elections.

Barbara Attard, a police accountability consultant, found Proposition L troubling.

“The problem with those kinds of laws is that they are not equally enforced,“ Attard said. “This leaves the police with too much discretion and people will be treated differently based off of appearance. I am very sorry that it is leading at this point.”

Elias Zamaria, a 29-year-old computer programmer, stayed glued to the results on the screen. Concerning the passing of Proposition L, Zamaria said, “I think it’s ridiculous. It targets minorities and people they can’t get with more precise laws. I thought it had no chance of winning.”

On Election Day, Sidewalks Are for People, a campaign to defeat Proposition L, held 100 creative events such as placing lemonade stands, a hand-made hot tub and a breakfast buffet on the streets in order to “flip” the message, said Nate Miller, a volunteer for the campaign.

“Prop. L was not designed to produce results,” Miller said. “It was created as a wedge issue.”

Comments

I am pleased that sit/lie - civil sidewalks passed.

A real issue on which the police have had discrepancy enforcing is parking in medians. Highly visible along Dolores and on Valencia.
If it is during church services, no one gets ticketed.
If it is folks parking to shop or eat at restaurants, cars are ticketed AND towed.

Really? Surprised? Well, I see sh*tbums laying about all day in the mission. I'm sick of 'em geting carted away to the hospital whenever they lose consciousness. Time for a change, San Francisco.