On June 14th a press conference was held by San Francisco’s “Civil Sidewalks Coalition.” The group pushes for the passage of Mayor Gavin Newsom’s proposed citywide Sit/Lie ordinance. Situated in the Mark Twain Hotel next to Glide Memorial Church (where an often gritty Tenderloin caresses glistening Union Square) the room buzzed with broad media representation and advocates from both sides—citizens were quite anxious to have their say.
A similar ordinance Newsom sponsored was previously introduced to the Board of Supervisors: on June 8th it failed 8 to 3. An undaunted mayor then submitted a revised version for the November ballot. Thus far sentiments seem to support the oppositional group “Stand Against Sit/Lie.” “Civil Sidewalks” reps hoped to clarify the ordinance’s specifics and quash oppositional fears to gain more support; many citizens appear nervous about the ordinance, but still remain unsure of both side’s broader ramifications.
David Villa-Lobos (of the Community Leadership Alliance) sponsored and moderated the conference. Opening with Justin Buell and Kent Uyehara (of “Civil Sidewalks”) they stated familiarities about their case: the nuisance of people blocking business entrances or basic walkways discouraging tourists and aggravating residents; current laws they say (without a previous formal complaint) hamper direct police action against so-called threatening culprits—citizens thus are reluctant to file reports which “expose” them to potential retaliation.
Both Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier (holding opposition) and Police Chief George Gascon (a supporter) didn’t show. This moved long time author/activist and supporter Arthur Evans up on the docket. Evans’ plea looked to explain the proposal as an added “legal tool”—he called on 35 years as a Haight-Ashbury resident to platform a palpable texture.
The Haight he said has been invaded and transformed by a new breed of lawless, hostile foreigners. Besides the stories of aggressive panhandling, public human waste, “hard core” drug peddling (and use) Evans disclosed tales of threat: a gay male couple after passing an “encampment” allegedly stalked and verbally assaulted (“die fags from AIDS!”); and a female “complainer” persistently harassed at home.
Evans likened the law to preventative measures: with medicine one wishes to head-off potential ailments; an oilrig needs “official standards” to prevent a catastrophe—afterwards it’s too late.
Other supporters shared similar stories from their “hot spot” neighborhoods. The opposition though, was poised to present its side and did vehemently challenge the matter.
To be continued…