This one is Prop. L -- called "Civil Sidewalks" by its supporters. It makes it illegal to sit or lie on a city sidewalk, unless you fall in one of a long list of exceptions that creates a situation that will allow police pretty much complete discretion about whether or not to enforce the prohibition. If police tell you to stand up, you have to -- and then they can't arrest you, so the law is just a harassment tool anyway. Mostly police aren't going to enforce this -- unless a more affluent citizen decides some the offender is an annoying homeless person and complains.
We vote on variations of this "outlaw the homeless" theme over and over.
- In November 1992, we passed a law aiming to outlaw "aggressive panhandling" -- though courts said people retained a free speech right to beg.
In November 1994, we passed something that aimed to prohibit people from sitting or lying on sidewalks in commercial districts. The ballot title called it "Sidewalk Prohibitions."See correction here.
- In 1999, the Chronicle reported:
Destitute once again made a target as election nears
- In 2002, the Chron trumpeted:
Newsom begging bill ready
- In 2003, a rare outbreak of realism, as then-State Senator and now-Democratic State Chairman John Burton called out the home truth:
"What bothers me is that politicians and political consultants are going after the poor for political gain," Burton said. "I just find it offensive. Last I checked, it's not a crime to be poor."
- On April Fools day in 2005, Mayor Newsom was saying
"Homeless woes can be solved."
- In 2006, a downtown mall opened.
- In 2007, the city made its enforcement priorities explicit:
- In 2009, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty spoke up.
- And so, by December 2009, we were told:
Hey, didn't we pass this one in 1994?
A very thoughtful Haight-Ashbury neighborhood businessman, Praveen Madan, decided that he had to investigate the idea of Prop. L for himself, looking at what he really sees everyday and whether the proposed law will do anyone any good. He didn't end up a fan of Prop. L. Read the whole thing at the Bay Citizen. And ponder this, his conclusion:
We want these people gone -- but we don't get a world of our choice and neither do the homeless people. No on Prop. L -- for the umpteenth time.