It seems like you can’t walk down the street or read in the news another screw-up with the so-called “Civil Sidewalks” initiaive (aka “Sit/Lie”) without seeing just what a failure it’s been so far. Whether it’s the delayed enforcement of the law, or the fact it’s going to cost the City a lot of money to enforce, this law clearly isn’t the magic bullet proponents promised.
I find it laughable that anyone associated with this thought the fines from enforcement would offset the cost. I mean, you’re issuing these citations to “gutter punks” and schizo homeless people, who as we all know have bank accounts to pay said fines. Brilliance.
Even more genius thinking at the SFPD – first time offenders get a “warning.” That’s effective. Why don’t we just give these alleged public menaces a hug and a lollipop too? Throw in a free Muni pass so they can spread their joy to those of us on transit, even.
I’m being scarcastic. Even though I’ve thought this whole law was a joke from the beginning, let’s just assume that “sit/lie” is law now. Let’s also assume that it’s a Grand Idea, and our well paid SFPD is supposed to enforce said law (along with the many, many other laws we’ve passed to improve the “Quality of Life” in San Francisco). Case study for today: The Inner Sunset.
While the Inner Sunset is no Upper Haight, as the indigent population is pushed out of one area, inevitably they go somewhere else. In the photo above, I have a picture of a mentally ill guy who’s been sitting in front of Posh Bagel for some time now. From his ramblings and behavior, it’s clear he is in need of some mental health regimen. But in this photo he’s actually breaking several laws – the “Sit/Lie” law AND the “no smoking near a window” law the Supervisors pat themselves on the back about all the time. He’s occasionally acted up and driven business away from the bagel shop.
That’s beside the point, however – he’s breaking two laws and no one seems to mind. The SFPD could easily bust this guy for multiple charges and get him off the street. They just don’t. Why?
Another case study: I was taking some pictures of signs on 9th Avenue for a potential piece I wanted to do about street signs, and this greasy, aggro homeless guy started screaming at me claiming I took his photo (why would anyone take a picture of a greasy piece of shit like him is beyond me) and he threatened me mumbling something about a “knife” and claimed the “FBI” would be calling me to protect his tinfoil hatted ass*.
Why didn’t I call the police?
Simple. By the time they showed up (if they did), he’d have run off to his warren in the park or wherever aggressive dirtbags hang out. Even if he did stick around, they wouldn’t do anything, and the greasy piece of shit would get away with it, and likely stab me some night when I’m returning home from the Muni. I’d have been better off shooting him or something just so I can go get a burger without being hassled, but then I’d be the “bad guy.” Whatever. So much for “Sit/Lie.”
It gets better. On Monday, there was a bomb scare on Irving Street because of an unattended package, shutting down the N-Judah and causing major disruptions for everyone. Turns out it was an empty suitcase. Who wants to bet it belonged to one of the many homeless people who use the entrances to stores on Irving as hotel rooms, right next to the “No Trespassing” request for enforcement notice? Again, it’s not like the police don’t know this is happening, and couldn’t do something about it. In this case we went from clearing out people who are trespassing to shutting down a neighborhood because of a potential bomb threat.
Now compare this to the response by SFPD to an informal “Park(ing) Day” on a Sunday a few weeks back. In the past, these impromptu affairs, whereby people take over a parking spot for a few hours to enjoy the public space have never been challenged by the police, even when they’re not part of the official day that happens once a year.
So what happens when some peaceful community folks got together to hang out? There was the SFPD, breaking it up, claiming there was an “anonymous” complaint. (Sure there was). So there you have it – people doing something to enhance the neighborhood get chased out, while the bums get their way and get to scream and yell. See why the “Sit/Lie” selective enforcement is bullshit?
It all comes down to this: San Francisco has been passing these laws for years. The campaign is always heated, people either think it’s the silver bullet to clean up SF or Satan’s decree, the stupid law passes, and then it NEVER GETS ENFORCED so nothing really changes.
Then again, most of these laws were never about doing anything – they were about trying to influence election results by somehow enlisting support for some “law,” it will influence who gets elected at City Hall. Even though this never works, it’s a staple of SF politics and it’s here to stay.
Meanwhile if you’re just a regular person who wants to enjoy public space that one pays for via the many taxes the City levies, you’re being pushed out. In a few years, when Parks and Rec is done privatizing the parks and the only people out there are either homeless poor or out of town rich, you’ll be the one paying the penalties in the end.
UPDATE: Oh, it gets better. On my way home I passed by the bank and guess what I saw? A homeless person camped out next to the ATM. We’re aware, of course, that “aggressive panhandling near ATMs” was made a crime under Newsom (or Brown, I think it was Brown but I can’t remember right now). Either way the moral of the story is this: even if you agree with this crap that’s put on the ballot, you might as well vote no since it’s not like it’ll ever be enforced. Sure you get that election FU to the liberals, but in the end NOTHING CHANGES. So cool it, willya?