TelegraphbyNancy248x140

Berkeley has a controversial new ordinance on the ballot this November. If enacted, Measure S will ban sitting on sidewalks in the city’s commercial districts during the day. Proponents say people camping out on sidewalks are driving customers away from local stores and restaurants and hurting Berkeley’s business community. Opponents say it will divert police resources and that it doesn’t solve the problem of homelessness.

Guests:
Carolyn Jones, reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle
Davida Coady, medical director for Options Recovery Services, which provides intensive substance-abuse treatment to the public, largely homeless and formerly incarcerated
Elisa Della-Piana, director of the Neighborhood Justice Clinic, East Bay Community Law Center

  • Frustrated

    I have been working in downtown Berkeley for the last 8 years and I support the sit-lie ordinance. It has gotten so bad walking downtown that I hardly ever go to the area restaurants for lunch. There are often young transient people sitting by Mcdonalds or the bookstore. They are very rude and I cannot count how many times I have been intimidated by them. One of my coworkers suffered the humiliation of one of them dump what smelled like bong water and piss on her shoes on her way to Bart for a meeting in the city! How another coworker crosses the street so she does not have to walk by them and then crosses back to get to the Bart to get home. Aaaaahhh, then there are the times when I have seen someone crouched down defecating or the woman who at lunch time pulled her pants down and peed by Mcdonalds on University. Every one who was walking stopped in their tracks and waited for her to finish and pull up her pants. It was appalling! I feel bad for the few people who are very quiet and just leave their cups out for you to offer to them. But it has gotten so far out of hand, I can no longer tolerate it. I feel like I cannot even enjoy my city anymore at least the downtown part of it. Never mind Telegraph-where I won’t even go any more and I loved Moe’s Books.

    • Oh, the indignity of having to see someone pee!
      What about the indignity of a downtown area with exactly one public restroom, such that your options for places to pee are so limited you have to do it in public or “sneak” into the local businesses (which increasingly lock their bathrooms)?

    • Barbara Kochan

      Each of the behaviors you mention are either already dealt with by existing laws, or would not be under the new law (rough/coarse language can be and is said by people who stand).

  • Sally Hindman

    Berkeley has no place for homeless youth to go during the day. The library is currently our de facto drop in center. And THIS is where the City wants to put its energy? Taxpayers should be FURIOUS that police, courts and other resoures will be wasted on criminalizing homeless youth and not INSTEAD put toward creating a desperately needed youth center in Berkeley.

    • Lee Thé

      How about the “homeless youth” who commute daily into Berkeley from their homeless homes in Oakland, Richmond, Frisco etc. in order to ply their profession–beggar–in Berkeley, because of people like you?
      And how about the “homeless youth” in their 30s and 40s and 50s and 60s who have been alcoholics or druggies all their adult lives and won’t use city services because those services don’t include drugs?

  • This idea that anybody who looks less prosperous or not like us is an eye sore and must be removed using a legislation, baffles me.

    • Lee Thé

      Feel free to reimburse me for the $40 headlight one of these street people stole off my tandem bicycle. I didn’t mind him looking less properous than me. I minded him stealing from me. You don’t?
      Talk to the restaurants on Telly that are bedeviled by street people dashing in and grabbing tips left on tables, along with the sugar packets…

      • willcommentforfood

        Stealing isn’t the same as sitting on the sidewalk. I will agree with you that the most aggressive street people I’ve experienced were in Berkeley, not San Francisco or other towns I’ve lived in or been to. But banning sidewalk sitting isn’t the answer, and won’t prevent crimes like the stealing you mentioned. A larger police presence is much more effective.

    • Tzedek

      About two years ago, late on a winter afternoon, we came out of a movie theater on Shattuck Avenue. When we went into the theater, a small group of “homeless youth” with a pit-bull dog were sitting on the sidewalk; when came out of the theater, this charming band of foul-speaking aggressive “homeless youth” were still there.

      As we paused to talk about getting frozen yogurt, three of these “homeless youth” chose run at our two young girls, groping them, pushing them up against a wall of the theater entry, repeatedly yelling “Fuck you !” in their faces.

      Although my husband and I ran to rescue our girls, absolutely nothing has erased the terror of those two disgusting minutes. Both girls continue to have nightmares based on the stench of the breath of these “homeless youth,” being groped, being cornered, feeling helpless; that attack lasted only about two minutes, but that attack took away our girls’ sense of security; that attack lasted only about two minutes, but that attack has changed our girls’ lives in many measurably negative ways.

      By the time uniformed officers came, these “homeless youth” (“homeless youth” that so many writers have written should be allowed to do what they do) had “moved on” and could not be found.

      Our family has not gone to the movies in Berkeley since.

      Sitting or lying on a sidewalk is enforceable in ways that trying to enforce law against “aggressive” conduct cannot be enforced.

      Please, VOTE “YES” on Measure S !

      • Sanfordia113

        Sorry to read about our misfortune. Only by telling your story and urging politicians to address the issue and increase prison sentences for such behavior will our country ever be safe for innocent people.

  • Tim

    Ms Della-Piana made an unassailable point at the very opening that deserves a direct response. She repudiated the principle of passing a law posited on the expectation or promise that it would be enforced in a discriminatory manner, ignoring Girl Scouts while singling out drug users and the homeless and hungry. Is there any argument against Ms Della-Piana’s point, an argument FOR that dubious principle?

    • Lee Thé

      Yes, every time I’m on Telly I see hundreds of Girl Scouts lounging around in front of retailers’ doorways…or I would if I were delusional.
      Girl scouts? Seriously? Have been in Berkeley like ever?

      • willcommentforfood

        Apparently you’ve forgotten your history. These measures have been used before to stop rallies and free speech. What if you were exhausted or sick, had to sit on the sidewalk, and then were busted just for sitting there? This law is very very stupid.

    • MattCA12

      Intent.

  • Griffin

    It’s amazing how intensely the side of this conversation that advocates the proposition is discriminating against these people. It reminds me of my father who walking with me as a boy would snarl at me for attempting to tend to the appeals of people (yes, people, like us listening and commenting) on the sidewalk. If the motivation is to help these people, giving police a direct weapon to removing them from the only place they’ve found to stay is not the way to do it. By the way, the woman arguing against this proposition’s the bomb!! Your arguments are solid!!

    • Sanfordia113

      If she didn’t have vagrancy, she would have no job. Of course she will oppose any efforts to end the plight of vagrants. Only with laws that criminalize vagrancy will vagrancy disappear. Vagrants are the slaves of leftist politicians.

  • Scottyboy

    The San Francisco Chronicle had a front page story that put in writing what many of us have known for a long time. Sitting laws, touted as a way to run off legions of wayward youngsters, have mostly come down on the grey and balding heads of the aged and disabled. The ones too addled to get out of the way.

    Our Berkeley Mayor and his Republican rubber stamp council has known these results and have still pressed on because the Berkeley law on the November ballot is not about sitting at all.

    It’s about favors to campaign contributors (Berkeley Chamber of Commerce) and a sly way to transfer an unequal amount of Police protection to Shattuck Avenue and other commercial zones. While the police are “move along, move alonging” on the avenues, transferring no-shows to court, testifying, etc., we are being told there will be a wait for a police response to the psycho in our driveway.

    Hundreds came out to city hall in July to express what a bad idea this is. But one man from the chamber sealed the deal. In my neighborhood we know that if you need help from the City, you don’t call Councilman Darryl Moore, you call Kriss Worthington. Kriss, Jesse and Max are the only ones not wrapped up in the cocktail circuit and begoggled by real estate tycoons.

    The Mayor and the council members that support this tell me that it is only $27,000, like $27,000 is nothing. But $27,000 is a ton of money when you are feeding the hungry, saving a mortgage or keeping a shelters door open. And that $27,000 is a lie. That’s just to put it on the ballot. That doesn’t factor in the police hours, court costs, lawsuits and the untold suffering visited upon people already at the end of their rope and the costs to our neighborhoods in losing more police availability at a time when property crimes and shootings, unheard of on Shattuck Ave. are a real concern to those in our neighborhoods.

  • Lee Thé

    Street people won’t get off the street if you only offer them carrots, because most are addicts and the services you want them to avail themselves of don’t include drugs and alcohol. So you need the stick as well; otherwise you won’t get anywhere.

    The loon on your panel says they have nowhere to go apart from Berkeley’s streets. News flash: Berkeley is not alone in the universe. Who knew?
    Calling the people in question “homeless” is lazy journalism. Some are truly homeless, others are street people who have a home but are professional beggars.
    Of the homeless, calling them “homeless” implies that their problems are economic, when in fact for 80% of them their problems are mental, and most of those are also substance addicts who choose not to use city services because those services don’t let them get high.
    Your guest Della-Piana typifies the liberal mindset of focusing exclusively on society’s obligations toward the individual, and not at all on the individual’s obligations toward society (except when it comes to so-called Hate Speech).
    Interestingly, conservatives have the same problem, though they apply it in different ways: they reject the social contract in their “I’ve got mine Jack, you’re on your own pal” mindset.
    I lived in Berkeley for 9 years and got sick of the degree to which some people parasitized the community.
    Example: when a couple of street people at the Co-Op Market were deciding which brand of peanut butter to get by opening various jars and sticking their fingers in the peanut butter to sample it.
    Second example: when a street person stole the headlight off my tandem bicycle. It was worth about $40. They say a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged…

    • Becky

      The Co-op has been gone for–What? 25 years perhaps. How long have you been away?

      Treating mentally ill people as if they are all addicts, as Dr. Coad seems to do, won’t solve any problems.

      • Man, this Lee The guy is pretty angry.

        Anyway, bottom line for me is that the sit/lie law is simply targeting the homeless. We as a society simply don’t want to be reminded of their existence and their difficulties, so putting them out of view is Bates approach.

        We need the homeless present and in our faces daily to remind us all that as a culture, we are judged by how we treat the least among us–and considering this, we as a society can be judged appropriately.

        People like Bates and The are only thinking about $$ and the economy…essentially being selfish. Shame.

        • Sanfordia113

          And they need a kick in the face daily to remind themselves to get off the street and to make something of themselves, instead of harming everyone else and stealing from society.

    • MattCA12

      An outstanding post. There are numerous services available to help the homeless, but most would rather sit around and get high. And our cities suffer for it.

  • Bob

    Can you adress that the street people are there because they earn money off of others.

    • Sanfordia113

      It is a simple economic decision. The risk of being harassed being weighed against the benefit of free rent and easy money (pan handling). What is needed is to increase the penalties and to charge rent. This is the only way to curb this bad behavior.

  • Griffin

    PS is it fair for the host’s questions to be motivated by favoring the proposition?

  • James

    There is no relation between sit-lie laws and the improvement of local economies! During this recession, Downtown businesses have closed–how can we allow business owners to scapegoat homeless people for a downward turn in our economy? Businesses are closing because people don’t have the money to support them, they do their shopping online where it’s cheaper, or because they don’t have enough time in their schedule to stroll leisurely through downtown to go shopping.

    • Lee Thé

      So potential customers of retailers don’t go elsewhere after being aggressively panhandled or witnessing gross behavior they don’t want themselves and their kids to see?
      People like you have been a real boon to the area’s shopping malls, on the other hand.
      And when you say there’s no relation…you say that based on what? Cite a reputable study or admit that you’re indulging in magical thinking.
      The way in which right wingers and left wingers are identical is their preference for their ideas over gritty reality.

      • Lestin

        Check Berkeley tax information for 2010-2011. Businesses in areas with visible homelessness did better.

        That’s right, better. Places where no one is sitting have actually been hit harder by the recession. If you want to say people sitting down has some kind of economic effect, it turns out they must helping.

        There’s also the San Francisco City Hall Fellows report on sit/lie, which found that it has been a complete failure. It hasn’t helped businesses and it hasn’t helped people.

        Measure S is a fantasy solution. It’s snake oil, as one city council member calls it.

        So I can’t resist asking: now that you’ve seen the reality, do you still prefer your ideas?

        • Sanfordia113

          The reason it has been a failure is because it allows the vermin to return after dark. Rats should be killed or banished from cities and sent to the wilderness. Measure S should include a provision to arrest people who are found sleeping on the streets and to put them on a 1-way bus to the Mojave Desert.

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    hullo – taking a dump on the street is ALREADY highly illegal! why don’t/can’t the police enforce the laws currently in place? i have never seen this concern adequately addressed by proponents of these laws.

    i also have neuropathy and have concerns about the lack of a disability exception. Not that i worry about being ticketed myself – in fact, as a white middle aged housewife i have no worries at all about being ticketed.

    which should tell anyone everything they need to know about this proposition. steph

  • Mrs. Eccentric

    Also, Dr. Coady’s arguments would have more credibility if she could cite any studies.

    • willcommentforfood

      Her arguments were blatantly arrogant and idiotic. Also sounded profoundly elitist to complain about getting gelato and having to step over a homeless person. I love getting gelato, but it is a sign of privilege, homelessness is a sign of the most desperate human condition.

      • Sanfordia113

        “Homelessness” is a sign of laziness that should be punished, not condoned.

        • willcommentforfood

          By your logic, we should execute jaywalkers, and whenever you, Oslodude, speak Swedish, you should be flogged for your unAmerican speech.

    • willcommentforfood

      She also blatantly lied to say that a “medical emergency” clause would cover someone needing to sit for medical reasons that are not an emergency. I’ll refrain from saying more, as I am getting angry to the point of thinking in pejoratives.

  • Scottyboy

    Dr.Coady’s “program(ming)” cannot even provide housing for it’s own clients much less people taken off the streets. In the years I have been working with people on Telegraph I have NEVER seen an Ambassador engage anyone to help them or in any way really and when I have asked them for help to gauge their effectiveness they had Nothing. Nada…

  • belle

    This measure is also an effort to prevent any further Occupy activity in Berkeley. It sounds unnecessarily brutal and brutalizing. It’d be better to have a ballot initiative that would provide more funds for food and shelter. As noted, there are arlready laws against disruptive activity on the streets.

    • willcommentforfood

      Of course. These laws are always intended, or if not intended result in, the squelching of the right to assembly and free speech. There are a million reasons a non homeless person may sit on the sidewalk, being exhausted, sick, protesting. This is obviously not addressing how to help the homeless and clear people away from blocking businesses (already illegal). If the existing laws aren’t enforced enough, then Berkeley needs to a) reorganize the priorities of the local police and b) provide more money for the local police to patrol the business streets more frequently. This law is not the solution, it’s the problem.

  • Sally Hindman

    It needs to be clear that there are NO SERVICES to direct homeless youth to…there is no homeless youth day program at all in Berkeley. So where are youth supposed to go to get off the street???? When the police say, “move on” the youth have no place to go! So rather than focus precious tax payer dollars on Measure S–why not create the youth center so there IS a place for youth to go during the day???? This law makes NO SENSE. Berkeley lacks basic services for homeless youth.

    • Sanfordia113

      Go get a job and live in a rental apartment. If you are a minor, then you are the responsibility of your parents. If your parents and legal guardians are dead’ the State takes care of you. Non-issue.

  • What I find so incredibly disingenuous about focusing upon major healthcare problems like dialysis and heart transplantation candidacy, as referenced by Davida Coady, is that these people are far and away in the minority. While the age median of 47 (I think) she said *seems* to indicate a more senior population, and thus health-compromised and deserving of our bottomless empathy, I have a feeling that that average hides the real numbers. There are concentrations of a large population of late teens/early 20s kids, and a majority large population of late 30s to early 50s street person men–as opposed to homeless men, with perhaps enough senior citizens to produce an average age of 47–not a continuum of teens balanced out by seniors.

    What I really see on the streets, over and over, is incredibly anti-social behavior that is indeed criminal. Sure, some of these mostly street kids or street men may have health problems, but the overwhelming problem I experience from them is one of extremely bad BEHAVIOR. What goes on daily is waaaay over the top violent, transgressive and toxic, and should NOT be allowed in any functioning society. The picture that Coady tries to paint of a minority of helpless medical patients cynically ignores just how awful the individual and crowd behaviors are out on Telegraph (and the Upper Haight, TL and 16th/Mission corridor in SF.)

    Also, throwing in that little zinger about how the 5 year-old who was pushed off his scooter “could be arrested” for then sitting down under sit/lie, was just plain silly and surely didn’t sway me from supporting a sit/lie law. Don’t use those kind of arguments–it makes me truly doubt your sincerity and your motives. It makes me both disappointed and angry that someone of her stature can’t just get behind the fact that most of these people are guilty on a daily basis of really nasty, anti-social garbage that should never be minimized or swept under the carpet for political gain.

  • Slappy

    The guest arguing against the ban has valid points. If what she says about the text of the proposition is true, then it should not be passed. Hell, it should not even be a measure for that matter.

  • Tzedek

    About two years ago, late on a winter afternoon, we came out of a movie theater on Shattuck Avenue. When we went into the theater, a small group of “homeless youth” with a pit-bull dog were sitting on the sidewalk; when came out of the theater, this charming band of foul-speaking aggressive “homeless youth” were still there.

    As we paused to talk about getting frozen yogurt, three of these “homeless youth” chose run at our two young girls, groping them, pushing them up against a wall of the theater entry, repeatedly yelling “Fuck you !” in their faces.

    Although my husband and I ran to rescue our girls, absolutely nothing has erased the terror of those two disgusting minutes. Both girls continue to have nightmares based on the stench of the breath of these “homeless youth,” being groped, being cornered, feeling helpless; that attack lasted only about two minutes, but that attack took away our girls’ sense of security; that attack lasted only about two minutes, but that attack has changed our girls’ lives in many measurably negative ways.

    By the time uniformed officers came, these “homeless youth” (“homeless youth” that so many writers have written should be allowed to do what they do) had “moved on” and could not be found.

    Our family has not gone to the movies in Berkeley since.

    Sitting or lying on a sidewalk is enforceable in ways that trying to enforce law against “aggressive” conduct cannot be enforced.

    Please, VOTE “YES” on Measure S !

    • Barbara Kochan

      Do you notice that is was not the sitting/lying that was the problem? Shall we just ban youth being downtown, or only youth that look a certain way? I am daily intimidated and have several times been assaulted (both hit and yelled at) by people driving cars, as have most people who regularly walk or bike. I would love to see Berkeley ban cars from some Berkeley streets. Do you imagine that will happen?

  • Mark

    Thank you for this forum. Both speakers frequently ducked questions, sliding sideways from the question raised That aside, there are numerous conflicting ethical and practical issues and I’m left needing to meditate more than cogitate, on the issue before deciding how to vote, if I vote on it at all.

    I hate to leave the issue with the police,not that I have a blanket distrust of their judgement? Could and would it be effectively enforced by the police in a way that keeps down the inordinate number of young people who come here for a lack of anything better to do? And do we even want to do that? Do we honor the spirit of tolerance than is part of this city even when it devolves into the crudest behavior?

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