Sit in judgment

CITY AFFAIRS: We hope the Berkeley City Council puts a sit-lie measure on the November ballot to allow the city to decide on the matter.

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Walking down Telegraph Avenue can be like navigating a maze, darting around passersby and engaging in conversation with some people while avoiding others.

That could change if a sit-lie measure is placed on the November ballot for the city of Berkeley and passed. The civil sidewalks measure — which Mayor Tom Bates put on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting — would forbid people from sitting on sidewalks in specific commercial areas of the city between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Whether or not you believe homeless people and city residents should be allowed to sit or sleep on sidewalks, it should go up to a vote. Even though we have some qualms with the measure, Bates’ recommendation is the right one — because it should be the community’s decision.

This is not the first time the issue has come up. Last July, the council considered a similar sit-lie ordinance. A protest from Berkeley community members and UC Berkeley students a few months prior likely influenced the council’s decision not to take up the ordinance. As such, it seems odd Bates is bringing this up again — and doing so during the summer when school is not in session and many students are not in town.

The measure can be seen as unfair to homeless people, in some ways denying their right to exist. Certainly, it targets a specific community, and we can’t imagine police enforcing it equally for all people. The proposed measure would make it illegal not only to sit on the sidewalk but also to sit on an object on the sidewalk. Does that mean no sitting on benches?

In the dusk hours, walking in the city can often feel dangerous. And during the day, people lying outside a storefront might make pedestrians less inclined to walk into that establishment. Proponents of the measure claim it would help business, and they have a point. Yet, we are unsure how effective the measure would be, as there are other ways for the city to improve business in commercial districts, such as taking care of vacant storefronts and lots. Even so, people sitting on sidewalks do spend money in Berkeley — probably not a lot, but some.

The measure is admittedly controversial, and no side is 100 percent in the right. That’s why — even though the people it probably affects the most likely don’t vote — it’s best to let the entire city decide. If it doesn’t go on the ballot, there is still a chance it can be passed as an ordinance. But a vote is a better, more just alternative. People who don’t like the measure can vote it down and send a clear mandate to the council.

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  • Calipenguin

    “The measure can be seen as unfair to homeless people, in some ways denying their right to exist.”

    Homeless people have every right to exist, but they can exist elsewhere.  Many entrepreneurial street vendors would love to occupy the prime sidewalk spaces where these homeless people sleep and panhandle, but the city won’t allow that to happen without a license.  So why do homeless people get to take over public sidewalks without a license? 

  • reztips

    40% of Alameda County’s homeless live in Berkeley, even though the city only accounts for 7% of the county’s populace. They are drawn here because of the plethora of services they can get here, much of which is paid for by the taxes on businesses which are now hurting because of their presence and often manifest anti-social activities. Therefore, if businesses continue to decline because of the homeless lying and sitting in front of their stores, funds to help the indigent will correspondingly decline.As for the alkies, druggies and just plain bums, they are drawn in great numbers  to Berkeley like flies to shit because to date, they have been permitted to do whatever they wish and then have their needs provided for by the generosity of the people they proceed to dump on. This simply has to change.Of course, the best thing the city and university could do is turn Peoples Park into something other than a toilet for lowlifes…

  • Pardon my rant

    WAIT A SECOND, DAILY CAL,  I’m born and raised here (also a proud alumnus as of recently!) and I can tell you for certain that MOST of the gutter punk assholes that are out aggressively panhandling for change or NOT Berkeley residents at ALL.  In this very same breath I’ll go on to say that they’re not exactly typical of our chronic homeless population – fixtures in our community that, for the most part, I’ve grown up loving and respecting, despite their flaws – but wandering vagrants who go from Seattle to the SF Bay Area not giving a fuck about the communities they burden.  To them it’s a trendy lifestyle, for chrisake.  

    And the little money they spend in establishments is money they’ve bothered passersby and would-be consumers for, so it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul.  Think about all the tax revenue we, as a city, are losing to Bay Street in Emeryville because of this?

    This measure isn’t controversial at all.  Berkeley’s retail is SUFFERING because gutter punks from who knows where – not our relatively harmless homeless population – are taking over what SHOULD be public sidewalks and claiming them as their own private living spaces, when, in fact, they have less right to be there than us Berkeley residents and natives and, yes, even Cal students.  Cal students are greater stakeholders in this city than gutter punks.

    Kick the spangers with their little dogs OUT. 

    Oh, btw, Daily Cal, for the most part, you guys really got this right and I applaud you.  

  • Fail

    DailyCal advocates for the tyranny of the majority. Sad.
    The homeless are generally the poorest, least empowered, least represented segment of society.
    To propose or promote legislation whose sole aim is to make the lives of the homeless even more difficult – to push them out of the public square simply for convenience or piece of mind – is sociopathic.

    If you don’t want to give pan-handlers change, then don’t.
    If you can’t stand to be asked, or even to see them on the street – that says more about you than it does about them.

    • Fail

       *peace of mind

      •  Your logic is still broken.

    • [The homeless are generally the poorest, least empowered, least represented segment of society.]

      That’s the price you pay when you won’t get off your ass and do anything productive, like try to find and keep a job, or fry your brain cells through drug and/or alcohol use. But thanks for letting us know that you’re not content unless those homeless are interfering with the lives of normal, healthy, responsible human beings.

      People like you don’t really give a shit about the ultimate fate of the so-called “homeless”. If you did, you would stop peddling this non-existent “right” for them to camp out on sidewalks or take over public land, and get them into supervised treatment You WANT them in the way, and in people’s faces, as a way of promoting your stupid Marxist class war.

      • jrd

        So, to summarize what you said, we should force the homeless to behave how you think they should, for their own good.

        That is a fascist mindset, and it is extremely common in America today.

        • jrd

          to behave “normally”.

        •  You would prefer to force the rest of us to support people who can’t be bothered to support themselves. That sounds far more fascist than expecting people to assume primary responsibility for their own predicament.

      • jrd

        Let me also say that the homeless are the most responsible of all. They refuse to partake in the economy-shaped piece of fecal matter we call a civil society. You could learn a thing or two from these people, you could talk to them, or you could enlist the State to make them disappear so you never have to be challenged.

        • Calipenguin

           If you imply that the homeless refuse to partake in civil society by choice, then why should we waste our money sheltering them and feeding them?  In fact, why would they want to mingle with us in our cities when they refuse to partake in our society by choice?  Let’s remind them of their lifestyle choice by gently shoving them out of our cities, and thus fulfilling their desire to be free.

        •  [Let me also say that the homeless are the most responsible of all. They
          refuse to partake in the economy-shaped piece of fecal matter we call a
          civil society.]

          Yet they don’t mind sponging off its benefits. If they hate society that much, why don’t they move out into the woods or desert somewhere? In fact, why don’t YOU do the same?

        • Matthew Weber

           If they really refused to partake of civil society, they’d be hermits in the woods somewhere.  Or where do you think the money they ask for comes from?

    • I_h8_disqus

      Based on what you wrote, you view the entire democratic process of voting as tyranny of the majority.  Instead of listening to what people desire, you want what you desire.  So tyranny of the majority becomes tyranny of the few.
      A more fair and compassionate alternative is to support voting, and then incorporate your own acts to help.  For example, no matter how people vote about the sidewalk sitting measure, you could help get people off the sidewalk.  Get involved with the services that exist to help the homeless so that they are not having to sit in the sidewalk asking for alms. The last thing you should be happy about is continuing to see people sitting on the sidewalk.

    • reztips

      “Fail” (what an appropriate moniker) doesn’t seem to understand that the plethora of services provided by the city of Berkeley are provided in good measure thanks to the taxes local businesses pay. The taxes from their sales has been significantly reduced because of the absurd situation caused by the homeless, many of whom are drawn to Berkeley because the authorities have been so tolerant of their patently anti-social activities. 

      Hence, by definition, “Fail” wishes to see the city’s services for the poor reduced because of the climate the homeless have created on the city’s main avenues. Is that what you wish, “Fail?” Because that is precisely what will happen if a continuance of unacceptable homeless behavior continues in our fair city…