National Lawyers Guild joins opposition to Berkeley sidewalk measure

The National Lawyers Guild has joined the rising opposition against Measure S, a ballot measure that will prohibit sitting on sidewalks in Berkeley if passed by voters this November.

The proposed law will ban sitting on sidewalks in commercial areas in the city between the hours of 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. A first violation of this law would be categorized as a minor infraction and result in a $75 fine or community service, according to the measure’s text, but a second violation could be classified as either an infraction or a misdemeanor.

“(The Guild) is strongly opposed to Berkeley’s Measure S,” said Carlos Villarreal, executive director of the guild’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter, in a press release. “As lawyers and criminal experts, we have seen that ‘sit-lie’ laws are both counter-productive and constitutionally problematic.”

The Guild’s stance against Measure S stands as an endorsement of No on S, a campaign that has led the movement against the new law.

“We are thrilled,” said Bob Offer-Westort, campaign coordinator for No on S. “The National Lawyers Guild now joins the ACLU in support for us, and these two organizations really know what they are talking about. They have fought these battles in other cities across the nation.”

Mayor Tom Bates and the majority of the City Council approved the measure in July for the Nov. 6 ballot, despite strong opposition from some members of the Berkeley community.

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  • I_h8_disqus

    It shouldn’t be surprising that even the Berkeley city council isn’t as liberal as the two legal associations against the measure. The National Lawyers Guild rarely supports business or property rights. Let the students vote. Too bad that the residents who don’t live around Telegraph or Shattuck will not support the measure.

    • TBID Really?

      The ASUC Senate came out against this measure 18-1 in 2011 when this was first proposed. The Guild and the ACLU are civil rights organizations, so it makes sense that they would be taking a stand in favor of civil rights and not taking a stand concerned about “business or property rights”. There are other organizations that support “business or property rights” – call the DBA or the TBID or the Chamber who are focused on the “rights” of businesses. There’s a vote coming up from the ASUC Senate which will once again oppose what is now Measure S.

      • I_h8_disqus

        As we have seen over the last few weeks, the ASUC rarely votes with regard to the students. In November we will finally have a chance for students to vote about the issue instead of our non-representative ASUC. I still think it is a shame that people think that doing the least for people is doing good. Don’t pat yourself on the back when you think you are doing something for people by letting them sit at your feet as you walk by. I would rather get them off the streets. Collect more taxes from the businesses making more money, and then use that tax revenue to really help people.

        • Lestin

          You should be aware that businesses will not make more money if Measure S passes. The San Francisco City Hall Fellows report found that sit/lie had no impact on business. Also, commercial districts in Berkeley without visible homelessness have actually fared worse during the economic downturn.

          You can decide if you think that means homeless people help business, but they certainly don’t hurt.

          Meanwhile, we’ll be plowing city money into jailing people for sit/lie violations–money that could be used to open a shelter during the day (which would actually keep people off the streets).

          • I_h8_disqus

            You have a link to the Fellows’ report? From the news articles that refer to the report and sit/lie in SF, there seems to be a mix of results. While a couple dozen hardcore elderly homeless are getting most of the citations and stick around, it seems the traveling youth have moved on to Golden Gate Park. I imagine the business owners and people who are worried about the the youths would be happy with a similar result in Berkeley. Just about everything I read from people in Berkeley is that they don’t have an issue with the hardcore homeless in the city. They have an issue with the young traveling homeless. If sit/lie reduces that number, then I expect people would be happy.

            Your point about the location of homeless and the economy seems like it would point out that the homeless know that they will fare better in areas where more people and food are located. I also noticed that national statistics saw the main factor in the location of homeless is related to weather.

  • Lestin

    Excellent news!

    Measure S is such a terrible idea–making it illegal to sit peacefully, out of anyone’s way, is going to end badly every time.

    San Francisco demonstrated that sit/lie fails completely on everything it’s meant to do.

    Measure S would fine and jail people with no benefit to anyone. That’s not a good way to spend city money and police time, and it would make Berkeley less fair. I’m glad to see the tide turning against sit/lie.