The ASUC Senate weighed in on the city of Berkeley’s controversial civil sidewalks ballot measure Wednesday, voting overwhelmingly to oppose the measure.
Measure S, which residents will vote on in November, would make sitting or lying on sidewalks in Berkeley commercial districts from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. a punishable offense.
The measure aims to revitalize business in the city but has been criticized for its potential effects on Berkeley’s homeless community. The Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 to put Measure S on the November ballot in July.
“It’s about making our community friendly, welcoming, and feeling safe,” said Roland Peterson, executive director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, at the ASUC meeting.
Senate Bill 64 — which the ASUC Senate voted 18-1, with one abstention, to endorse — calls Measure S “deeply misguided” and denounces the spirit of sit-lie laws. Last year’s senate voted 18-1 to oppose a similar sit-lie ordinance that the City Council was considering.
A first violation of Measure S 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 American Civil Liberties Union and the National Lawyers Guild has come out against the measure.
“This is a mean-spirited and callous way of approaching the homeless issue,” said CalSERVE Senator Nolan Pack to loud applause at Wednesday’s meeting. “It pushes people that are already marginalized further into the margins of society.”
But Student Action Senator Tom Lee, who was the only senator to vote against the bill, said the measure could improve student safety, adding that it is the duty of the ASUC to prioritize student concerns.
“My community members have come up to me and shared bad experiences of being harassed by homeless people,” Lee said.
A joint ASUC-Graduate Assembly poll conducted in October of 2011 found that 66% of respondents surveyed would frequent Telegraph Avenue businesses more often if the area felt “safer,” “cleaner” and “more inviting.”
Cooperative Movement Senator Jorge Pacheco challenged the accuracy of that survey, questioning whether members of the Berkeley Student Cooperative community were represented in its statistics. An attempt to amend the bill to include the results of the survey ultimately failed at the meeting.
CalSERVE Senator Megan Majd suggested that if the homeless were banned from sitting on sidewalks in commercial districts, they might be forced to enter residential areas.
If the measure is approved by voters in the November election, it will go into effect on July 1, 2013.
Contact Jeremy Gordon at [email protected].
Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regard to the readers, writers and contributors of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Click here to read the full comment policy.