Measure B.S.



Senate Bill 64 — co-authored by CalSERVE Senator Nolan Pack and passed last Wednesday night by the ASUC Senate — does the right thing in opposing Measure S on November’s ballot. The bill protects the men and women you walk by on your way to class every day. It protects Berkeley. It protects you.

Opponents of the bill spoke out at the senate meeting, asserting that Measure S would improve safety and business in Berkeley. Measure S criminalizes the act of sitting on select commercial sidewalks in Berkeley from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and strips the sidewalk of its people. It would advance neither the quest for safety nor economic prosperity in the city.

Public comment provided a space for students and residents to share their concerns. Student Action Senator Tom Lee voted against the bill but retained the right to express his view and that of his community. This free debate legitimizes SB 64 and legitimizes the ASUC Senate.

Failing businesses are failing businesses. Pepe’s Pizza didn’t close because homeless people sit on Durant Avenue. It closed because its pizza tasted like plastic. Naan N’ Curry has three stars on Yelp because its curry gives you diarrhea, not because young men and women sit 30 feet away playing guitars. While businesses can conveniently scapegoat the homeless to avoid realizing their own faults, this does not hold true in the reality of Berkeley’s economic situation. People come to Berkeley for what it is, and changing the meaning of Telegraph Avenue would take away what actually attracts people to it.

City ordinances already exist that prevent the blocking of sidewalks and prohibit lying down in certain commercial areas.  Evidently, this concern has already been safeguarded. Measure S would not further that aim.

Safety as an argument for Measure S crumbles under scrutiny. If the measure passes, those who sit on the street will most likely move to sit in residential areas.  The migration of the homeless from commercial to residential areas would do nothing to solve the supposed safety issue.  Moreover, police officers would be allocating their time and resources to citing those whose crime is sitting rather than finding those who steal, harm and harass people off the sidewalks.

At the senate meeting, Telegraph Business Improvement District Executive Director Roland Peterson said that Measure S is not about homelessness but instead about making the “community friendly, welcoming and feeling safe.” Peterson also purported that people sitting on the sidewalk could instead “move a few feet to a bench.” Since such an easy alternative exists, how would the alleged safety changes even occur? Wouldn’t the same people just move to sit in a slightly more elevated position?

Students and Berkeley residents who spoke against the senate bill and in favor of Measure S must not understand the history of similar legislation. San Francisco adopted a comparable sit-lie law in 2010, and many people received citations without paying the fines. Tickets don’t deter those who hold up signs saying “I<3 anarchy.” All these tickets would do is eat paper, make police focus on less serious issues and criminalize a basic human function. In Goleta, the proud home of UC Santa Barbara, the act of sitting on the sidewalk gives the police an excuse to hand out misdemeanors to students for public intoxication like they are candy. In a world with Measure S, gameday would be more like Doomsday for students who sit down on the sidewalk.

Speakers at the senate meeting pointed to an ASUC and Graduate Assembly survey in which 63.1 percent of respondents said that they would frequent Telegraph more often if fewer people sat on the sidewalk. Faculty and staff were allowed to respond to the survey, and more than 36 percent of respondents were over the age of 26. At face value, this survey may seem indicative of the student voice, but it included an unrepresentative sample of less than 10 percent of the student population. Clearly, this survey does not match up to the actual demographics of UC Berkeley.

Measure S makes Berkeley mundane. Associated Students of the University of California, you did it right. As Suitcase Clinic officer Tom McClure expressed at the senate meeting, Measure S “takes a back-door approach and makes it illegal to sit.”

Measure B.S. Not for business. Not for safety. Not for Berkeley.

Contact Noah Ickowitz at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter: @noahickowitz.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • angrybird323

    I will be voting No. This is bullshit legislation. As if Berkeley Police could not be put to any other better use. Pathetic. Privileged little Berkeley students. If you can’t handle Berkeley for what it is, should’ve tried harder to get into snobby Rich stanfurd.

  • g

    This is great — another thing to note about Measure S is that its proponents claim it involves helping the homeless find services but can provide no concrete examples of how this would be done. It attempts to move homeless people off the street without giving them anywhere else to go.

  • TheBiggerPicture

    I think the issue is greatly connected to gentrification. By disabling the homeless from sitting on the streets during the day, people are able to go about their day without visibly seeing the problems that exist here in Berkeley. Sure, it will make streets look nicer, but what it will also do is desensitize and shield Berkeley residents from the issues that many face, so there is less of a sense of responsibility to do something about them. If measure S passes the streets of Telegraph may look cleaner, but in actuality it is a quick fix to a bigger issue. What we should really be debating is how to reduce the homeless population, not how to hide it.

    • Berkeleyan

      The problems that exist here in Berkeley?! Most of these people are not even from the bay area. They’re out of towners who heard Berkeley is a great place to camp out and do drugs. They have NOTHING to do with Berkeley. You’re so unbelievably dumb to say otherwise.

      • Hmm

        Perhaps you’d be better off living in Beverly Hills… you’ll never have to see anyone poor there, so you’d be free to eat at all the expensive restaurants you’d like without interruption.

        • Perhaps you would be better off dealing with reality. The fact of the matter is that most of these so-called “homeless” aren’t even FROM Berkeley, but are attracted by a hand-off attitude that allows them to indulge in their antisocial and parasitical behavior at will. Sorry you’re so caught up in your stupid left-wing world view that you can’t even deal with the truth.

          • Name

            Unfortunately, calling me/my views “stupid” and/or “dumb” doesn’t make your argument any more valid, it just makes you sound bitter and immature.

  • Guest

    Seriously, Noah gets it: ‘Safety as an argument for Measure S crumbles under scrutiny. If the measure passes, those who sit on the street will most likely move to sit in residential areas. The migration of the homeless from commercial to residential areas would do nothing to solve the supposed safety issue. Moreover, police officers would be allocating their time and resources to citing those whose crime is sitting rather than finding those who steal, harm and harass people off the sidewalks.’

  • Emily Post

    According to messages from some proponents of Measure S,

    Opponents of S are: left-wing fruitcakes, idiots
    Homeless people are: detritus, analogous to flies, bums
    Berkeley is: analogous to excrement

    When you call it “civil sidewalks,” what do you mean by “civil?”

    • We’re enjoying your feigned indignation over a nice cold beer…

  • Rogerover

    Well said, Noah! “Failing businesses are failing businesses…” I can see the desire to find a face to failure and recession and all these forces that bring people down – but to blame and make into criminals an entire group of people before they have actually done anything we believe is morally wrong – when they are just sitting – is taking the delusion too far.

  • I_h8_disqus

    Senate Bill 64 continues to ignore the people who sit at your feet everyday on your way to class. Noah, failing businesses are failing businesses, but every business on Telegraph, Durant, and Shattuck is hurt by the people sitting on the streets. You may not like the survey, but everyone should recognize that there will be fewer people going to businesses in some areas of Berkeley if the area does not look safe or clean.
    I can’t believe that you actually wrote that the homeless help to bring in tourists and shoppers. That is insane. For decades, Telegraph and Durant have been the location for cheap restaurants, cheap clothing stores, and various other cheap shops. I don’t mean inexpensive. I mean cheap. If Berkeley had actually done something to help the homeless instead of ignoring them and leaving them to People’s Park, the sidewalks, or a few underfunded non-profits, the streets around campus would probably be alive with much better shops and restaurants. Our tax base would be much larger, and we could actually have money to spend on helping the homeless, maybe renovating the city pools, or fixing some streets. Pepe’s Pizza didn’t close because of the homeless, but the reason it opened is partly due to the homeless. Clean streets in Berkeley and well provided for homeless would have kept us from having to open a Pepe’s Pizza. We could have had another Zachary’s or Cheeseboard.

    • ” Pepe’s Pizza didn’t close because of the homeless, but the reason it opened is partly due to the homeless.” Wait, a shitty all-you-can-eat pizza chain came to a college campus (notorious home of people who like inexpensive all-you-can-eat pizza, according to conventional wisdom) because of homeless people?? And had the homeless people not been there, a gourmet spot would’ve opened instead, because somehow the lack of homeless people would’ve given students more spending money (even as tuition costs skyrocketed)? For what it’s worth, the Cheeseboard is anti-growth, as one of their collective members put it at an Occupy-organized workshop on collectives last year. (They also donate heavily to the Free Clinic, which serves… you guessed it: primarily homeless people.) Their resistance to opening on Telegraph would be principled, not based on some fear of college students shirking away from $3/slice pizza.

      • I_h8_disqus

        Students are not the only potential customers for the area, but there is a pretty sizable student population with disposable cash. There is also a large number of faculty and workers who live close by, and then their is a large tourist population out there that would find the university more interesting if the surrounding area was at the same level. You should notice by the quote of mine you used that I said the homeless were partly the reason. The campus area of Berkeley can be a huge draw, but the desire of people to visit is diminished by the people and condition of the area. Joe, you can continue your smaller efforts to help the homeless, but I believe that by collecting much larger tax revenues through people spending more money around campus you could increase your efforts by a multiple that would actually help the homeless much more. We don’t help the homeless or Berkeley by leaving the homeless to their own resources, and the current situation doesn’t provide them much more help than what they can provide themselves. Anti-growth and Occupy mentalities will keep the homeless on the streets instead of providing them with help.

        • I should’ve been more specific. By anti-growth, they didn’t mean they oppose economic growth in general (though they might; that just wasn’t the point they were making). They oppose growth of their collective beause it invariably leads to workers having less control over the business. Moving on, your idea seems to be something like the following: pass Sit/Lie and enforce it. Then, with fewer homeless people around, tax revenues will rise. Then, the city will redistribute those tax dollars for more services for the homeless (assuming they can still do outreach to bring people in to services when, given rigorous enforcement of S, those in need of services have effectively been banished from commercial areas). I think that’s a problematic scheme. For one, Telegraph and downtown have seen less of an economic impact from the recession than have areas with fewer homeless people, so the correlation you’re assuming seems to work the other way. Two, will the tax revenues actually be spent on homeless services? (The real estate developers who have contributed the vast majority of Yes on S’s funding presumably won’t be funding a new privately-run drop-in center with the profits they reap from raising rents.) Three, the resulting mixed message (“get the fuck off our street, but please come get services”) isn’t likely to foster trust or buy-in between potential clients and service providers. Studies show that measures like Sit/Lie make homeless people less likely to access services. The passage of Measure S will only validate voters’ largely irrational fears about homeless people while sending a strong message of stigma and animus. Four, I think the prevalence of shitty chain restaurants around campus (Chipotle et al) has more to do with opportunism on the part of the corporations who own those chains than it does with the presence of homeless people. Five — and this is slightly off-topic — I think there are glaring ethical and legal problems inherent in passing a putatively universal law (“no one can sit”) with the express intention of enforcing it in a discriminatory manner (you can sit as long as you’re not “dirty”/”a bum”/”gutter punk”/etc).

          • I_h8_disqus

            So you are basically happy with the status quo of the last about 30 years since the reduction in funding for mental health institutions. You don’t want any real attempts to improve things for the homeless or for the businesses in the Telegraph and Shattuck areas. I was with some alumni from the early 80’s a couple weeks ago, and they didn’t seen that anything has improved since they were there. It all looked the same.

            My actual idea is that a small part of the homeless community in Berkeley is told to act like the rest, and the rest will benefit everyone. Of course, I would really like is to see several other things happen that would make the entire area much more appealing and prosperous. There is going to some sacrifice at the start, but in the long run the entire homeless community should benefit. It seems insane to me to let things remain as they are instead of trying to actually improve everything for everyone.

            You are the second person who used the faulty logic that the homeless helped to reduce the effect of the recession on the areas they lived. With that faulty logic, we should not do anything to help the homeless. They are more benefit to the community when they are homeless. We both know that is not the truth.

            I don’t expect the measure to pass. I do expect to come back to the area 30 years from now and see that nothing has changed.

          • Stan De San Diego

            “So you are basically happy with the status quo of the last about 30
            years since the reduction in funding for mental health institutions.”

            Of course Joe is happy. The institutionalized dysfunctionalism of Berkeley and other loopy-lefty enclaves provides a raison d’etre and a captive audience for their failed social agendas. Homelessness and vagrancy is actively encouraged in Berkeley as a way of promoting the open class warfare that the lefties so desire, hence their hysterical opposition to anyone who would impose any limitations or restrictions to the drug-addled, criminally inclined and mentally disturbed who are drawn like moths to an open flame.

  • iPosit

    7am to 10pm are the only hours this ordnance is effective. this will just turn the streets into places to sleep, giving those who wake up after 7am a chance at a ticket. they have no incentive to pay. this also gives angry cops who work morning beats a chance to go around waking up homeless at 7 in the morning.

    if sit-lie does get passed, and cops really have to waste time and paper writing citations, they should at least be coached into giving a speech that reminds these people to quit sitting down and doing nothing. they should print out smaller copies of this:

    and that way they can all buck up and quit bothering us.

  • Calipenguin

    “…If the measure passes, those who sit on the street will most likely move to sit in residential areas. ”

    I don’t think they will move to residential areas. Too few pedestrians for the panhandlers. Too little profit. They may as well return to their suburban homes. But let’s say you’re right and they do move to residential areas. Suddenly the voters of Berkeley can no longer bear the thought of smelly punks squatting so close to children playing in front yards or MacBooks sitting in bedrooms, so liberalism would be quickly suppressed and a much tougher measure would pass the following year.

    • [I don’t think they will move to residential areas. Too few pedestrians for the panhandlers.]

      This is so obvious that it shouldn’t even need to be stated. The squatting suburban gutter punks and traveling detritus posing as “homeless” are attracted to Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley like flies to excrement precisely because half-wit liberals eager to display their faux “compassion” allow them to do as they please without fear of consequences.

  • Josh

    Bills like this aren’t meant to actually criminalise sitting, they’re meant to give police a better ability to deal with the “sitters” who actually harass and cause bother to passersby. No one is getting a ticket for sitting on a sidewalk during a gameday. You’re getting a ticket if you sit outside Amoeba or Mediterraneum with your twelve suspect pitbulls, screaming and cursing and just generally being a menace. Free speech has got to be protected, but so too should the right to walk through the town in which you work and live and not be harassed on a daily basis.

    • g

      Screaming and cursing would be disturbing the peace. Specific problems should be addressed directly, not with measures intended to push “undesirables” out of view.

  • Berkeleyan

    I too will be voting yes on s.

    Born and raised here in Berkeley. Don’t tell me my town has to stay a hippy museum to amuse you out-of-towner students. You’re just going to leave here after you graduate, so how does this really impact you?

  • Whatever

    I’m voting for Yes on S.

  • grad student

    You’re treating homelessness like a tourist attraction when you say it makes Berkeley what it is. Social problems are not here to give a city “character” or be part of the scenery. Telegraph is a dirty, rat-infested (check out the corner of Haste) hole.

  • #HomelessDontBelong

    So many people hate homeless people, why are you stripping them of their right to walk on the street without feeling like they might be mugged?

    • Guest Again

      We don’t “hate” homeless people. We hate the panhandling bums and petty criminals who squat on the sidewalks and harass productive working people going about their daily business.

      • LOL

        So… You hate homeless people.
        LOL. I hate when people pretend they’re in the right when they’re selfishly discriminating against an entire group of people. Argue it however you want, I think people suffering from drug addiction and poverty should have more help from the government than people who want clean sidewalks.
        “Productive working people.” Hahaha, you guys are too much, you know that?

        • Regular guy

          You are an idiot. You think there should be public programs helping those people? Who is going to pay for them? Oh that’s right the people people that have jobs and pay taxes. Wait a second… Who paid for those streets the homeless people sit on? That’s right! The people who their taxes because they have jobs! You obviously have no idea how the world works and things the government has magic money that comes from nowhere. If the people who work and pay their taxes want the losers off the street, they have the right to tell them to leave. Berkeley needs something like this to make it a place that is safe and clean. I hate the fact that these young drug addicted people are allowed to harras me every day and yet I am told that they deserve to be there.

        • Stan De San Diego

          > So… You hate homeless people.

          So… you don’t have any real argument to make, do you?

          > Argue it however you want, I think people suffering from
          > drug addiction and poverty should have more help

          How does letting so-called homeless people squat on a sidewalk provide “help”? Let’s see if you can engage in some semblance of rational discussion instead of foaming like a left-wing idiot.

  • Elliot