Berkeley’s sit-lie measure fails by small margin, but more votes to be tallied

The hotly debated Measure S failed Tuesday night, as final results showed that local voters had ultimately rejected the measure by 51.58 percent to 48.44 percent.

Controversial since its inception, the measure — also known as the sit-lie measure — would have prohibited sitting on sidewalks in commercial districts between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. with limited exceptions. The measure aimed to increase the viability of Berkeley businesses by prohibiting sidewalk encampments that foster “increasingly inhospitable” public spaces, according to the ballot text.

The measure received widespread criticism in the months leading up to the election. Voters opposing the measure argued that it offered no solution to the overall issues of homelessness and sidewalk encampments.

However, Mayor Tom Bates, a main proponent of the measure, said the measure’s importance was its potential impact on businesses.

“It’s important for businesses to have an open community to survive and do well in Berkeley,” Bates said. “People who sit in front of stores are discouraging people from coming in.”

The measure would have taken effect on July 1 of next year. Until then, city officials would have worked with police to develop a system to effectively implement the measure, according to Bates.

Particularly on campus, the measure met with disapproval. Campus groups such as Cal Berkeley Democrats, the Suitcase Clinic and the ASUC endorsed a “No on S” stance, with demonstrations and rallies taking place in the weeks leading up to the election.

“I think that this measure is a back-door approach to solving an issue that frankly deserves much more attention and respect than it would be given under this bill,” said Tom McClure, a third-year student and officer within the clinic.

But Student Action Senator Tom Lee said the measure was about the students and their safety concerns more than anything.

“As harsh as it sounds, the rights of homeless people on the streets come second to the concerns of students, because I was chosen by the students to represent the students, not the homeless,” Lee said.

Pink Cloud, a longtime homeless resident in Berkeley, said the measure tried to unfairly target the homeless population and would have distracted law enforcement from more serious crimes.

“If they’re really worried about crime and violent crime, they’re not showing it very well,” Pink Cloud said. “They’re not doing anything about drugs or violence — they’re focusing on people who don’t have anything to trade and don’t have any resources.”

For some Berkeley voters, rejecting the measure is only a step in the right direction.

“The homeless are just another population within our community,” said Mahya Jaberiansari, a junior and advocacy coordinator with the Suitcase Clinic. “It is time for us … to realize what it really means to function in a society where not everyone is alike and not everyone lives the same way.”

Update as of Wednesday 2:58 p.m.: 

Although tentative predictions are being made based on the votes that have been processed, the election is not over until every single ballot is counted, according to Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave Mcdonald.

Accordingly, the fate of some local measures including Measure S are still left uncertain.

Mail-in ballots that were dropped off at the polls and provisional ballots are still being processed and could potentially sway the final vote, according to Mcdonald.

“The election is not over until every single ballot is counted — there is a misconception that provisional ballots only get counted if it is a close vote, but that is not the case,” Mcdonald said. “We legally have 28 days to process all the votes, but we get it done much faster.”

Mcdonald said that he did not have the final voter turnout numbers yet, but he estimates that it will be less than the 78 percent of Berkeley residents who turned out for the 2008 election.

Contact Geena Cova at [email protected]