Beyond Measure S

CITY AFFAIRS: Following the failure of Berkeley’s proposed ban on sitting on commercial sidewalks, solutions to homelessness are still needed.

When Berkeley voters were weighing whether to approve Measure S, we hoped the ballot initiative would fail and force the local community to come up with better solutions to combat homelessness. Now, that moment has arrived.

The measure, which would have prohibited sitting on commercial sidewalks in Berkeley during certain hours, failed. But the results still indicate that there are many Berkeley residents who are dissatisfied with the level of homelessness in the city and want it to change somehow. Nearly 48 percent of voters approved the measure, and many of those who voted against it likely still wanted to see homelessness decrease in some way.

Berkeley City Council must bring the community together for a thorough discussion about what can be done in place of Measure S. Any such discussion should focus on getting homeless individuals to the services they need. Councilmember Jesse Arreguin’s intention to put the issue before the council next month is a good start, but a more comprehensive dialogue will be necessary.

Mayor Tom Bates, who strongly supported Measure S during the election, should not quit attempting to address the issue of homelessness just because that plan failed. During his re-election campaign, he also said he wanted to work on revitalizing Telegraph Avenue, where homelessness is rampant. Bates would be smart to start there, as decreasing homelessness on Telegraph is related to the overall need for turning the area around economically — the area has potential to be used as a pilot for making progress on both fronts throughout the city.

City Council members have already begun working with local residents to discuss ways of improving Telegraph. As that process continues, homelessness should be a key part of the conversation. With the public’s interest in the issue piqued, city officials now face a prime opportunity to help the homeless — they cannot squander it.

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  • Berkeleyan

    Dear Senior editorial Board,

    How many times do you have to hear it? IT’S NOT ABOUT HOMELESSNESS!!!

  • Calipenguin

    The problem is not homelessness, but rather access. Merchants want customers to have access. Students need access to classes. Pedestrians want access to their destinations. Panhandlers want access to naïve pedestrians. Truly homeless people want access to shelter. They all need sidewalks for access. Building more homeless shelters won’t solve the problem because panhandlers are not satisfied with the lack of access to naïve pedestrians. Measure S could have solved the panhandler problem by denying them access since they should not be a priority. But it failed, so panhandlers win, which means every other group needing sidewalk access loses, including the truly homeless. Don’t expect Mayor Bates to spend scarce money on more homeless shelters when the best solution to the street campers was already defeated by the voters.

    • Guest

      Since Measure S failed, what do you propose to do to help the homeless?

      • Berkeleyan

        Are you deaf?!!! IT’S NOT ABOUT HOMELESSNESS!!!

  • Stan De San Diego

    The best solution to homelessness is to stop providing incentives for the so-called “homeless” (in most cases bums and vagrants) to come to Berkeley in the first place. Eligibility to receive food and other assistance should be based on some proof of previous residency, not merely offered to any squatter who shows up in town with his/her arm outstretched. In addition, the idea that “homelessness” is a license to sit/sleep/lie around wherever and whenever one wants needs to stop. Make Berkeley a less welcome destination for the rest of the country’s riff-raff and you will see the majority of the problem go away.

    • Guest

      Do you have no sympathy for people who have fallen on hard times? Even the people you call “bums and vagrants” would prefer to be sheltered and live a comfortable life like the 1% rather than be stuck in the cold, rainy streets.

      • Stan De San Diego

        “Do you have no sympathy for people who have fallen on hard times?”

        Do you have no clue that most of the people who are homeless in Berkeley are in that situation because they chose to be that way?

        • Guest

          Some do but most don’t. Don’t you see the pain and shame in many of their eyes every time you walk past them to go to and from class?

          • Berkeleyan

            I don’t see pain and shame in their eyes. Quite the contrary, actually. I see “fuck-the-system-and-you-too-for being-part-of-it” in their eyes. Oh, and some of that “while-I’m-at-it-can-I-have-some-of-that-money-you-got-from-the-system?”.

          • Tony M

            Exactly.