Sidewalks Are For People

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Arts/Entertainment, Culture, Events

Published on March 24, 2010 with 32 Comments


From Stand Against Sit/Lie

March 24, 2010

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will soon be voting on a law that would make it illegal to sit or lie on the sidewalk anywhere in the city. We think it’s an awful idea to criminalize the harmless act of sitting in public space.

We are responding by celebrating San Francisco’s public space, it’s diverse and vibrant culture, and its tradition of tolerance and compassion.

This Saturday, people all over San Francisco will be doing what they love on the city’s sidewalks and they will be inviting family, friends, and neighbors to join them. Dozens of events are already planned and the list is growing daily. Join an event or plan your own! What can you do for SIDEWALKS ARE FOR PEOPLE? Anything! Play music, barbecue, yoga, lemonade stand, read, relax, art, talk, sunbathe, knit, play chess, meditate, tai chi, eat, dance, paint, write, sing, DJ, play drums, sit — Anything!

Find planned events throughout the city and add your own event to the interactive map at

We can provide you with signs and flyers. Take pictures and shoot video of your event for the website!

Visit our website or email for more information.

Everyone can participate!







Comments for Sidewalks Are For People are now closed.

  1. Luke Thomas

    h makes a good point. Sit/Lie is wedge issue designed to hurt candidates who oppose it.

    Let’s face a little reality: People who live in certain areas of the city where vagrants, drug dealers and chronic inebriates are a problem, want law enforcement to have the tools necessary to deal with the problem. And in these difficult economic times, the problem is only getting worse.

    True, such draconian laws can be abused, but for most law-abiding citizens, the cost of aberrant abuse outweighs the benefits of public safety.

    From a politically strategic point of view, Progs would do better to take ownership of this issue and push through their own legislation on the BOS that deals with the problem. Assuming an ordinance can be passed on the BOS before the November ballot deadline, Newsom and the intellectually dishonest who are using Sit/Lie to undermine Prog candidates, will be kneecapped.

  2. h, you know that progressives are programmed to fail, and that they prefer to lob their bodies directly at the edifice because it demonstrates the heights of their dedication to the cause.

    This is why, if San Francisco politics is a tennis match, Newsom has progressives pinned on defense with one of those tennis ball launchers firing at us every 10 seconds, and for good measure he’s got one of those pitching machines lobbing fast hard balls at us every so often.

    Our side cannot figure out how to put our ideas forth as initiatives to put Newsom on the defensive for a moment, tying down his very smart corporate lackeys in dealing with our ideas.

    So long as we’re trapped by the defeatism of the left and are as unable to figure out how to clip the leads on his bombs as we are to set the agenda in this city having won half of the power to do so, it is going to be a long slow descent with the only people coming out ahead are those nonprofit hacks who get paid to hold stake for the rest of us.

    Apparently, our only two choices are to charge over the cliff or be swamped hunkering down.


  3. Harold Brown


    The only advantage I can see for this law is that it allows the cops the ability to charge someone in front of your storefront or house and you don’t have to show up in court. Or even sign anything. Retribution has been a real problem for people who stand up to thugs.

    My worry again is that every major Prog candidate who opposes the measure is going to get hit with a blizzard of pictures of punks with Pit Bulls on sidewalks and the caption: “Jane Kim/Janet Reilly/Rafael Mandelman … thinks this is OK.”.

    I think the legislation is a trap to smear Prog candidates and we both know Downtown will outspend us 10-1 doing it. I just say, don’t give em anywhere to go. Shrug and say: “You support mandatory foot patrols and I’ll support this. We both want safe streets and we should give one another’s ideas an equal chance.”

    Also, don’t just react. There’s a counter bludgeon instrument just lying there. It’s Prop 16. Use it. Start forcing every candidate in town to announce their position on the PG&E measure. That shines a light on who’s a corporate tool and who isn’t. Employing it takes a bite out of the ass of Sparks/Zamora/Wiener/Prozan/Sweet … ALL of whom are funded by PG&E.

    What’d the Chinese general say? “When faced with an unavoidable battle against a force of greater strength, maneuver to fight it at the place and time and with the weapons of your choice.” Good advice. Downtown strategists have the largest arsenals with their control of media and huge war chest advantages. Progs are letting them choose the issues/weapons too.

    I think Progs take 2,6 and 8 and am more concerned that we don’t have a genuine Prog running in 10.


  4. Both Theresa Sparks and Gavin Newsom picked Gascón.

  5. When I made my comments above, I forgot about this:

    We have a racist jerk as police chief who seems to have brought his Joe Arpaio values with him from Phoenix.

    This is a guy who thinks that the city’s middle eastern communities are going to bomb 850 Bryant! Where he’s from, they stop people just for looking Latino! I don’t know what’s scarier, that a guy like this is Chief of Police in this progressive city, or that a San Francisco mayor actually picked him?

    And this is the guy who’s going to be enforcing sit-lie if it passes! Good god, are people insane?

  6. h,
    I hear what you’re saying, but,

    1. It’s not harmless. It’s a broadly written law that will allow cops to target anyone they wish -street performers, protesters, picketers, people with tatooes, whatever. It will give cops a powerful tool to arrest people when they have no other excuse.

    We already had this issue with a sit-lie law in the 70s. Back then, cops used it to round up gays. Today, gays have enough political power in San Francisco that it won’t be them. Today, it will be some other, more marginalized group. But that doesn’t make it right.

    2. I wouldn’t put much faith in a single Chamber of Commerce push poll. You know better than that. Care Not Cash got 60%. Aggressive Panhandling got 55%. I have trouble believing that this will do better, when there are far more holes in this, and the reasoning is far thinner. It might pass on the votes of the more conservative districts (definitely not in the Haight!), but it will be closer than you think. Especially when people hear what the implications of this law would be.

    But again, the polling shouldn’t be the primary concern. The polling showed that the vast majority of Californians would vote to ban gay teachers in 1978. Harvey Milk didn’t say that we should just keep quiet because it would probably pass anyway. And neither should we. If something is fundamentally unjust, we need to fight it. That’s what makes us progressives.

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  8. The Controller has just issued a report that is relevant to this topic of discussion (link below). The report finds that residents of the Haight Ashbury have reported a significant increase in feelings of night-time insecurity, compared to other neighborhoods in the city.

    It also notes that the Haight-Ashbury has the highest level of alcohol-recovery programs of any neighborhood.

    Put 2 and 2 together, and you get 4. Migratory alcoholics and addicts flock to the Haight. They get ample services and little in the way of accountability. The upshot is a decrease in public safety.

    The proposed sit-lie law will help bring balance to this equation. It will give the neighborhood an added tool in protecting itself from abuse.

    The sit-lie law recognizes that migratory alcoholics and addicts colonize public spaces, which they use as bases of operation for undermining the surrounding neighborhood.

    The law is modest. It provides for a warning only, with no citation, for first offenders.

    Here’s a link to info about the Controller’s report:

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  10. Saturday’s protests against the proposed sit-lie law, organized by San Francisco Stands Against Sit-Lie, will be a turning point in the debate on this issue.

    If activities of the opponents of the law are good-natured, creative, and witty, then their standing in the eyes of the public will rise, and their views will get a more favorable hearing than they have so far.

    However, if the opponents’ activities are nasty, destructive, and stupid, then their standing in the eyes of the public will fall. Public opinion will continue to move in favor of the law, which already enjoys a 71% approval rating, according to the latest poll.

    My guess is that the various small events around town will fall into the first category. Many of the participants seem to be artists and performers. San Franciscans love to see spontaneous artistry coupled with sincerity of purpose.

    However, the gathering in the Castro, later in the evening, may fall into the second category. Attorney Ben Rosenfeld is encouraging the consumption of alcohol. Joey Cain, in the past, has handed out handfuls of joints to opponents of public safety in the Haight.

    Participants in Critical Mass have been encouraged to come. Many of the drugged-out, migratory bullies who now colonize the streets in the Castro will likely start acting-out.

    If the scene in the Castro turns ugly, and especially if there are homophobic incidents, then opponents of the law can kiss their chances goodbye. The voters will see this turn of events as an example of the very thing that the law is intended to prevent.

    I, for one, hope that everybody on all sides of the issue has a good time and ends the day feeling great. But I know from past experience that the city’s doctrinaire progressives have a remarkable ability for grasping defeat from the jaws of victory, thanks to their own penchant for goofy acting-out.

    By tomorrow night, we should all know which way the fate of this measure will be turning.

  11. Thank you, marc, for taking the time to write your post above. Some responses follow.

    You say:

    “Are we also going to crack down on sidewalk cafe seating?”

    Please, let’s have a serious, adult conversation here.

    You say:

    “Don’t we enjoy civil rights protections against C. W. Nevius anti-San Franciscan hate speech?”

    You’re never going to convince the undecideds on this issue with language that reflects a bunker menality. A better approach is to be level-head and rational.

    Avoid the excitability and paranoia that characterizes many in our local progressive sect. Nobody is impressed by people who go around talking like Moonies.

    You say:

    “What’s going on here is the consummation of a conversation held amongst Newsom, Sparks and Gascón prior to his hiring on that spelled out how the SFPD was going to play ball with another Care not Cash.”

    It’s another big conspiracy, by gum! Just like everything else!

    You say:

    “Public safety is critical.”

    You have often scoffed at this notion in the past. What happened? Aren’t you feeling well today?

    You say:

    “People have a right to come and go in safety and peace from their homes and all behavior that conflicts with that is already illegal.”

    Nope. Two arcane General Orders of the Police Commission are a problem. They make it illegal for a cop to direct sidewalk squatters to move along without first having a formal complaint from a citizen.

    I tried to get these two General Orders rescinded in the mid-90s. The Police Commission refused. They’re part of a court settlement imposed as a result of a civil suit. The sit-lie law is the next best thing to rescinding them.

    You say:

    “Newsom is playing progressives and after being exposed to this ploy for the past ten years, one would hope that they would have figured out a way to neutralize this bomb.”

    Let me know when our local progressive sect figures out a way to neutralize anything. You’d get better results by bringing in the cast of Monty Python.

    You say:

    “there is a term of art in political science for such politics that arose, disciplinarian, in response to the perceived permissiveness of Weimar Germany.”

    In other words, people who want to make their neighborhoods safe are preparing the way for a new Hitler!

    You really have to cut back on all the caffeine, marc.

  12. It sounds like harold brown has read The Iliad and is familiar with the story of the Trojan Horse, apparently a book Mirkarimi skipped. Tip of the hat to you, h. Even a blind pig gets an acorn now and then.

  13. Are we also going to crack down on sidewalk cafe seating? After all, sidewalks are for everybody, not just those who are paying for a meal.

    How about curb cuts into garages? Sidewalks are public space, except when you get clipped by a SUV?

    What about stores like green grocers or bookshops like the Green Apple that block the sidewalk with books and produce?

    What about the Chronicle on our sidewalks? Don’t we enjoy civil rights protections against C. W. Nevius anti-San Franciscan hate speech?

    What’s going on here is the consummation of a conversation held amongst Newsom, Sparks and Gascón prior to his hiring on that spelled out how the SFPD was going to play ball with another Care not Cash.

    Public safety is critical. People should not lie down blocking a sidewalk nor should public space be occupied by private enterprise. Sidewalks are for walking, strolling, walking your fixie that you’re afraid to ride because it is a death trap, or taking a load off to eat some food or have a drink outside.

    People have a right to come and go in safety and peace from their homes and all behavior that conflicts with that is already illegal.

    However the SFPD has sufficient tools to deal with the matter now, yet many San Franciscans are skeptical that the SFPD is leveling with us given their reluctance to do their jobs.

    Newsom is playing progressives and after being exposed to this ploy for the past ten years, one would hope that they would have figured out a way to neutralize this bomb.

    The fact is that as property values have been pushed up by speculation, arrivistes demand that their quality of life be made paramount and seem to revel in doing so at the expense of those less powerful than they.

    It is bad enough that so many with so much demonize the less powerful. But when that happens during an economic depression, when millionaire venal politicians leverage those emotions, transferring legitimate concern about safety into marquee initiatives, political simulacra that kick those who are already down, then there is a term of art in political science for such politics that arose, disciplinarian, in response to the perceived permissiveness of Weimar Germany.


  14. This is a very important debate and should be thoroughly considered as an issue that runs deeper than sitting on a sidewalk.

    The problem is a problem that is fairly unique to San Francisco. I travel frequently to New York, LA and Chicago, and in most of these cities there has been considerable progress (at least superficially).

    San Francisco has become unbearable. The people that we don’t want sitting on our sidewalks are the same people that are pissing and shitting on our sidewalks.

    I see people every day sleeping with a can of beer in a brown paper bag, shooting up, peeing in corners.

    I don’t believe legislation is going to make the situation better, but I do believe something must be done to get the crack-heads, meth freaks, heroin junkies, drunks, hookers off the streets.

    Sidewalks are for everybody! The problem is, they have become possession of the few.

    Here are a few ideas for solutions:

    1. OK…if you are sitting on a sidewalk, you will be considered Janitor of that 50 feet in either direction of where you are seated. If that 50′ section of the sidewalk is immaculate (hoses and brooms should be provided by DPW), and you are not asking for a hand-out–Flower Vendors need a permit, so should the pan-handlers, or harassing people or behaving as if you should be in a mental institution, then you will not be asked to move.

    If you are doing any of the above, if you have an open bottle/can of alcohol, are drooling at the mouth, then you will be asked to move. If you are really ill, you will be taken to SF General for an evaluation. If you are deemed mentally ill, you will either seek treatment on your own or through the various government sources that abound through for the poor (thank sf for that double-edged sword). You will agree to take your meds as prescribed or find another pro-active way to become healthy such as meditation, yoga, rehab, what-ever it takes.

    Three times, and we put you on a one-way flight to Siberia. No, we will not incarcerate you, pay for your medical treatment beyond what we have attempted to do and have failed. We will not punish you in any way except to remove you from our beautiful city and make it extremely difficult for you to find (or even want to find) your way back.

    Turn this issue on its side. People feel better about themselves if they are given a chance to contribute. We need to plant flowers, trees. Each of us needs to take responsibility for our immediate community. Organize, create coalitions against obvious drug abuse and insist on assistance for the mentally ill. (Reagan should have been impeached for what he did to our country!)

    San Francisco offers inclement weather and a unique tolerance for bad behavior (I’m not talking marijuana, recreational alcohol, alternative life-styles).

    Many of us are here because we are unique and have open-minds about the conditions under which we want to live. We are artists, musicians, writers, lawyers, bicycle messengers, mothers and many of us are constantly on the verge of homelessness, but we manage through our community, to withstand the difficult times.

    This is a time to build community, not tear it apart. To be intolerant of bad behaviors so that we have credibility about other serious life-style issues. We are losing the fight because we have been too stoned, too absent, to busy, whatever.

    I stay because I want to contribute to change. If you are interested in becoming a voice in this important cause, please contact me through my web-site at

    Thank You, Luke Thomas, for staying active and keeping us informed.

    Catherine Conlin
    Musician, Photographer, Citizen

  15. Harold Brown


    I’m with my good friends Arthur Evans and Rob Anderson on this one but, of course, for opposite reasons. This ballot measure as I’ve said many times is just a trap for Progressives much as ‘Care Not’ was a decade or so back. ‘Sit/Lie’ is redundant and harmless to all but a roving West Coast band of hooligans. It is supported by over 70% of voters and going against it is stupid for Progressives.


  16. I’m not sure the outcome of the Saturday protests will be so cute when the protesters converge on the Castro in the evening.

    The organizers have made no effort to advertise this culminating event as alcohol-free and drug-free. They have announced no effort to train and enlist monitors to keep things from getting out of hand. Instead, they have poured all the energies into inflammatory rhetoric.

    If the protesters follow the advice of attorney Ben Rosenfeld, they will arrive in the Castro boozed up. There they will find dozens of aggressive migratory male alcoholics and addicts who have been muscling into the neighborhood in recent months from the Haight, via the #33 Ashbury bus.

    The two groups will merge explosively, just as oxygen and hydrogen do, when exposed to sparks, in forming water. The sparks in this case will be alcohol, testosterone, and inflammatory rhetoric.

    In the past, we have seen what can happen in the Castro when crowds of boozed-up male outsiders hit that neighborhood. The worst examples occurred during previous Halloween events.

    So there is a possibility at Saturday’s event that small groups of boozie male protesters and migratory alcoholics could break away from the larger crowd and go on a rampage, overturning news racks, throwing garbage everywhere, and breaking storefront windows. And all in the name of protecting civil rights!

    As noted, sensible precautions could easily prevent this possibility – announce that the Castro event will be alcohol-free and drug-free, and have monitors in place to control the situation.

    Will Nate Miller and the other organizers take these sensible precautionary steps?

  17. This cutesy action is supported by the same political narcissists who support Critical Mass and the annual pillow fight. (Also: graffiti is art, and the homeless should be allowed to live in Golden Gate Park.) The sit-lie ordinance will simply give the SFPD another tool to deal with the lowlife punks cluttering up Haight Street.

  18. Thanks for drawing attention to the debate on the proposed sit-lie law. This is an important issue, and all sides deserve to be heard.

    As you note, opponents of the measure plan to have a day of sit-ins and lie-ins in various parts of the city this coming Saturday, culminating with a rally in the Castro. This action could work to their benefit, but it could also backfire and make them look bad.

    Attorney Ben Rosenfeld has called on participants in these sit-ins and lie-ins to booze it up, saying:

    “Pop open a beer in Dolores Park. Do it without a permit. The Constitution is your permit.”

    Rosenfeld is wrong on both legal and tactical grounds. The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which repealed prohibition on a national level, specifically acknowledges the power of states (and their cities and counties, by extension) to regulate alcoholic consumption.

    It amazes me that a professional lawyer would be so ignorant of the Constitution and then build on this ignorance to offer political advice.

    Rosenfeld is also wrong on tactical grounds. It the events turn into booze-ins, and the boozers later converge on the Castro, they are not likely to make a favorable impression for their cause among the residents of that neighborhood. The folks in the Castro are already fed up with the increasing number of migratory addicts and alcoholics who flock there and act out abusively.

    Past precedent suggests that these possibilities are not merely theoretical. Some years ago, I led an effort to improve law enforcement in the Haight-Ashbury.

    Joey Cain organized a counter-demonstration. He led a group of people down Haight street who handed out free joints to the addicts and alcoholics flopped out on the sidewalk.

    Cain said this action was the answer to the problem. I kid you not. It was like a scene from a Monty Python flick.

    Today, this same Joey Cain is president of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, a small, vestigial neighborhood group that opposes the sit-lie law.

    If Joe Cain takes up Ben Rosenfeld’s ignorance and amplifies it with his own predilection for foolishness, the public approval for the sit-lie law will rise beyond the 71% rating that it already enjoys.

    Let’s hope the events of this Saturday are intelligent and worthy of adults. If so, everyone will benefit, regardless of the particular views that we each may have on the issue.

  19. Join me at Sit and Smoke on Saturday! 562 Market at 10 AM. First 100 participants there get free cigarettes! (Bring your own lawn chair or blanket, the sidewalks on Market are full of shit and piss.)

  20. Thanks Luke!

    More than TWELVE HUNDRED RSVPs on facebook so far!

    See you on the sidewalks this Saturday everyone.