Sit/Lie Law Only Successful at Harassing the City's Aging Homeless, Report Says

A new report released by the City Hall Fellows demonstrates just how ineffective San Francisco's sit/lie ordinance is, with the bulk of last year's reviewed citations going to the same 19 repeat offenders, according to the report. 

Voters approved sit/lie in November 2010, with the hope that it would crack down on loitering, especially in the city's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The new law restricted sitting or lying down on public sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Anyone busted resting on the public sidewalks during those hours could get a $100 ticket.

The report surveyed data gathered by 10 police stations from the SFPD's internal tracking system. Not surprisingly, the Park Station, which serves Haight-Ashbury, Cole Valley, Duboce, Twin Peaks, and Western Addition, seemed especially enthusiastic when it came to "vigorously enforcing" the new ordinance, according to the report released last night.

Officers at the Park Station were six times more likely to hand out tickets than the other cops, most often along Haight Street. And more than half of the citations given out by that station last year went to the same four offenders, the report said.

So who exactly are these repeat offenders that can't seem to keep moving? According to the report, the cops are repeatedly ticketing "an older homeless population, many of whom suffer from both mental and physical health conditions."  

What's more, when sit/lie offenders can't pony up $100 for the fine, they are then slapped with an arrest warrant. Several individuals already owe upward of $20,000 in unpaid fines.

The report raises some serious questions about the effectiveness of sit/lie when it comes to connecting repeat offenders to needed social services, although it's difficult to determine since the police don't keep track of the number of referrals they make upon issuing tickets. 

However, the report points out something many people already suspected: The ordinance is a total failure in actually dissuading San Francisco's homeless from sitting on public pavements.

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Updated on 5/25/12 to reflect corrections due to editing error.

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They are egregious errors.  This article is an error-ridden disaster.  Did you read the report Laura?

Bob Offer-Westort
Bob Offer-Westort

Hey! Good article. A few minor corrections:1) The report was issued by four City Hall Fellows, who are not government employees. It's not by the Controller's Office.2) We actually don't know that the "bulk" (whatever that means) of tickets went to the same 19 people. We just have information for Park Station. (There are ten stations.)3) I'm not sure it's accurate to say that people hoped sit/lie would crack down on "loitering", as sit/lie does not address loitering as such, & that fact was addressed to some degree by both sides in media & debates.4) A person busted for sit/lie *could* get a $100 ticket, but that's only one of several possible outcomes, & no one busted on a first offense could get a $100 ticket unless the cop flat-out lied. Which could never, ever happen.5) I'm not 100% certain on this, but I can't for the life of me figure out the math that says Park Station officers were six times more likely (than whom?) to issue citations.6) It's not "older" in the sense of "senior" homeless people who are documented as receiving tickets: it's older than the stereotypical Haight Street youth. 51% of reported ticket recipients (not, to be clear, the total, but that portion for which the researchers were able to get data) were age 31–40. Which is too old to be trusted, but not old enough to ever get SSI.


These don't sound like minor corrections. They sound like egregious errors.

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