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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Claudia Cowan

San Francisco, CA

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Not Cool Say Some About S.F.’s Sit-Lie Law

November 29, 2010 - 1:18 PM | by: Claudia Cowan

A new law targeting those who hang out, and lie down, on the sidewalks and streets of San Francisco has some asking whether this city, known for its “love thy neighbor” attitude, has perhaps decided some neighbors aren’t welcome.

In November, 53% of voters here passed Prop. L, which forbids people from sitting or lying on public sidewalks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The ordinance is very similar to anti-sit/lie laws in Berkeley, Seattle, and other liberal cities, and received strong support from Mayor Gavin Newsom and Police Chief George Gascon.

After civil rights advocates and the progressive majority on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors opposed the idea, Mayor Newsom pushed to get it on the ballot.

Critics like Andy Blue call it cruel and heartless, words not normally directed at “The City by the Bay.”

“If we’re only going to embrace certain people then not only will we make San Francisco a less vibrant and progressive place, but we will cease to be that beacon for the world, and the world needs San Francisco,” says Blue, a community activist.

Residents argue the violent transients and their dogs have nothing to do with the iconic street culture for which the Haight-Ashbury District is known.

“There’s a difference between an individual that’s contributing to the society and being part of the cultural fabric of a neighborhood, versus an individual that is sitting on the street with their very scary dog, to the point that I am scared to walk down the Haight with my family,” says resident Kathleen Shanahan.

But critics say cracking down on the sidewalk gatherings will alter the neighborhood’s unique character, and cause the city to suffer more economically.

Under the new sit-lie law, people could face fines and arrest if they don’t move along, after being warned by police. The ordinance takes effect in January. Critics vow to challenge it in court, even as supporters say they hope it’s strictly enforced.

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