Wednesday Night, the City Hall Fellows presented their findings on the Sit/Lie Law one year after it has taken effect and got some feedback from the community with the most violations in the city-Haight-Ashbury.

The City Hall Fellows are a group of young, recent college graduates who work in different city departments for a year.  Part of their work was to do an independent study on the impact, enforcement and implementation of the controversial law meant to keep people from sitting and lying down on public streets.  As they worked through the data, it was clear that the Park Station Police (serving Haight-Ashbury) gave the most citations-152-in the city, so they focused their attention there.  They interviewed police officers and Merchants on Haight to determine how it works when Sit/Lie is enforced and whether the businesses feel it has helped curb sitting and lying in front of their shops.  They also presented information about who was being cited the most, what kind of services they were offered and how many cases came to fruition in the court system.

It turns out less than a dozen people receive the most citations under this law in the Haight-Ashbury area.  The “offenders” are not homeless street kids but older, less capable (mentally and physically) street dwellers.  And, when they are given a written warning, they are also given a half sheet for services available via phone at 311.  No other direct or immediate service is offered to them, no one knows if they have a phone to call 311 or if they are savvy enough to figure out the system and find a shelter bed, for example.  The merchants, who often call the police and initiate Sit/Lie enforcement, also, are not impressed with the results.  They report the “offenders” are not deterred and many just move around the corner out of the policeman’s view, if needed.  No money has ever been collected from these citations and no cases have yet to appear in Traffic Court, the system that deals with these Quality of Life violations.  It also hasn’t cost the City much, as enforcement and logging is enveloped into the general work of a policeman’s day.

So, it seems, Sit/Lie, hasn’t done much of anything except target and harass people who are very  vulnerable.  As Richard Ivanhoe points out at the end of today’s video, after his poem, they certainly don’t tell the tourists sitting and smoking on the sidewalk that they, too, are breaking the law…we all know that.

See the Fellows in action in today’s video and hear an excerpt of Richard’s poem in response.  Thanks to Supervisor Olague for hosting this event and letting us cover it.  Thanks also to Domenica and Chris, Legislative Aides to Supervisor Olague, for facilitating the event.  And great job to the City Hall Fellows for taking on such a challenging study and taking the time to connect their work to the community it affects the most.  Stay tuned for an update to this story with a complete version of the study and power point presentation from Wednesday night.