A Sitting Ban in Berkeley Would Punish the Wrong People

A reader argues that prohibiting sitting on sidewalks comes with hidden costs.

By Dan McMullan

Monday’s San Francisco Chronicle had a front page story that put in writing what many of us have known for a long time. Sitting laws, touted as a way to run off legions of wayward youngsters, have mostly come down on the grey and balding heads of the aged and disabled. The ones too addled to get out of the way.

Our Berkeley Mayor and his Republican rubber stamp council has known these results and have still pressed on because the Berkeley law on the November ballot is not about sitting at all.

It's about favors to campaign contributors (Berkeley Chamber of Commerce) and a sly way to transfer an unequal amount of Police protection to Shattuck Avenue and other commercial zones. While the police are “move along, move alonging” on the avenues, transferring no-shows to court, testifying, etc., we are being told there will be a wait for a police response to the psycho in our driveway.

Hundreds came out to city hall in July to express what a bad idea this is. But one man from the chamber sealed the deal. In my neighborhood we know that if you need help from the City, you don't call Councilman Darryl Moore, you call Kriss Worthington. Kriss, Jesse and Max are the only ones not wrapped up in the cocktail circuit and begoggled by real estate tycoons.

The Mayor and the council members that support this tell me that it is only $27,000, like $27,000 is nothing. But $27,000 is a ton of money when you are feeding the hungry, saving a mortgage or keeping a shelters door open. And that $27,000 is a lie. That's just to put it on the ballot. That doesn't factor in the police hours, court costs, lawsuits and the untold suffering visited upon people already at the end of their rope and the costs to our neighborhoods in losing more police availability at a time when property crimes and shootings are on the rise.

Dan McMullan is the director of the Disabled People Outside Project

Arwen August 09, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Well-written Dan. Good job!
dgies August 09, 2012 at 06:11 PM
What I took away from the Chronicle article is that sit/lie laws are very effective against young hoodlums because they move along before they get cited by the police. Isn't the point of laws to prevent bad behavior anyway? If this can get rid of the 'spare change for pot' crowd on Telegraph I'm all for it.
Victoria Peirotes August 09, 2012 at 09:02 PM
I support Dan's post. I also laud his assessment as to why Bates and The Gang of Five have floated this ballot measure, i.e. a sop to $$$ contributors and a diversionary way to take focus off ther meaningful measures on the ballot. The public can respond by voting YES on the FACTS and SUNSHINE Ordinances and NO on manipulative bond measures that will divert still more taxes into the pockets of our politicos. Voting NO on the West Berkeley Plan (a wet dream for big out-of-town developers) would also be good.
Mary August 09, 2012 at 09:59 PM
Why do they need to sit on the sidewalk? There is no law against sitting on benches or in the park. Allowing them to sit on the sidewalk punishes all of us - I'm not the only one who is sick and tired of being hassled by professional panhandlers and weirdos. Our downtown area looks like skid row. And just today I walked past the old Cody's building on Telegraph, and there were four grungy young men and a dog sitting on the sidewalk smoking (the dog was the only one who wasn't smoking). If a prospective tenant saw that scene, do you think they would be interested in renting the building?
Mary August 09, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Good observation.
Dan McMullan August 10, 2012 at 02:56 AM
as a disabled person trown on the streets I could harly imagine still being alive if I had to keep up eith those kids (or keep taking the beatings a disabled white man gets in Santa Rita)
Dan McMullan August 10, 2012 at 03:36 AM
I was a young hoodlum, no wait I was serverely disabled after my leg was completely torn off in a motorcycle accident at 21 years of age, I was an orphan so after over a year in a University Hospital I was dropped off here (They said it was a rehab) ihttp://articles.latimes.com/1985-04-26/local/me-20913_1_report-on-geriatric-hospitaln 1985 I was there when the woman was boiled alive and drowned. I ran. Was homeless, hopping around with one leg, open wounds, but I survived you assholes. that's why I care so much. It wasn't police, programs, city shelters that helped me survive and it sure wasn't you. It was OTHER HOMELESS PEOPLE. GOD BLESS THEM EVERYONE.
Dan McMullan August 10, 2012 at 03:38 AM
What benches? What weirdos. And that dog was smoking,
Dan August 10, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Telegraph Avenue started a steep decline starting around 1995. Cody's Books owner Andy Ross with support of the TAA started agitating for the removal of undisirables from the Ave. At the time I told Andy that "If you run off the characters of Tele, someday you will have to hire actors to play them." That day has come. Telegraph Ave. was at that time a world famous "scene" a little (O.K. a lot) unruly, but interesting and vital. Merchants did well and rents reflected that. Then the geniuses at TAA made sure our police ran everyone off. People that came looking for that fabled place welcome to people of all stripes, found a ghost town. No "scene" at all and people never even parked. Business, starting to suffer and business leaders, getting criticism, compunded their error by pointing the finger and cracking down on what little was left. Hence the "skid-row" you see today. People can shop anywhere, but there was only one Telegraph and your leaders threw the baby out with the bath water. Prospective renters look at the rents, and Telegraph rents are still at Tourist Attraction prices. I've had a great plan to revitalize Tele in a drawer here for years, when it gets bad enough that business people get rid of the leaders like Roland Peterson and that wacko at the Med Craig Becker(Who wants to have "sitting schools" for illegal sitters,like bad drivers schools.) business leaders (Bleeders?) Who have never had the slightest clue about Telegraphs dynamics...........I'll be available.
Susan Solomon August 14, 2012 at 05:50 PM
What's interesting is that the 'characters of Tele' Dan mentions, were already actors, or close to it. I agree it was pointless and self-destructive to run them off in 1995, but let's face it - they were a copy/shadow of what was there in 1965-67. And even by '67 the scene was being infiltrated and degraded. What was/is great about Berkeley is that there are people here and few elsewhere, who understand that the world today, including most all cultures, are built upon values of top-heavy wealth, separation of gender, war, and chaos of purpose. In the early 60's very concerned young people gathered together, often sacrificing enormous privileges of background and education, to serve and care about all people. This was called, by us/them, the bohemian/beatnik culture 'coming out of the closet,' hence the bright clothes, long hair, and flower power ideals. Those people were in fact inspiring and beautiful. But that movement was co-opted fast - and made to look far more grungy, disreputable and drug related than it ever was. Most of what has passed for a colorful scene from then on was riddled with unattractive elements, which should not detract from the original and valid message of 'Love.'
Dan August 15, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Susan, scenes evolve, they take roller-coaster rides depending on the times, the participants ect. The idea that all the beautiful blond haired whites rejected their privileges is the craziest thing I've ever heard. There are no copies or shadows. After the rich "beautiful" people have their fun the people that these changes matter to are left to trudge on. Here's a pro tip for you. The movements in Berkeley come about not because it such a great place filled with beautiful people, precisely the opposite. The repression of speech, brought free speech. The neglect of the disabled brought the independant living movement. The rapacious taking of land by eminent domain, led to People's Park. Just as the "No blacks above Grove Street, led to a movement for freedom for all in this town and things like SITTING LAWS they to turn it back. It's a place where the excesses of the rich and parasitic can't keep out of the public eye and that's too bad.For them. What's grungy to some is colorful to others (see Nirvana) My point is. Don't cry about your not making money when you have no comprehension of where your bread is buttered and don't go scapegoatin' 'round here.
Jennifer Mary Pearson August 30, 2012 at 06:06 PM
How can we learn about the American Disability Act with regard to the trendy "parking to parklets" concept where 2 or 3 public parking spaces are eliminated by parklet designs? Do parklet designs meet ADA standards? The Business Improvement District for North Shattuck is pushing to install parklets and change some parallel parking spots to diagonal on a hill to make up for the 7 to 9 proposed parklets from Cedar St to Rose on Shattuck. They even say they will have the City put in one new disabled spot and enhance an existing one. We need more disabled spots; however their drawings puts the new spot on a slope by Bel Forno Cafe near Rose. The diagonal spots on that hill just south of Rose will be difficult for some people with mobility challenges to get in and out of cars without toppling over; fragile people often park and shop at the "Healthy Nutrition" (previously "Vitamin Express". Please advise.
Dan August 30, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Hmmm. that's really interesting. Number 1. ANYTHING the business improvement district is pushing needs closer examination. I have found there are always some unseen ulterior motives involved and I'm not really the paranoid type. I'm sure there is probably someone at CIL that knows the more technical ADA specs as to parking. I know the ADA recomended ramp slope is 12 inches for every 3 inches in rise but what it is for side tipping I'd have to research. But back to Number 1. Business improvemement that is giving something to the disabled is usually anticipitory of taking something in the first place. My apologies in advance if that does not turn out to be the case.
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