East Bay News

Berkeley mayor wants to ban sitting on sidewalks

Friday, June 01, 2012

Berkeley's mayor wants to put a measure on the November ballot to ban sitting on sidewalks and he knows it will be controversial. The measure would apply to all commercial areas in Berkeley.

Tak and Kody were sitting on the sidewalk in Berkeley today; that could be a crime in November.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates wants voters to decide if the current no lie law goes far enough.

"The problems is it's really not enforceable, because a person comes along and says 'you can't lie here,' so they sit up and now they are sitting and are not violating the law," said Bates.

So on June 12, Bates is going to ask the city manager to draft a no sit law that would ban sidewalk sitting between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Back on the sidewalk, Tak and Kody said they're not going to take that sitting down -- figuratively.

"It's totally stupid, because what happens if you are walking and you just want to sit down on the curb, but there isn't any seats?" said Tak.

Bates says this is not an attack on the homeless. He points to the city's efforts to provide benches, restrooms, signage and ambassadors to help the homeless. But there's still a problem.

"Sometimes there will be so many people sitting on the sidewalk you can't even use them. This also puts a lot of people off when they see people just sitting around on the sidewalk," said Bates.

And there is support for the plan.

"I think I would welcome the no sit ordinance just because of the safety factor. I sometimes worry about the crime and just the element that it brings," said Berkeley resident Jane Fink.

If approved by voters in November, there would be four months of warnings only, then after that there will be a $50 fine or community service.

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berkeley, east bay news, terry mcsweeney
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