San Francisco Sit-Lie Ordinance, Proposition L (November 2010)

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A San Francisco Sit-Lie Ordinance was on the November 2, 2010 ballot for voters in San Francisco as Proposition L.[1] The measure is also known by its supporters as the Civil Sidewalks proposition. It was approved.

Proposition L restricts sitting or lying on sidewalks citywide from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., and requires the City to maintain a neighborhood outreach plan to provide access to social services for those who need it. Police officers must give a warning before they can give a citation and the ordinance cannot be used to restrict the people's rights to free speech and peaceful assembly (if they have bought city permits). A single offense will result in a $100 ticket, while subsequent offenses may result in 30 days in jail.[2]

The Sit-Lie Ordinance conflicted with the San Francisco Police Foot Patrol Program, Measure M, which was also on the November 2, 2010 ballot. If both had received a majority vote, the measure that received the highest number of majority votes would have gone into effect. However, this was moot, since only Proposition L received a majority vote.

Seattle (Washington), Berkeley, Portland, Santa Cruz, and Palo Alto have ordinances in place that are similar to the Sit-Lie Ordinance.[3]

Election results

  • Yes: 142,601 (54.3%) Approveda
  • No: 120,023 (45.7%)

Election results are from the San Francisco elections division as of November 26, 2010.


Civil Sidewalks campaign logo

Gavin Newsom was the measure's main sponsor and cheerleader. Police Chief George Gascon was also a fan of the measure.[4]

The largest donor to the Coalition for Civil Sidewalks for the period January 1 through June 30, 2010, was Ronald C. Conway, a managing partner of Angel Investors LP, and an early investor in Google and PayPal, who contributed $35,000 of the $50,800 reported for the first half of the year. [5]

The sit-lie ordinance was also endorsed by a long list of Upper Haight, Polk Street, Irving Street, Market Street and Mission Street merchants.[6]

Organizations that endorse the sit-lie ordinance included:

  • Buena Vista Neighborhood Association
  • Building Owners and Managers Association of San Francisco
  • Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods
  • Cole Valley Improvement Association
  • Community Leadership Alliance
  • Greater Geary Boulevard Merchant Association
  • Haight Ashbury Improvement Association
  • Japantown Merchants Association
  • Japantown Task Force
  • Lower 24th St. Merchant and Neighborhood Association
  • Marina Merchants Association
  • Market Street Association
  • Merchants of Upper Market and Castro
  • Mission Bay/South Beach Business Association
  • Polk District Merchants Association
  • San Francisco Council of District Merchants Association
  • San Francisco Small Business Commission
  • Tenderloin Neighborhood Association


Stand Against Sit Lie Logo

The largest group opposing Proposition L was "Sidewalks are for People" which defines itself as a group of neighborhood organizations, labor organizations, queer people's organizations, poor people's organizations, and individuals from all walks of life who believe:

  1. That it is always wrong to write laws that criminalize people just for being poor;
  2. That it is an especially bad idea when those laws make criminals out of all of us; and
  3. That the focus on sit/lie is making it harder for San Franciscans to find out about the real solutions that our communities are putting forward.[7]

The San Francisco Democratic Party overwhelmingly voted against the measure when it was an ordinance at the Board Of Supervisors, as did the San Francisco Labor Council. The ACLU was also opposed to the sit/lie law. Homeless advocates opposed the measure, as they believe that those with no home to sit in would be heavily impacted. The Day Laborers have also staged large protests in opposition to the law. "[8]

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu opposed the sit-lie ordinance, calling it "unconstitutional and ineffective."[9]

As many as 1,000 people participated in protests in opposition to a sit/lie law on March 27th. "[10]

Poison pill?

At a Board of Supervisors meeting in July, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu introduced a provision to a separate citywide ballot measure that some supervisors are considering that would require the San Francisco Police Department to operate a foot patrol program. The provision that Chiu added to the foot patrol ballot measure says that if the foot patrol measure passes and gets more votes than the sit-lie ordinance, the sit-lie ordinance will not go into effect even if it, too, obtains a majority vote. Such provisions in the wording of one ballot measure that negatively impact other ballot measures under certain conditions are known as "poison pills".[1] Mayor Newsom did the same thing to a hotel Tax Ordinance days earlier.

Tony Winnicker, in his role as Gavin Newsom's spokesperson, said, "David Chiu has set a new world record for pettiness and amateurishness at City Hall, and all he’s done is ensure that the Civil Sidewalks measure will pass and their poorly conceived foot patrol measure that takes away power from the chief of police will fail."[1]

Text of measure

The question on the ballot:

Proposition L: Shall the City amend its Police Code to prohibit sitting or lying on a public sidewalk in San Francisco between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., with certain exceptions?[11]

Path to the ballot

Gavin Newsom introduced the ordinance to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which on June 8, 2010, refused to pass the measure by a vote of 8 to 3. Supervisors Avalos, Campos, Chiu, Daly, Dufty, Mar, Maxwell, and Mirkarimi voted against the measure, while supervisors Alioto-Pier, Chu, and Elsbernd voted for the measure. Newsom then placed the measure on the November ballot on June 15, 2010, where the city's voters will decide its fate.

External links