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San Francisco Voters Approve Sit/Lie Sidewalk Ban

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People walk by a homeless man. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

People walk by a homeless man. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS / AP) — San Francisco voters have approved a controversial ordinance that will soon restrict when to sit or lie on city sidewalks.

Voters on Tuesday supported Measure L, known as the “sit/lie” ordinance, that would ban sitting or lying on sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.

The new ordinance requires police to issue a warning before citing or fining anyone, but repeat offenders could face jail time.

Supporters of “sit/lie” say residents are often harassed by people who sit all day on sidewalks. Opponents say the measure unfairly targets the homeless and day laborers.

The initiative took shape after Police Chief George Gascon proposed a citywide “sit-lie” ordinance, giving officers the authority to move and cite those who block sidewalks or otherwise intimidate pedestrians.

“The chief advocated very actively on his own time and the public vote has decided the matter,” SFPD Lt. Lyn Tomioka said Wednesday.

After the Board of Supervisors voted down Gascon’s proposal in June, Mayor Gavin Newsom to take the issue straight to voters.

Newsom became motivated after seeing a guy smoking crack cocaine while taking his infant daughter on a stroll shortly after moving to the iconic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood earlier this year.

That episode came after Haight residents and storekeepers had long complained to city officials about overbearing transients blocking pedestrians and aggressive panhandling.

Even two neighborhood group leaders held opposing views.

“This is something that people in San Francisco tried to do for the better part of 25 years,” Ted Loewenberg, president of the Haight Ashbury Improvement Association, said Wednesday. “We got it done!”

But Bruce Wolfe, vice president of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, believes that voters were not properly educated on the ramifications of a sit-lie law.

“I think people really don’t understand what this means,” Wolfe said Wednesday. “There’s plenty of laws already on the books similar to Measure L.”

The police department will soon issue guidelines on how officers will enforce the ordinance, Tomioka said.

Voters also rejected a competing ordinance, Measure M, which would have adopted mandatory police foot-patrol programs and invalidated Measure L if both passed.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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