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Berkeley Council Approves Public Vote On Sit-Lie 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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BERKELEY (CBS SF) – After a lengthy debate, the Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 early Wednesday morning in favor of putting a measure on the November ballot that would prohibit sitting on sidewalks near businesses during daytime hours.

The vote calls for the city attorney to draft a ballot measure and bring it back to the City Council on July 10, when the council is expected to formally place it on the ballot.

The measure, which would ban sitting on city sidewalks in commercial areas from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., is a sensitive issue in Berkeley, which is why the council did not enact it directly and instead will leave the decision up to the voters.

Before the lengthy council meeting began Tuesday night, Mayor Tom Bates said, “The intent is to make the sidewalks more civil.”

Berkeley already has an ordinance in place that prohibits people from lying on the sidewalk during daytime hours, and the proposed measure would amend the city code to extend the ban to sitting.

Bates said, “I would say that I feel as the mayor, it’s my responsibility to have as civil a city as possible and I feel this is a step in the right direction.”

Supporters of the ban say, among other things, that people loitering on city sidewalks are hurting local businesses.

The three council members who voted against putting the measure on the ballot were Kriss Worthington, Jesse Arreguin and Max Anderson.

Arreguin and other critics contend that the ordinance would punish Berkeley’s homeless population, who are most likely to be ticketed for sitting on the sidewalk.

Arreguin said before the meeting that he thinks the council should address the broader issue of homelessness rather than pursue the sidewalk-sitting ban.

“I think we should be focusing on more constructive measures rather than punitive (measures),” Arreguin said.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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