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Hayward council approves fines, jail time for sideshow spectators

Alameda County weighs ordinance making it illegal to be a spectator at a sideshow
Alameda County weighs ordinance making it illegal to be a spectator at a sideshow 04:20

HAYWARD – Spectators at sideshows in Hayward could be cited or jailed for up to six months and pay fines ranging from $500 to $1,000 under a law approved this week by the Hayward City Council.

The council gave final approval on Tuesday to the ordinance, which takes effect Jan. 11, 2024.

Sideshows have increased dramatically over the past few years, Hayward Acting Police Chief Bryan Matthews told the council in a report on Dec. 5.

"They have gone from small gatherings in industrial areas during early morning weekend hours, to taking over large intersections during broad daylight with hundreds of spectators livestreaming the event directly to social media," Matthews stated.

Under the new law, violators will get a citation or be arrested. Potential penalties range from fines of $500, $750 or $1,000 per violation and a maximum of six months in jail.

Matthews cited experts who maintain that if spectators can be curbed, drivers will relocate somewhere else, where they can find an audience.

The Hayward ordinance treats spectators of sideshows the same as it does spectators of unsanctioned drag races, which is covered by a 2009 prohibition.

Last week, sideshows and some related activities were also outlawed by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors.

The board made it a crime to promote, watch and participate in "street races and reckless driving exhibitions" in any unincorporated part of the county.

Violators can face up to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000 and are responsible for property damage.

The county's ordinance is similar to existing rules in Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park and Windsor, and proposed ordinances in Petaluma, Sonoma and Cotati, according to county officials.

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