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KCBS Cover Story: Berkeley's Civil Sidewalk Measure Faces Criticism

BERKELEY (KCBS) – Berkeley voters will decide on Measure S in November, a contentious proposal that is similar to San Francisco's sit-lie ordinance.

23-year-old Drew Wood, also known as Purple, is homeless by choice. He sits on a Telegraph Avenue sidewalk with his dog and cat on a leash, begging and eager to speak about Berkeley's proposed ordinance.

KCBS' Margie Shafer Reports:

"It's lame. I dislike the name. The civil sidewalk ordinance – what's civil about telling someone they can't do something like sit down," said Wood.

Roland Peterson, Executive Director of the Telegraph Business Improvement District, said what is uncivilized is the behavior of some.

"It's not uncommon for them to panhandle with really rude signs, something like FU, I need money for beer," said Peterson.

The civil sidewalk ordinance would ban sitting and lying on commercial sidewalks from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the risk of a $75 citation.

"It's definitely impacting business because it scares away potential shoppers," Peterson said.

But Wood argues that the street culture actually draws people to Berkeley.

"They're taking pictures of us sitting on the sidewalk, enjoying ourselves and laughing," he said. "If we're not here, that person doesn't even want to come around here."

Berkeley's ordinance differs from the one passed in San Francisco in 2010 in that it offers a provision for forgiveness of citations if violators go into services, it is limited only to commercial areas and host ambassadors offer direct help.

"What makes you think that they're going to listen to the ambassadors when the sit-and-lie passes," said Wood. "We don't want that assistance that they are trying to give to us."

But Peterson said that this is not criminalizing the homeless.

"The characterization that the opponents have is just way over the top. It's hyperbole gone amuck," he said.

If passed, there would be a six month outreach period in the first half of 2013 with the law going into effect July 1.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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