Conflict Of Vision: S.F. Homeless Politics

As usual, San Francisco has an initiative on the ballot, which would authorize the SFPD to arrest or cite people if they sit or lie on the sidewalk for too long. The idea is to clear the City's sidewalks of layabout bums. Of course, you could do this by enforcing existing laws, but we don't like to do things simply around here. The left-wing Bay Guardian has taken up the flag to defend the homeless from the depredations of the law. As the Guardian thinks the homeless are the unelected legislators of the world, their white-washing of the homeless is a wonder to behold (although actual washing would be preferable).

The impetus for the sit/lie law comes from the behavior of the gutter-punks who sprawl all over the Haight (they've pretty much replaced the hippies). But the Guardian says the kidz are actually all right:

I've been hanging out with the Haight Street kids. Over the course of a week or so, I smoked weed, drank malt liquor, witnessed nasty run-ins with police officers — all events that anyone who has walked down the sidewalks of that legendary street would expect. But I also met people who'd give away their last dollar to a friend, people who know a thing or two about community, and people who don't see sidewalks only as thoroughfares to commerce.

Ironically, though the homeless kids on Haight are the explicit inspiration for Proposition L, the sit-lie measure on the Nov. 2 ballot, their voices have been significantly absent from the vitriolic debate on its merits and faults. Ironic because of all people, it's these young men and women — and the citizens of San Francisco who interact humanely with them — who could teach us the most about what public space in San Francisco could be.

Not only that, the Guardian says that the City will lose its creative brio (the Soul of the City!) because no one will want to move to a place with a sit/lie law. This is classic stuff:

Most of the stories in this special anniversary issue are about marginalized youth — young people trying to survive and make their way against all odds in an increasingly hostile city and a bitter, harsh economy.

But there's an important difference about San Francisco today, something earlier generations of immigrants didn't face. The cost of housing, always high, has so outstripped the entry-level and nonprofit wage scale that it's almost impossible for young people to survive in this town — much less have the time to add to its artistic and creative culture.

I met the 21-year-old daughter of a college friend the other day. She's as idealistic as we all were. She wants to move to San Francisco for the same reasons we did and you did — except maybe she won't. Because she felt as if she had to come visit first, to use her dad's network, see if she could line up a job and figure out if her likely earnings would cover the cost of living. When I mentioned that I'd just up and left the East Coast and headed west, planning to figure it out when I got here, she gave me a look that was part amazement and part sadness. You just can't do that anymore.

The odds are pretty good that San Francisco won't get her — her talent and energy will go somewhere else, somewhere that's not so harsh on young people. I wondered, as I do every once in a while when I'm feeling halfway between an angry political writer and an old curmudgeon: would I come to San Francisco today?

Would Harvey Milk? Would Jello Biafra? Would Dave Eggers? Would you?

If you were born here, would you stay?

Are we squandering this city's greatest resource — its ability to attract and retain creative people?

So that's fantasy. Here's reality:

Creative Class!

How can we live without this guy?

Who is your City?

The next Jello Biafra?

This could be you!

Best Retirement Invesments Auto Search