Civil Sidewalks Ordinance Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Civil Sidewalk Ordinance? San Francisco’s Civil Sidewalk Ordinance, Section 168 of the San Francisco Police Code, makes it unlawful, with certain exceptions, to sit or lie on a public sidewalk, or on an object placed on a public sidewalk, between 7AM and 11PM.

When does the law become effective? The law becomes effective 10 days’ after the Board of Supervisors declares the results of the November 2, 2010 election. The Board of Supervisors declared the election results at its meeting on December 7, 2010. The law becomes effective December 17, 2010.

How did we get this law? The voters of the City and County of San Francisco passed Proposition L, “Sitting or Lying on Sidewalks,” at the November 2, 2010 election. Proposition L added Section 168, “Promotion of Civil Sidewalks,” to the San Francisco Police Code.

Does it apply to everybody? The law includes eight specific exceptions, and does not apply to any person:
(1) sitting or lying on the sidewalk due to a medical emergency; (2) using a wheelchair, walker or similar device as a result of a disability; (3) operating or patronizing a commercial establishment conducted on a public sidewalk under a sidewalk use permit; (4) participating in or attending a parade, festival, performance, rally, demonstration, meeting or similar event conducted on a sidewalk under and in compliance with a street use or other applicable permit; (5) sitting on a fixed chair or bench supplied by a public agency or abutting private property owner; (6) sitting in line for goods or services if not impeding pedestrians from using the sidewalk or entering a door, or other entrance along the sidewalk; (7) who is a child in a stroller; and (8) in an area designated as a Pavement to Parks project.

How is the law supposed to work? No person can be cited under this section without having been warned about the law. The police will approach people who are sitting or lying on the sidewalk and let them know about the City ordinance. If someone refuses to stand after being warned about the law, however, the police can write a citation.

What is the penalty for a violation? A first offense is an infraction and could result in a citation. If that citation results in a conviction, the penalty is a fine between $50-100 and/or community service. If someone violates the law again, within 24 hours of receiving a citation, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor. The penalty for a conviction increases, to a fine between $300-500, and/or community service, and/or up to 10 days in County Jail. If someone violates the law within 120 days of a conviction, that offense is also a misdemeanor, and the penalty for a conviction is a fine between $400-$500, and/or community service, and/or up to 30 days imprisonment in County Jail.

When will the police start their enforcement? The Police Department recognizes the importance of educating people–members of the public and officers–about this new law. The Department is developing policies and procedures for enforcement of this ordinance, and a training program for officers. An initial period of public awareness and education is planned, as well. Therefore, the Department will not initiate enforcement action under Section 168 until we have had opportunity to inform the public about the law, and our officers are trained on the related policies and procedures.

View Document of Civil Sidewalks Ordinance FAQs (pdf)

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