More than a year ago Mayor Tom Bates decided that we could no longer smoke, panhandle or unroll our sleeping bags on the streets of Berkeley, but things (as you can tell) have yet to really change. Disgruntled shop owners have been grumbling about the “crowded and dirty sidewalks and inappropriate or threatening street behavior” (apparently this is a kinder way of saying sidewalk squatting, aggressive panhandling, smoking, and doing one’s … business). read more »

Despite conspiracy theories about Berkeley trying to get rid of the homeless, Mayor Tom Bates’s Public Commons for Everyone Initiative has made it through the red tape to the green light.

Cliches aside, the Clog seems to find the well-intentioned initiative at least partially redundant. Last time we checked, sex on the sidewalks isn’t totally legal anyway, so why raise parking meter prices 25 cents per hour to enforce its apparent uber-illegality?

Ah, because the initiative also increases homeless services–you know, some phone tree to make finding space in homeless shelters efficient and more public toilets to replace the current failed public health experiment on the sidewalks.

But despite pumping parking meter revenue (from all 12 working meters!) into the problem, others, including Councilmember Dona Spring, found the initiative “immoral and also illegal” on grounds that criminalizing homelessness worsens the problem of limited space in homeless shelters. Apparently she missed the part about increasing services for the homeless.

We suppose the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative won’t solve homelessness or really make any marked difference in our lives other than raising the price of parking meters–so, no, we have no spare change–but at least Berkeley’s plan doesn’t include a shuttle bus to Brentwood.

Image Source: Shayan Sanyal under Creative Commons
Council OKs Public Commons Initiative [Daily Cal]
Curb Your Aggression [Daily Cal]
Episode 1107: Night of the Living Homeless [South Park Zone]

A few weeks ago, the City of Berkeley announced that it approved some parts of the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative—sending most of it back to the city manager to figure out before a fall meeting decides the initiative’s fate.

But not everyone likes this idea.

On, someone has come to the defense of the homeless, whom many think that the Public Common for Everyone Initiative targets directly.

This complainer writes:

bq. More anti-homeless proposals are being scheduled to come up for another city council vote sometime soon during the fall. The proposals being considered include strict enforcement of laws against noise disturbances such as yelling, parking a bicycle against a window or on a parking meter, smoking near buildings, unauthorized possession of a milk crate, obstructing or restricting use of the sidewalk, reducing warning provisions for sitting or lying down on sidewalks, littering, hitching animals to fixed objects, unauthorized possession of a shopping cart, increased fines for using the great outdoors as a lavatory, public drunkeness or drug abuse, and anything else that city officials can dream up as an excuse to run the homeless out of town.

Um, getting rid of some of those things, if not all of those things isn’t beneficial to the city? Yeah, why don’t we continue to litter and make Berkeley look like a third-rate dump. Yeah, why don’t we use the local neighborhood park as a bathroom. Seems very draconian to us for the city to not want these things (read: we’re being sarcastic).

And apparently even talks about the Public Commons for Everyone Initiative have already spooked some of the city’s homeless population into leaving. Osha Neumann, an attorney who defends the city’s homeless said:

bq. “The homeless know what is going on, they feel frightened and some are already talking about leaving town. The downtown police bike patrols get to know the homeless hot spots and get to know the homeless on a first name basis, making it very easy to target them for removal”

We’ll let you decide whether or not the homeless population leaving Berkeley is good for the city. But for now, we’ll be quietly waiting for that Summer Orientation issue to come out tomorrow.

Earlier: City Council Going to Clean Up the Streets
War on the homeless heats up in Berkeley []