Unfounded Fears 

Why the controversy over a Berkeley measure that would ban sitting on sidewalks is overblown.

Page 5 of 5

Still, Berkeley has always had a street culture; it's always been a place where people begged for spare change on sidewalks; it's perhaps the best city on the West Coast for people to adopt homelessness as a lifestyle. And the chronically homeless don't always cotton to the idea of compulsory care: Cody said he's quite accustomed to sleeping outside, and that he prefers a doorway to a shelter bed. "The last one gave me scabies," he groused. As for getting a job and being integrated into society, he said it's not an option: "I'm out here because I'm crazy."

Neither Caner nor any other sit/lie proponents can force anyone not to be homeless, and they don't have the wherewithal to patch up deeper societal problems. That said, Caner is cautiously optimistic. He's watched other cities transform in conjunction with sit/lie ordinances, and he's seen how the paradigm could work in Berkeley. Moreover, he has a strong elevator pitch. Over the past few months, sit/lie advocates have built a powerful lobby, consisting not only of downtown boosters and commercial landlords, but also a slew of local merchants: Caner counts Paul's Shoe Repair, Caffe Mediterraneum, Site for Sore Eyes, E-Z Stop Deli, Starving Musician, and Thalassa among the supporters, not to mention he has Mayor Tom Bates on his side. He walks along Shattuck Avenue these days and sees green and yellow "Yes on S" signs in many store windows.

Even if Measure S isn't a fix-all, it can certainly make street life downtown a little less convenient for Cody. If voters pass the ordinance this November, he'll have to find a new bedroom.

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