Page One

Berkeley's "S" Conflicting Findings

By Ted Friedman
Friday November 02, 2012 - 09:36:00 AM

The Daily Californian reported Monday that a U.C. Berkeley School of Law student study had concluded, last month, that key yes on "S" (sitting-ban) claims were false. 

The study contradicted pro-"S" claims that sitting on business district sidewalks had hurt Berkeley businesses, and that a sitting-ban would encourage homeless youth to seek Berkeley support services. 

The law-student study is a possible set-back for such pro-"S" advocates as Craig Becker (president) and Roland Peterson (executive officer), of the Telegraph Avenue Business Improvement District, who drafted the measure. 

The report concludes that "S" is a poorly written law with no provisions for providing social services in return for compliance with the sitting-ban. The study was conducted by three Berkeley law students for the Berkeley Law Policy Advocacy Clinic. 

According to the report's "executive summary:" 

"A coalition of community groups and individuals opposed to Measure S asked the Policy Advocacy Clinic to research and analyze the economic, and social service impacts of Sit-Lie laws in other jurisdictions and the potential for such an ordinance to deliver on its promises in Berkeley. 

"To prepare this report, we reviewed data on economic activity and homeless services in other Sit-Lie jurisdictions nationally, statewide and locally. 

"We surveyed community organizations, municipal human services and economic development agencies, business groups and police departments in more than a dozen Sit-Lie jurisdictions, including seven in California. 

"Finally, we consulted local stakeholders about implementation challenges and opportunities. 

“Although there are limits to the data gathered – and more research needs to be done to answer these questions with more precision – we find no meaningful evidence to support the arguments that Sit-Lie laws increase economic activity or improve services to homeless people," the study acknowledges. 

Becker told us Monday, that a U.C. Berkeley graduate student survey, two years ago, "was a better study." This is the survey the TBID often cites, to make its case for "S.". 

The student shopping survey, nearly two years old, concluded that students might dine downtown more frequently, if panhandlers would leave them alone. 

The law student study admitted its general flaws: "there are limits to the data gathered, and more research needs to be done to answer these questions with more precision". 

However, methodological problems in the student shopping survey were not discussed. Sixty-five percent of the respondents to its shopping questionnaire were women--a major bias. Moreover, many of these respondents were already opposed to shopping in Berkeley 

Their responses to some questions are tainted with contempt for the Berkeley shopping scene. Becker and Peterson concluded that these students and some faculty would shop on Telegraph, if only panhandlers would go away, but the study presents no specific evidence for this conclusion. The disdainful students were asked what would get them to dine downtown, not under what conditions they'd frequent Telegraph Avenue.