SF business owners split on homeless issue

People walk by a homeless man in San Francisco

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: San Francisco's mild weather and generous social safety net have long made the city a haven for the homeless. But on Tuesday, local voters will decide on a ballot initiative that would ban sitting or lying on public sidewalks.

Business owners are split on the idea, as April Dembosky reports.


APRIL DEMBOSKY: Homeless people lounging along Haight Street in San Francisco are as common as tie-dyes and head shops.

Mark Weinstein owns Amoeba Music. He says most of the homeless are harmless. But a recent influx of out-of-town drifters has pushed the sidewalk population up, and he says nighttime sales have gone down.

MARK WEINSTEIN: No one wants to go out to a commercial strip where there are a bunch of unknown entities, possibly high, possibly drunk.

The proposed law would prohibit sitting or lying on city sidewalks between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. A long list of business associations, including the Chamber of Commerce, support the law.

But some individual business owners are opposed. Praveen Madan owns a bookshop on Haight Street. He says the law would punish people for being poor.

PRAVEEN MADAN: Claiming that the sidewalks are only for commercial activity is just preposterous.

The city's latest count put the homeless population at more than 6,000 people.

In San Francisco, I'm April Dembosky for Marketplace.

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