Public Works crews, not police officers, would be the public servants issuing tickets to bike chop shop operators and clearing them off public right-of-ways under a completely revised proposal to combat the informal repair operations. After an overhaul that de-emphasizes the role of police, Supervisor Jeff Sheehy’s legislation to address bike chop shops will return to committee for further review.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday was scheduled to vote on the legislation, which drew criticism from some advocacy groups. The Coalition on Homelessness said it criminalized homelessness, because those without a home to store them in would be the most likely to have bicycles and parts out on the street. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition maintained that bike theft prevention should be emphasized over punishment.
Supervisor Kim, in her support of the changes, echoed advocates’ concerns about the involvement of police in clearing chop shops.
“We all know that sidewalk clutter is an issue, and I certainly get countless emails around concerns of assembly and dis-assembly of bikes,” she said. “Of course we don’t know for sure whether these bikes are stolen or not.”
Several residents, however, along with the San Francisco Council of District Merchants Associations, wrote to the supervisors with their strongly worded support for the original legislation.
Police report some 60 percent of the city’s bike thefts occur in the Mission District.
One Mission resident wrote that parts of the neighborhood had become “a living hell” with “crime, filth, and violence taking over our streets and sidewalks.”
“The police stand by and say they can do nothing, as they supposedly cannot prove that the bikes were stolen, and not “donated” – as the [criminals] insist,” the resident wrote. “This law will allow the police to begin to do their jobs and restore order to the streets of the Mission.”
In an effort to address critiques, Sheehy adjusted the proposal to make Public Works, not the San Francisco Police Department, responsible for clearing chop shops and issuing citations.
“We’ve heard loud and clear that Public Works, not the police, should take the lead on this issue,” Sheehy said.
Other changes include that someone issued a citation, which does not include a fine, may appeal it within 72 hours, and that Public Works would hold the seized bicycles and bike parts for 30 days. In that time, anyone who believes they own the property can apply to claim it. Bikes and parts left unclaimed for more than 60 days would be tossed.
As Kim observed, “it’s not a few lines, It’s the entire ordinance” that has been changed, so the ordinance must go back to the Land Use and Transportation Committee for further consideration.
Supervisors made those changes to the proposed policy, and will take public comment on the adjusted legislation when they hear it again in a committee hearing.
Disclosure: Laura Wenus is a member of the Bicycle Coalition.