Police out, Public Works in, with revised chop shop proposal

Confiscated bike parts loaded onto the bed of a police pickup truck on August 15, 2016. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

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.

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5 Comments

  1. Sally yu

    Weak.. glad that Jane Kim will be termed out soon enuff.

  2. Frankie Katz

    These piles of bikes are “donated”??? I pass these encampments and chop shops literally on a daily basis. Many tents have PILES of bikes and bike parts next to them! There are street-dwellers who have generator-run machinery operating at all times of night with bright generator-run lights trained on their chop shops as they cater to their clientele! You expect us to believe these people came to possess these giant hoards of bike parts through legitimate donations???

    I see these so-called “donations” happening all the time, courtesy of guys with angle-grinders sawing through locks, usually with the help of a friend playing look-out, who then ride off on the “donated” bike into the night, long before the police arrive, if anyone bothered to notify them! These “donators” break into my building periodically and help themselves to what is often the only reliable mode of transportation that some of my neighbors have to get to their jobs.

    It seems like this proposed plan is going to endanger the safety of public works employees, who last I checked, didn’t carry guns or any other means of defending themselves against methed-out thieves wielding angle grinders who refuse to give up their “donated” hoards of other people’s property.

    No one is being fooled by this business. The reason the situation has gotten so bad in the Mission is because our supervisors bend over backwards to cater to the homeless coalitions and SF Bike Coalition. The needs of the rest of us trying to live our everyday lives in our neighborhood, stepping over feces, having to walk in the busy, dangerous streets to get around giant, filthy tents and piles of bike parts, furniture, and trash hoards, and deal without assistance from the SFPD with drug-addled street zombies attacking us simply because we had the audacity to walk out the front door of our apartment buildings, go unmet and intentionally ignored. When we complain, we are told that we are expected to grin and bear it, because we are lucky enough to be housed indoors. The local rags paint us all as uber-wealthy tech moguls, yet again erasing those of us who moved here because it used to be the cheap-rent neigborhood and just want to live our lives in peace, without our children being exposed to the constant onslaught of filth, violence, and crime that has intensified over the past few years as the encampments have taken over the neighborhood.

    Many of us would leave this neighborhood if we could. After all, many of us aren’t lucky enough to receive bike “donations”, and once our bikes are stolen, we’re left waiting for overcrowded, filthy Muni buses that seem to never come…

  3. Frank A

    Once again, Democrats show they care about criminals more than working people. Sadly, Republicans don’t care about us, either. I feel sorry for people who have to live in the Mission. At least over in the Excelsior neighbors still look out for each other and anyone trying to set up a tent or shoot up on the street will quickly get sprayed with a garden hose and likely not come back. Working people in the Mission need to remember,come election time, that their supe cares more about a camp of homeless meth heads than people trying to make a living.

    • C.M. Oranj-Hill

      I don’t see how this is a “Democrat” v “Republican” issue. Neither party has a platform plank on this kind of thing. It’s either the San Francisco machine or SF Progressives run amok. It’s definitely strong-arming by the Coalition on Homelessness, trying to de-criminalize larceny and keep working and middle-class San Francisco in a permanent state of terror and fatigue.

      These folks belong in prison.

  4. Mike

    It’s common knowledge that most of these bikes are stolen. It seems like a no-brainer that we need to emphasize bike theft punishment in addition to prevention. If I stole a bike I would be punished. Why would the rules apply any differently to the homeless?

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