File photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

A law that would make bike “chop shops” illegal will move to the Board of Supervisors for a vote after winning over two former opponents, who changed their minds now that police won’t be enforcing the law. 

District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin and representatives of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, who previously opposed the proposal, voiced their support at a committee hearing during which supervisors greenlit the legislation to go to the full Board for approval on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

“Supervisor Sheehy has some reasonable steps to make [the legislation] less objectionable, given that it really is a problem throughout the city,” Peskin said at Monday’s Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting before recommending the proposal move to a full-board vote.

The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition also spoke in support of prohibiting chop shops, now that Public Works crews — not police officers — will be responsible for enforcement.

“While we were unable to support the legislation in its original form, we are now comfortable to support the legislation as amended,” said Brian Wiedenmeier, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition.

The legislation, sponsored by District 8 Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, would prohibit “the assembly, disassembly, sale, offer of sale, distribution, or offer of distribution on public property or public rights-of-way of bicycles and bicycle parts.” A person having five or more bicycles, three or more bicycles with missing parts, a bike frame with severed brake or gear cables, or five or more bicycle parts on the street would receive a notice.   

Public Works staff would be responsible for issuing notices and removing the bicycles and parts from the sidewalk. The recipient of the notice would have a chance to retrieve the items within 30 days, if they can prove ownership.

An earlier version of the proposal had been scheduled for a full-board vote back in July, but was returned to the committee after Sheehy made major changes.

In a year, 60 percent of calls about bike theft were fielded by Mission Station, according research presented by Sheehy’s office.  

Advocates for the homeless, the proposal’s most vocal detractors, still say the law criminalizes the unhoused.

“It was a complete disregard for the possibility that homeless people could be owners of five or more bike parts,” said Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness, after the committee’s decision. “It’s not okay to treat homeless people that way. I thought it was pretty disgusting.”

Friedenbach believes the law would violate the Fourth Amendment rights of homeless people. “You can’t confiscate people’s property without probable cause,” she said.

“It’s simply something we believe is dangerous,” said Lenine Umali, a Director of External Affairs and Policy at Compass Family Services, during public comment. “For the already vulnerable homeless population in San Francisco, we believe [the ordinance] would unnecessarily focus city resources on criminalizing them, even though this is now being housed under Public Works.”

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

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  1. What will be the best way to report these criminals and their illegal chop shops once this passes? I just fear it will never be enforced like so many important laws in this city, out of fear of being bullied by organizations like Friedenbachs. Please show some compassion for those of us who have had bikes stolen and cannot afford to replace them all the time. We rely on our bikes for our livelihood …. without stealing.

  2. Friedenbach argued further that Sheehy’s law would put an end to a crucial form of entrepreneurship for homeless people, who she said often find bike parts or receive donated ones.
    “The reality is that recycling bike parts is one of the few alternative economic venues for impoverished people to make a living,” she wrote.

    I’ve tried to be sympathetic to the message of the Coalition on Homelessness. I cannot imagine how difficult and demoralizing it must be to be homeless in a town as wealthy as San Francisco. And anyone who attempts to help the homeless, whether its a group of nuns in the Mission or politicians trying to open up a Navigation Center in their neighborhood is criticized and even ostracized by the NIMBY crowd. So I hope I understand that your job is often a thankless never ending one. I’m guessing you must feel like Sisyphus on some days. But after reading these comments from you, Ms. Friedenbach, it’s very difficult for me to take you seriously. I feel you are either completely misguided or totally out of touch with reality. I have no desire to criminalize the homeless. But what we are talking about is out of control bicycle theft in SF, and whether these thiefs are homeless or not, they are criminals. Do you honestly think that those who run chop shops are entrepreneurs who find or receive bikes? If so, you’ll be happy to know that I am one of many San Franciscans who “donated” their bikes from our garage. How about acknowledging this rampant out of control problem, Ms Friedenbach, instead of constantly fighting those who are trying to combat bicycle and property theft. Maybe then people such as me will once again be more sympathetic to your message.

  3. “It was a complete disregard for the possibility that homeless people could be owners of five or more bike parts,” said Jennifer Friedenbach.

    This is where common sense comes in and people like Jennifer lack this attribute. These are for “chop shops” which are obvious to anyone with eyes that work. No homeless person would bother having 5 random bike parts, and if they did, no one would bother them unless they were part of a bigger chop shop. People like Jennifer just give creedance to all those people that say many SF folks lack common sense and rational thought.

    I hope she does not reproduce.

  4. Does that mean these chop shops are currently legal in SF? This explains a lot…
    Does it mean that opponents of the law see no correlation between these chop shops and the massive bike theft problem in SF, and take pride in maintaining the status quo of escalating sidewalk slums and associated “quality of life” crimes?
    I’d rather pay higher taxes for targeted programs that aim at helping to end homelessness than having to replace my bicycle on a regular basis at massive cost and inconvenience. I feel that this would be a better use of resources, both for me and the recipients.

  5. Miss Friedenbach, I’ve got a couple bay bridges you might be interested in buying. As for Peskin, ‘illegal chop shops’ are not the purview of law enforcement? Huh?