Berkeley voters to decide sidewalk-sitting ban

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(AP) – Berkeley voters will soon decide whether the city that spawned the Free Speech Movement should bar people from sitting on sidewalks. The Berkeley City Council voted 6-3 early Wednesday to place the proposed ban on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit sitting on city sidewalks in commercial areas from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and go into effect in July 2013. Similar laws have been adopted in San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles.

Mayor Tom Bates and other backers say the large numbers of homeless people sitting on sidewalks outside stores and restaurants is hurting business.

But opponents say the ban would punish the city’s most vulnerable residents and run contrary to the values of a city known for peace and tolerance.

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