Monday, April 4, 2011

San Francisco's first anti-sitting citation but hardly our first weird and stupid law.

Oh dear, WRAP says the San Francisco Police Dept. has issued its first ticket for sitting on the sidewalk.

And a second "oh dear" is, the item mentions that Charles Schwab, personally, was among the supporters of this ugly and unconstitutional law, which has to be San Francisco's dumbest. A pity. I admit being a very small-time customer of Mr. Schwab's company, and to hear this is disgruntling.

I would've said the anti-sit thing was San Francisco's second-dumbest law, but our old banana-peel ordinance wasn't in its familiar place at the top of the Public Nuisances lineup. Turns out in 2002 the Supervisors did away with that and several other standbys of the Weird Laws of the West funny lists.

The "Repeal Arcane Provisions of Police Code" ordinance makes livelier reading than the dreary anti-sitting news because it spells out whatall got removed. So, rather than get depressed I'll talk a little about the Repeal of the Arcane.

So --

We do still have a litterbug law, but in 2002 the Supes ended specific prohibitions against doing many things on the sidewalk other than sitting, including throwing banana or orange peels, beating carpets except between midnight and 8 a.m., or picking up previously thrown confetti to sell or throw again.

Further Arcane Provisions involved swimming in San Francisco Bay without "suitable bathing dress," gambling on Ocean Beach, wearing hats in theaters, using "mechanical contrivances to reproduce obscene language" or uttering in public "slanderous or vile or indecent words or epithets of or concerning any person present or absent" unless "true and... uttered with good motives and for justifiable ends."

They removed another one that doesn't seem arcane at all -- in fact it looks actually kind of useful. It's former Police Code 265, enacted in 1938:
"Automatic Quotation Exhibitor Prohibited." It shall be unlawful for any person to open, conduct, deal, play or carry on in any public or private place whatever, in the City and County of San Francisco, any automatic quotation exhibitor or similar contrivance, or any imitation thereof, whether operated by means of a clock or by any other device, or any system whereby goods in name only and that do not exist are bought and sold on commission, or whereby the rise and fall in prices of goods are dependent upon any automatic apparatus, the results of which are by chance or otherwise, or whether called "An Automatic Quotation Exhibitor," or any "Grain and Stock Exchange," or a "Clock Game," or any other name whatever, for money, chock, chips, credit or any representative of value."

(Emphasis mine.)
I guess now you can call it program trading or a mortgage-backed security and you can show it off anyplace you like.

So in San Francisco you can stand on the sidewalk beating a carpet or cranking a blue streak out of a label machine or exhibiting credit default swaps in broad daylight, all for unjustifiable ends. But just don't you dare sit down.

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