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The Politics of Sitting In San Francisco

Activists place DIY benches throughout San Francisco to protest city's Sit-Lie ordinance.

Lisa Baldini
Lisa Baldini on April 22, 2011.

Last November, San Francisco citizens voted in the the Sit-Lie ordinance that made it illegal to sit or lie in public spaces. Seeing that as a violation, an activist group has decided to protest this ordinance with guerilla-style bench installations, to which they also sent a letter to the San Francisco Bay Guardian explaining their position:

“These benches are more than places to sit,” the message reads. “They are a visible resistance to the privatization of public space.” It goes on to list a number of reasons behind the action, beginning with, “We believe that public space should be for everyone, and right now it is being taken away from those of us who need it most. Those of us whose presence in San Francisco has made our city the radical and creative haven it has been for decades. Those of us who have the least access to private spaces (which continue to get more and more unaffordable) and whose safety nets (like our shrinking public services) are being continuously destroyed.”

One of the  protest benches

Their accusations bring up two key issues: the blurring of the private and public spaces as well as class issues. At present, cities like New York are looking to improve their citizen’s quality of living by opening up the city for greener places to congregate. So, placing stringent demands on its citizens’ ability to congregate might seem to cause more friction? Of course, this brings us back to the class issues, whereby high rents and high homeless populations may be an indication as to why the ordinance was voted in, but will it make the city a more pleasant experience?

Sidewalks Are For People

San Francisco Bay Guardian: “Activists respond to sit-lie with handmade benches”

First image: oppositeofsuper

Last image: Steve Rhodes

TOPICS: Arts & Culture, Design & Architecture
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Lisa Baldini

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Lisa Baldini is a regular contributor to PSFK.com. As a student of Graham Harwood, Luciana Parisi, and Matthew Fuller, Lisa's interest in technology lies in how culture is changed from the bottom up through history, materiality, databases, user experience, and affective computing. A student of social media marketing, she sees how people try to engage consumers through technology and how much failure is at hand by misunderstanding the medium. A teacher at heart, she writes and curates in an effort to link the knowledge derived between the academic, art, and business worlds.

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