San Francisco grapples with petty crimes

SAN FRANCISCO — In the Tenderloin, not far from tourists at the historic cable car turnaround, the city's incoming police chief was shocked to see open drug dealing.

Then, in the swank Union Square shopping area, Sacramento's visiting mayor had his luggage swiped from outside a hotel.

And in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, crucible for the hippie movement and the 1960s Summer of Love, residents and storekeepers have been complaining about overbearing transients blocking pedestrians and panhandling with their pit bulls by their sides.

This tourist mecca, known for its panoramic views and liberal outlook, is grappling with quality-of-life crimes — and the perception that its sense of forbearance has gotten out of hand.

A groundswell of gripes about "nuisance crimes" has made combating them a priority for Police Chief George Gascon.

The chief has gone so far as proposing a citywide "sit-lie" ordinance that would give police the authority to move and cite those who block sidewalks or otherwise intimidate pedestrians.

"There are a substantial number of people who want to see this happen. They're very frustrated," Gascon said.

Mayor Gavin Newsom, who recently moved to Haight-Ashbury and was previously hesitant about Gascon's proposal, said he will introduce the ordinance this week.