BART board to take up proposed anti-panhandling law

Director Allen targets solicitation as nuisance; ACLU argues free speech

BART will debate whether to ban panhandling in its stations and on its trains by the end of October.

At a recent BART Board of Directors meeting, BART Director Debora Allen introduced a proposed ordinance that would prohibit solicitation for money in the paid areas of the BART system. The ordinance could affect not only panhandlers but also musicians and artists who busk in the system.

Allen had previously announced via social media and in news reports that she planned to pursue the ordinance.

"Why do (BART) riders endure constant panhandling on trains?" she wrote on Twitter on Aug. 3. "Because some Board Directors oppose prohibiting it. A Board ordinance is all that's needed and is achievable with only 5 director votes. Who's in?"

Two colleagues had to support the ordinance for the full board to take it up. Directors John McPartland and Mark Foley supported it.

But Foley said during the Aug. 22 board meeting that his support was because he wanted to have an open debate at a meeting, "not on social media and not in the press," hinting at Allen's public announcements.

"I believe in honest and open communication," Foley said.

Allen could face an uphill battle to pass the ordinance, particularly after the American Civil Liberties Union released a public comment letter on Aug. 21 questioning whether such an ordinance would be permissible under the Constitution.

"Panhandling, as well as busking and other types of communication where individuals may solicit and receive donations, are forms of speech protected under the First Amendment," ACLU of Northern California staff attorney Abre' Conner wrote in a letter to the BART board. "Singling out and prohibiting these forms of communication would restrict speech based on its content."

Conner cited a preliminary injunction won by the ACLU in federal court last year that stopped enforcement of a similar city of Sacramento law.

BART Director Rebecca Saltzman requested a legal analysis of the proposed ordinance based on the ACLU's letter. BART's general counsel Matt Burrows said that BART's legal department has worked on an ordinance in light of the Sacramento case.

The item is expected to come before the board sometime before the end of October.

— Bay City News Service

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1 person likes this
Posted by Ruth
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 2, 2019 at 6:59 pm

YAY!!! Finally someone has the guts to address the mess.

2 people like this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 7, 2019 at 12:41 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

What about all the homeless riding the trains and hassling the riders paying their way? How about the fare gate jumpers or the filthy trains and stations, the vehicle breakins in the Bart lots and the total lack of security on the whole system?? Panhandling is just the beginning Bart has a long way to go to fix their mess, the more money we give them the worse it gets.

1 person likes this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 8, 2019 at 7:14 am

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Enforcement of existing rules would probably mean more than just adding more that wont get enforced.

Like this comment
Posted by Ed
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 15, 2019 at 6:51 pm

I've been a daily BART rider to SF going on 4 years now and much of what's complained about is inherent in riding any form of public transportation. You're always going to have a disparate group riding together on buses, trains, ferries - drunks, weirdos, suburbanites, ethnic types,techies, old, young, etc. I wish there were officers on every train and on every platform and station concourse but there isn't enough money to do that and still keep the fares reasonable. Most of the time those of us on the train are all commuters, minding our own business just trying to get to and from work. Once in a while there will be someone who walks slowly through the car with a cardboard sign asking for money, or someone who smells like they just smoked a bowl but it's easy enough to ignore them. I wear headphones and just focus on my phone.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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