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 “Safe Sidewalks” ordinance would make it illegal to sit or lie down on public sidewalks downtown 

7/20/2011 | Contact: Sarah Erkmann 343-7103
Mayor's Office

ANCHORAGE- Mayor Dan Sullivan has introduced a Safe Sidewalks ordinance to the Anchorage Assembly that would prohibit people from sitting or lying down on public sidewalks between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. in the Downtown Improvement District (defined as the area bounded by First Ave. on the north, Gambell Street on the east, Ninth Ave. to the south, and L St. to the west).

The law would exempt people having a medical emergency; those who use a wheelchair or other assistive device to move around; people participating in a permitted demonstration, parade or rally; people patronizing a permitted commercial establishment; and people sitting on permitted chairs or benches provided for public use.

Mayor Sullivan’s decision to advance the legislation was simple: protect public safety for pedestrians and businesses downtown. “Creating a hazard for people who use public sidewalks to get around the core of our downtown business district is a real public safety concern,” said Mayor Sullivan. “This ordinance will allow law enforcement to remove people who block or otherwise obstruct public walkways.  It also will improve aesthetics and downtown’s vitality as a premier destination for tourism and community events.”

“My administration pledged to address the long-standing problem of panhandlers and transients overtaking our public spaces and parks, including the sidewalks in an otherwise vibrant part of town,” said Sullivan.  “This ordinance supports the bustling downtown economy by ensuring sidewalks are clear, safe, and friendly for visitors, citizens, conferences and other business during the day.”

The ordinance also prohibits panhandling in the Downtown Improvement District, and subjects violators to fines: up to $300 for panhandling downtown and up to $100 for obstructing the sidewalk.      

The Safe Sidewalks ordinance also has the support of the Downtown community. "Downtown Anchorage is a pedestrian-oriented community, and we believe that this ordinance will empower Anchorage Police to keep our pedestrian rights-of-way safe," said Christopher M. Schutte, executive director for Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Ltd.

The mayor reminds citizens who would like to help panhandlers to visit and donate to any number of licensed, credible non-profit agencies that provide real assistance to those who seek it.

The ordinance (AO No.2011-80) is scheduled for a public hearing next Tues., July 26, at the regular Assembly meeting. In addition, the Assembly holds a work session on the ordinance this Fri., July 22, at 12:30 p.m. in Rm. 155 at City Hall.

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