Monday, December 10, 2007

Who owns the sidewalk?

I don't know of any studies that conclude one way or another whether there is in fact enough room in downtown Los Altos for everyone who wants to get a good view of the Festival of Lights parade. But, if there were, why would Town Crier-letter writer Anna Durante feel the need to tape off space and claim it as her own? And wasn't she just "scoring a spot" at another family's expense?

This supposed "tradition" of reserving spots has quite a few problems: it encourages private individuals to monopolize public space (for longer and longer periods of time), it creates a lot of litter, and it smacks of Los Altos's embarasingly recent efforts to exclude the poor and the brown through an unconstitutional and costly ordinance that forced day workers to cross the street and stand on the sidewalk in Mountain View.

Another letter writer, Honor Spitz, raises one other concern I didn't think to include. It makes downtown Los Altos look like "one great big outdoor emergency shelter." (Isn't "Spitz" a Jewish name? I guess Mark Zuckerberg isn't the only Member of the Tribe who wants to ruin Christmas.)

Next year, I'm going to kidnap somebody, blindfold them, drive them around for a while, and drop them off in downtown Los Altos, just to see if they think they have arrived at an emergency shelter.


Kathy Schrenk said...

In Chicago, this behavior is encouraged. You shovel out the spot on the street in front of your driveway and mark it off with two chairs and a broom stick. The mayor himself encourages vigilante justice if some unsavvy non-native takes your spot.

Oh, and for you Californians, it's snow that's being shoveled.

Anonymous said...

has the festival of lights suddenly become the super bowl? my question is what is so urgent about staking out a spot on the street? i was there last year and for 30 min of colored lights and music, let me tell ya folks, it ain't that special. i got a perfectly good view just 3 ft behind the sidewalk stakers. btw, i love this blog! nemesis of evil is terrific.