SF Supervisor Rafael Mandelman proposed a new idea Tuesday to potentially crack down on and deter sideshows in the city, without putting police or participants in unnecessary danger while they're occurring.
The Bay Area is a hotbed of sideshows — the impromptu, flashmob-ish gatherings of people and cars doing donuts for sport and amusement — especially on warm-weather weekends. And this has been the case for decades, although they didn't tend to happen so much in SF proper, and that has changed.
Proposals to crack down on sideshows sometimes don't go anywhere, with Oakland's city council, for instance, long showing reluctance to criminalize them even if they might want to deter them in some way. And people do get injured and killed sometimes at sideshows, and they often include participants firing guns into the air.
But getting cops involved also comes with hazards. One death last year in Oakland was attributed to a car that had allegedly been part of a sideshow that was being chased at high speeds by some rookie Oakland police officers on International Boulevard. The car ended up crashing into some parked cars, sending them up onto a sidewalk and killing 28-year-old Lolomanaia Soakai, who was getting a late-night snack from a taco truck.
As NBC Bay Area reports, Mandelman has proposed having the SFPD use drones that it already uses for search-and-rescue efforts to fly over sideshows when they occur and take note of license plates. This would allow the police to track down the participants later and impound the vehicles, eventually, maybe, deterring future sideshows from taking shape in SF.
Another sideshow deterrence effort was made in the city last year, with barriers and yellow speed bumps installed around the corners of three intersections in the city making donuts impossible to do there.
San Jose is the only local city to have passed a law criminalizing both the participation in and the promotion of sideshows, allowing police to cite people just for being present as spectators. In one highly coordinated bust in November, San Jose police issued over 700 citations in one night after hemming in hundreds of cars that had attended a sideshow.