Tony Bennett may have famously left his heart there once, but today’s San Francisco has a lot more lying on its streets than the crooner’s atria and ventricles. Large swaths of the city have been taken over by an increasingly aggressive homeless population who are treating the city, quite literally, like a toilet.
An NBC Bay Area investigation recently found that in a survey of 153 blocks of the city, there was trash on literally every block, more than 300 piles of feces on 96 of those blocks, and more than 100 used drug needles on 41 of the blocks.
A common sight on the streets of the city is the disturbing image of drug users shooting up, right out in the open. At Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stations, commuters and tourists complain of increasingly aggressive panhandling by vagrants with obvious mental illness. Over the past several years, hundreds of homeless encampments, with shelters made of cardboard, duct tape, and whatever else people can find to keep the elements off of them, have popped up all over the city.
And San Francisco, long a tourist and convention destination, is feeling the pinch. “[Visitors] are noticing it and hearing about it and saying, ‘well, why would I bring my conference here?’” said Kevin Carroll, the executive director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco.
Why indeed? While the city still boasts views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, and cable cars, the filth in the streets cannot be ignored. And the behavior of the city’s homeless population is becoming increasingly frightening. An Australian Reddit user, /u/nashtendo, described his visit to the city thusly: “Is this normal or am I in a bad part of town? Just walked past numerous homeless off their faces [high on drugs], screaming and running all over the sidewalk near Twitter HQ and then a murder scene. Wife is scared to leave the hotel now.”
Currently the city is spending more than $300 million per year on its homelessness problem. A large part of its future homelessness mitigation plan is a new command center which looks to streamline governmental processes in dealing with homeless people. “Before this, each department didn’t know what the other had on the to-do list,” said the San Francisco police commander who is in charge of organizing the new initiative. “What’s better here is that we’re face to face, looking at each other all day. I don’t have to call you and wait for a return phone call or wait for a return e-mail. That’s the big difference we haven’t seen before.”
Maybe — hopefully — the new initiative will help. But the problem is that it’s just another government solution in a city awash in government solutions. Free needles haven’t worked. Mobile shower and toilet facilities haven’t helped. The city has thrown money at homelessness for decades, but the problem continues to grow. Why?
For more than 50 years, San Francisco has been run solely by Democrats. This is not all that unusual for any large American city, but San Francisco should be different. Besides being the de-facto host of the Summer of Love, the center of the gay pride movement, and one of the nation’s first sanctuary cities, San Francisco is also a very wealthy city. Per capita income is over $100,000 per person.
So, with a leftist political monopoly combined with a great deal of wealth, shouldn’t we be seeing a liberal utopia by now? The utter absence of any conservative opposition combined with great wealth and stupendous weather should equal progressive paradise, shouldn’t it?
The smell of human urine and fecal matter in the air say otherwise.
San Franciscans, and other Californians, are starting to leave the state in droves, mostly citing high taxes as their reason. And those taxes certainly are enough reason to leave the state. But in the places in their mind they don’t like to talk about, there are other reasons that they are leaving, such as the homeless problem.
San Francisco risks more than losing conventions and tourists by failing to properly address the growing problem of homelessness in the city. It risks losing its rapidly dwindling middle class — the people who can’t afford security guards to keep them safe. And San Francisco — and all of California — can’t blame President Trump for this. They can only blame themselves.