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The Sidewalks of San Francisco « Back to Story
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I wish you the same miserable life you're forcing on the homeless. Those people are better humans than you could ever be.
Enjoy Judgement Day, lady. I hear God isn't awfully kind to those lacking kindness and real human emotion.
Well written, forward. You touch on some things I haven't heard anyone else talk about. This has been educational to me from several directions.
Its very interesting for me to witness these debates as a neutral party. While you voice many truths, and so does the opposition, the absurd lack of trust between you two parties is almost comical.
I'd like to see less aggression and distrust among you.
Among journalists, among the people living in the city, among politicians, businesses. (in realistic terms)
The best people to collaborate with are those who seem to be your enemy. It incites ingenuity.
A cycle of aggression, retaliation, inevitably will continue to spiral south. I hope you, or anyone else who reads this comment, can truly take that to heart.
I like a LOT of what you said in here. But just like the other side, your paranoia needs adjusting. There comes a point where rage starts to take on a self-indulgent nature.
Cheers to you, you write wonderfully!
Hello. And Bye.
I am glad I took the time to read this article and the subsequent comments that filled the page below..
The article combined with the comments truly embodies the spirit of the City By The Bay -and I do miss her so. I left in late 1994 after 2 years on the streets- and staying to myself. I'm horrified to read how the gutter punks have taken it upon themselves to destroy what many (even homeless or transitional) people have built up. It is an obvious conscience decision to behave as thus- and surely they must receive some type of punishment instead of tasty libations. I thought San Fransisco had a "no pit-bull" law?
Ms. Mac Donald should also note the chronic failure of the San Francisco District Attorney to enforce quality of life laws. Even if the police enforce sit lie, which passed last November, it is uncertain whether the DA will press charges. My husband encountered a knife-wielding homeless man attempting to break into our home. The man threatened him with the knife. Even though the police came promptly and recovered the weapon, the DA declined to press any charges. Part of the reason was the man declared himself "transgender," and claimed his name was Kimberly, and said my husband had attacked him with a shovel. The DA took this criminal, who the police have brought in many times, at his word, and made no attempt to contact my husband for a statement. This is the City we live in - where the homeless rule the streets and the taxpaying homeowners are given no creedence.
Excellent article. The smae thing is true in Denver. Particularly note: 'non-profit' social service agencies almost never have audited financial statements. Why? To hid the taxpayer money that supports these poverty p_mps.These agencies are nothing but the new Tammany Hall where the graft gets grifted.
Yet another article showing that California, especially it's braindead PC enclaves like Frisco need to go bankrupt! Let the welfare and street types stave, riot and burn it all down! California deserves no more bailouts, it needs to seriously crash and burn!
Many in the so-called Homeless Inc. are not supporters of uncivil street behavior (nor these "punk kids" she is focused on here); as they know it hurts their cause. Heather just did not look hard enough to find these folks. And yes, some even support business-led efforts to clean up the streets of the TL (even though the national Chamber has decided we would be better off with one political party). Seems Ms. MacDonald never lets a fact (however nuanced) get in the way of a good polemic. The lead baton-twirler for the Right's on-going straw-boogieman parade.
did this law pass?
San Francisco voters passed the Sit Lie Law tuesday. Looks like sanity prevailed over Homeless Inc. In addition, Chris Daly is termed out and will open a bar is San Francisco. He will now become a member of the business community he so despises.
Hey! . . . San Francisco is apparently determined to turn things around. Exhibit A:
"LOS ANGELES [?] (Reuters) – San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to pass a law that cracks down on the popular practice of giving away free toys with unhealthy restaurant meals for children.
"San Francisco's Board of Supervisors passed the law on Tuesday on a veto-proof 8-to-3 vote. It takes effect on December 1."
San Francisco, fearlessly tackling the major issues it faces.
Our area (the other ‘bay area’) has attempted similar solutions. So far it only shifts the problem from one city to another. Regional or even statewide action seems to be the only realistic solution. That and addressing the root causes (systemic poverty, criminality, and permissive local culture).
OK. Those numbers did look odd for assets.
Anyway, I opposed the bailouts. They reward incompetence and, especially in the case of GM, will prove to be throwing good money after bad.
The only complicating factor is the degree to which government contributed to the failure of some of those companies.
But you're right, throwing taxpayers' money at crooks is not the free market. "Too big to fail" is horses**t.
sorry but those are not assets, but bail out dollars received, i.e.: your money! please try to focus on the issue.
i use my energy to try and improve my community and come up with solutions instead of worrying about what we have no control over. Making a positive impact on your community as an individual is a more productive and gratifying use of one's time. You have the power! signing out and good luck.
And the fact that those companies have a lot of assets is relevant to street leeches and paranoid schizophrenics because . . . ?
Maybe if Citigroup gave some of its billions to the street people, then things would be OK?
Companies make too much money, and that takes food out of the mouths of the poor? Got news for you, pill, Marxism is dead.
Now add up all those billions of dollars you listed. With his non-stimulating stimulus, Obama threw far more than that at public employee unions in one shot. The annual budget of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is also far larger than all the billions those evil companies have put together.
And sorry to disappoint you, but I love America. It is the people who are trying to destroy it whom I despise.
renfied, it would help if you took a math class. here is your free market einstein:
Citigroup $45 Billion
Bank of America (incl. Merrill Lynch)
Capital One Financial Corp.
Regions Financial Corp.
Fifth Third Bancorp
American Express Financial
Bank of New York Mellon
CIT Group Commercial
Marshall & Ilsley
Of course since you can not see these guys on the street they dont exist to you. but its easy for you to sit at your computer 2,000 miles from sf where you need to stay. yeah sf is awful, especially now that the giants are in the series. but is sounds like you hate the United States and would prefer to live in a dictatorship where everyone is just like you. hope you find that place.
btw. how much would it cost in taxes to arrest a violator of prop L? The jail system, the probation department, the court system. more and more of your tax dollars hard at work.
"I thought your organization sought to resolve societal problems through the free market system."
Free-loading is not the free market. Tax money to keep vagrants in drugs and booze is not the free market. Extorting money is not the free market.
Now, productive people fleeing California in droves: that's the free market at work.
". . . whether you like it or not, they are people just like you"
Street bums are of course humans (homo sapiens), not spiders or oak trees. But they are NOT just like other people. Very few people are hostile, slothful, parasitic leeches, though the percentage is probably highest in the United States. But hey, I couldn't care less. They'd have to bum 2,331 miles worth of rides to bother me.
As a native-born San Franciscan who was compelled to flee that mess, let me repeat the words of the late, great Herb Caen - "Don't call it Frisco!"
Im confused. I thought your organization sought to resolve societal problems through the free market system. This article seeks government intervention which requires more police, more government intervention etc. to have the streets cleared for American Apparel shoppers? I agree they have great adds don't you.
Also, your disdain of the opposition prevents any healthy discourse or collaborative problem solving. It is arrogant to think you have a better grasp of the issue than dedicated public servants ranging from Diane Feinstein, Willie Brown, Frank Jordan (a former police chief), Gavin Newsome, career police officers, merchants, community groups and residents who have been dealing with this for decades.
Also, you lose all credibility with your sorority girl type narrative of the fashions you attribute to the people you describe as "punks" and "'travelers'". At the end of the day, whether you like it or not, they are people just like you, but who you do not like.
It would be nice if you could use your energy and dedication to win the war in Afghanistan!
Good grief, what a waste of time that was to read: tawdry rhetoric about upper-crust snobbery trying to masquerade as political and social commentary. I kept hoping it would veer into making substantive points, because it was certainly long enough that it had many opportunities to do so.
Great article! The idiocy of liberalism is on full display in San Francisco!
Nobody's comments here strike me as a kind of demographic appeasement -- and here I amplify Renfield's comments -- which goes like this. "Hey, I'm doing okay right now. Tackling these obvious problems would cost a lot of time and money and some people would get mad at me. Better to kick the can down the road than do something." Of course nobody wants to come right out and admit that this is what they're doing because it's cowardly, obviously wrong, and eventually the bill will come due, so this perfectly rational short-term though costly long-term behavior is dressed up in all kinds of flowery, philosophical, and distracting language. I believe it was Goldwater who said, "Deep in their heart liberals know they're wrong."
"If SF is such a bad place to live, why do people pay more to live there than almost anywhere else?"
If you are rich enough to live there and can insulate yourself from the negatives, you can enjoy the beauty of the area and the fine restaurants, etc. (I was there many times in the late 1980s and found it quite pleasant. I was accosted by street people only twice, both times by obviously mentally ill young white men who hurled strange insults rather than asked for money.) And if you're politically left of center, you'll get along fine.
"Isn't that the free market deciding that life is better in SF than other cities?"
Absolutely. Certain people choose to live in SF; certain others do not. A friend of mine lives in a private house on Fifth Avenue in NYC. It's very nice, as you might imagine, but I much prefer my cabin the mountains of northern Alabama, at one thousandth the cost. If SF can sustain itself in its present form, more power to it. I understand, however, that California has lost 1,400 people a day over the past decade, including more going to Oklahoma than came from Oklahoma during the dust bowl days. The vacuum created in the Golden State by the exodus of productive people has sucked in Mexican poverty, too. So how long the status quo can be sustained in SF (and California overall) is a real question.
"SF is probably far better off and provides a higher quality of life than most major cities."
SF is certainly better off than Detroit, Cleveland, Newark, Camden, and a bunch of other cities that government (at all levels) has spent the past few decades destroying. But I'm afraid that ain't sayin' much.
Violent and abrasive homeless people are a non-issue in San Francisco.
I currently live in Nob Hill, a few blocks above the tenderloin. It's a mostly black, inner city area - pretty similar to lots of others in the country, with a lot of homeless crackheads. It's dangerous because of the feuding street gangs, not the homeless - like other inner cities in America. Crack cocaine and the breakdown in the black family structure are to blame, not homeless advocates. There are bad places in all major American cities, and there have been since the 1960s.
I try to run in golden gate park every weekend, taking the muni that gets off in the Haight, I walk to work in the financial district every day, and I go out at night. I've never once had a problem. I usually pass maybe one group of 3 or 4 street kids in a mile right on Haight, not huge mobs of them. They're typically too stoned to move. I've never seen one bother anybody other than asking for money.
All the social services make it too easy to be homeless, therefore subsidizing and increasing homelessness. But it's far from a real problem for working people or tourists. There is no correlation between homeless problems or spending on the homeless in SF and tourist spending, while there is a high correlation with the strength of the dollar and the broader economy. If SF is such a bad place to live, why do people pay more to live there than almost anywhere else? Isn't that the free market deciding that life is better in SF than other cities? SF is probably far better off and provides a higher quality of life than most major cities. Look at some of the Midwestern "moral values" places if you want to see somewhere unliveable.
After reading the City Journal and SF Weekly articles, Obama's rhetoric is that much harder to take:
“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now, and facts and science and argument do not seem to be winning the day all the time, is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.”
The reason we're scared Mr. President is because of generations of shenanigans like this that have left the middle class crushed. And the type of politics that go on in San Francisco and Chicago are now being brought to us nationally! People realize this are indeed scared, not due to some irrational rejection of facts, reason, and science, but because facts, reason, and science have been directly, obviously, and verifiably been rejected by the prob/lib/dems. This isn't like maybe we can take policy from good to great -- instead legislation has been replaced with corruption with SF and Chicago being the laboratories. People see what's up Mr. President, and this is what's driving the Tea Parties -- the obvious incompetence if not outright criminality of the Democratic party.
Ms. McDonald's article struck a chord with me. Lived in the Outer Richmond (33d then 47th Aves), then Lincoln & 46th for 15+ years. Not much sidewalk obstruction, except for some long-term (and obviously permanently impaired) street people near the busier bus stops on Geary.
Eventually tired of enduring the stench of urine & worse at my N-Judah turnaround at La Playa twice daily on my commute. Or of being selected for attention, then verbal abuse, by beggars on transit. That, and my wife refused to raise a child in such a dysfunctional city and its failing schools.
A pity, too. I came to know well and greatly admire immigrant shopkeepers and restauranteurs, Muni drivers on my regular routes (yes, Muni drivers!), GG Park volunteer gardeners, my fellow parishioners at St. Monica's in the Richmond, and the SFFD crew at my neighborhood station and downtown on Mission where my pastor was the Dept Chaplain. The City rightfully belongs to them, not the guttersnipes in the Haight nor their enablers in the Homeless Industry or City Hall.
I read the SFWeekly article Renfield -- very nice. I like how the responsible people are vilified as the insanity rolls on.
All this sound and fury might signify nothing. The whole SF mess is apparently circling the drain:
Looks as if lack of money will force the issue.
Corey, great post. I remember reading the quote about kings (or gods) and rats, but I can't remember who said it.
A good example of "magnificent accomplishments" designed by elite brains are the high-rise warehouses built for public housing in St. Louis, Chicago, etc. Within three decades, most of them had to be demolished. Interesting that buildings that went up the 1950s have had to be torn down, while many current luxury apartments and condos in those same cities went up shortly after World War I.
I'll admit, this article has really put a bee in my bonnet. I'll just make three comments today. First, Hayduke's comment bears repeating, "If you feed rats,you get more rats." It's all a question of incentives, if you reward good behavior, then you get more of it, and if you reward bad behavior, then you get more of that. The fundamental misconception here is that the taxpayers supposedly have to fund these programs to, "solve a problem." This is bull. These payments do not solve any problems; instead they perpetuate old problems, create new ones, and are horrendously expensive. What a deal. The problem here isn't what we know or don't know, it's what we know that isn't so.
I commend to you Tom Wolfe's essay "Great Relearning," which is reprinted in his book _Hooking Up_ (http://books.google.com/books?id=_O-7s31ficcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=hooking+up+tom+wolfe&hl=en&ei=5GrETKOqD8OB8ganl4DZBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=great%20relearning&f=false). There you'll find that coincidentally enough, people doing fabulously stupid things in the '60 came to relearn common sense rules through their stupidity. Same thing occurred in the '80s with AIDS. Now we're relearning other lessons through "the homelessness industry." We should be thankful that Haight-Ashbury is such a rich source of learning, though it is of an essentially remedial nature.
Let's see, how about a bit more history concerning the words "progressive" and "liberal". Turns out that at the turn of the 20th century, the word "progressive" was used all the time, and as a result of their trademark boundless stupidity the word was discredited and tarnished. Thus they picked up the word 'liberal' as a way to associate themselves with successful thoughts and reputation (_Commanding Heights_, p xv). Now in the 21st Century, as a result of their trademark stupidity, the word 'liberal' has been discredited and tarnished, so they've picked up the word 'progressive'. Isn't history fun?
Finally, two of my favorite progressive and liberal follies concern Penn Station in New York and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Both classic buildings had to be destroyed in order to make way for a fabulously scrumtrulescent future courtesy of a coterie of violent brilliant intellectuals. In New York, Penn Station was replaced with Madison Square Garden, which, needless to say, was a significant step down from the old building. As has been observed since, "We used to enter the city like kings, now we scurry like rats." The Cathedral of Christ the Savior was destroyed to make way for a fantabulous monument to socialism called, "The Palace of the Soviets." Let me quote from the wikipedia page:
"On 5 December 1931, by order of Stalin's minister Kaganovich, the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was dynamited and reduced to rubble. It took more than a year to clear the debris from the site. The original marble high reliefs were preserved and are now on display at the Donskoy Monastery (see the photo). For a long time, they were the only reminder of the largest Orthodox church ever built."
"The construction of the Palace of Soviets was interrupted owing to a lack of funds, problems with flooding from the nearby Moskva River, and the outbreak of war. The flooded foundation hole remained on the site until, under Nikita Khrushchev, it was transformed into the world's largest open air swimming pool, it was called the Moskva Pool."
So there's a prog/lib/dem pattern here, lots of fabulous promises followed by all-too-real destruction and little follow-through. The same thing is happening in the City by the Bay. All kinds of obviously stupid things are done for all kinds of supposedly enlightened reasons that are intended to deliver all kinds of benefits. I argued against these idiotic policies for decades, but I'm willing to admit I was wrong. The destruction that resulted was far worse then I envisioned and worse than most people could imagine. I feel bad that in my previous post I wrote, "You should be ashamed." Most people in SF are the victims of generations of stupid, incompetent, and mendacious SF politicians who drove away the people who really cared about the city. These people, like Chris Daly, must be fought, though it's difficult to see how. Nationally the Tea Party is taking on prob/lib/dem politicians who would destroy the country. Hopefully the movement will reach the City by the Bay.
You are correct, Corey. When the people who run a city try to remake every single aspect of that city, down to the minutiae, into something that reflects their left-wing liberalism, then destruction, decay, and failure are inevitable.
At least productive people are free to leave San Francisco. And eventually, when even the liberals get sick of the place, the bums are all that's left (except for people rich enough to remain in their gated enclaves).
The "travelers" want to stay drugged and high, and have squandered the chances for productive life that society offered them from childhood. Their life expectancy has been self-lowered and giving them what they want will lower it even more. Libertarians would legalize drugs and speed this process, saving some of the expense being incurred today. An alternative would be hourly tear gas treatments in the affected streets. Tourists might come back after a while.
Alright, yesterday was about being sad; today is about thinking. The hard thing to realize is that some of our neighbors seek to destroy our society, and these people are called liberals, progressives, and Democrats. I commend to you _Destructive Generation_ by Collier and Horowitz, and you'll realize that this has been going on for generations. The Progs, and we all remember little darlings like Tom Hayden, are basically parasites on and enemies of honest and hardworking people. Let me be clear, they in contrast are dishonest and lazy. They can't compete straight up, so they lie, and it is hard for regular people to conceive of this level of dishonesty, deception, and mendacity. Today's homeless are like the Black Panthers of the '60s, weapons set lose by the Progs to do their bidding. Read about the murder of prog lawyer Fay Stender in Collier and Horrowitz or here (http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=22186). As long as the Panthers were killing middle class people, the progs had no problem with it. As soon as Fay was killed, something had to be done. A few years ago some kids from Yale sang at a news years eve party and were attacked by jealous, untalented locals when they left. Again nobody cared. San Francisco is awful, and it is made intentionally so by its so called leaders. You should be ashamed.
What a sewer this city has become. Used to live not far from there, now I would never go back. Must be liberal progressive, I live in a fantasy world land.
Take from those that have a real life, job and standards to subsidize the addicted, perverted, lazy and parasitic. Many in the "leadership" of this cesspool want to continue this cycle of destruction. When S.F. has run out enough honest people, business owners, taxpayers and normal people, maybe they can beg, whine, snivel and demand the rest of the state pays for them. Oh wait, California is going belly up financially too. Better hit the Feds up.
I moved to S.F. in the early 60's, enjoying as a teen the great city by the Bay. Later I lived for years in Seattle, another great geographic city. Both places have been corrupted and overrun by homeless populations and the ever-present advocacy groups whose main advocacy seems to be the enabling of addiction, disease, physical and mental and crime among the population they supposedly serve. Add to this the economic disasters of "fair" housing and rent controls and you get what you see. And the homeless population, despite all the advocacy and money and tolerance just grows and grows and the situation gets worse and worse.....what happens to all that money? eh?
I remember Beat Officers walking Haight St. sidewalks in 1968, in a row five across. They interogated any young person in hippie garb. No ID? Off to jail.
Only in the Land of Fruits and Nuts (aka California) would this even be an issue. In virtually every other city, they'd just throw these clowns into jail for a few days for vagrancy and then toss them out of town. But in San Francisco, they have to actually vote on this in a referendum. No wonder CA is in the shape it's in. Unbelievable ...
Brilliant, brilliant article. I'm a former San Franciscan who hates progressives and progressivism simply because they have killed everything I loved. I remember going to City Hall as a kindergarten kid in the 60s -- a beautiful day and a beautiful building in the most beautiful city in the world. When I left City Hall has been taken over by, "the homeless," and things haven't gotten any better. I have fond memories of arguing against homeless politics and being mindlessly tongue lashed by these gentle people for my trouble. For the life of me I cannot figure out the liberal, progressive mind. How can Chris Daly look at himself in the mirror? How can this be happening? How can these people be so willfully stupid, so aggressive, so destructive? Maybe that's the key -- progressivism is a way for stupid people to achieve political power. I don't know... it's all so tragic.
Glad I read this. I was hoping to visit San Francisco soon as I've heard it is beautiful, but not after reading this.
As ye sew so shall ye reap, says the good book. We sewed some bitter seed in the 60s and this is the harvest.
Let us NEVER forget that these little darlings are the grandchildren of 'the love generation.'
Maybe if Nancy Pelosi can talk to them they'll behave themselves.
God help us, God have mercy on us.
I took my family to San Francisco and it was not enjoyable. the vagrants, the smell of urine and feces and the need to step over bad smelling people and around obvious drunks made the visit unpleasant most of the time. Yes it is a beautiful city - but only at a distance. Up close - it is a frightening place.
If you feed rats,you get more rats
The same is true of Portland, Oregon - our sidewalks are also held hostage by road warriors and their attendant pit bulls.
A micro version of what's wrong with public schools, where parents are the advocates for students to disrupt or do nothing and where, when a teacher comes along and tries to maintain discipline, she is overruled by administrators. (Special ed supervisors are infamous for this.) They also think the "feet on the street" will work ("They need to see your face in the halls") when it only makes the teachers look more helpless, as there is nothing they can do when the kids refuse their instruction. The school board acts as the court and "throws out" any rules that manage to be enforced, again, backed by advocates who are mostly parents, but sometimes special ed advocates or even other teachers.
Finally, just as an effective mayor may not het reelected, an effective teacher will be fired, unless she has tenure. I know because it happened to me.
What a wonderful article. As usual Ms. MacDonald nails it. This deserves a lot of exposure in papers across the country.
You reap what you sow SF. These bums are in your city because they are of the same mindset & they want to be amongst others who think the way they do.
Sorry, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for you.
I am a liberal, a native San Franciscan, and a believer that people should live how they want, and people should have access to social services to help them get better, but San Francisco has put up with the homeless problem for too long.
I do not understand the need to consistently fight for these people's rights to harass people on the street and scare them from neighborhoods. I deal with this on a daily basis and I'm sick of it. It doesn't matter if it's the young kids in the Haight or the drunk guy in the Tenderloin. Why should my tax dollars go to someone who could care less about what I'm attempting to give them through these social programs that are clearly not working.
Ms. Usher said something along the lines of the homeless being a "small" population of people in the city. They may be small, but they are the most loud, violent, disgusting, polluting people the city has to offer, and they seem to place themselves in the post populated areas.
This is about civility, not about hating these people for their lifestyle or taking away social services. This is about cleaning up our streets!
nick: Grace Cathedral is an Episcopal Church.
YEAH! More power to the vagrants! I am so tired of this garbage. You wanted it you got it and I want you to get more and more, until you finally wise up and start thinking.
God bless you for all your work on this central issue at this stage of our deterioration. When real leadership left the City in the 1960s and early 1970s, the cultural and financial capital of the Western United States went into a secular decline from which it has not recovered. We are becoming Venice, a dead city living on past glory and lingering physical beauty. Once the word gets out internationally that SF is dangerous, our main source of revenue feeding this narcissistic habit will drift away. So sad.
I absolutely agree that the sit and lie ordinance should pass, no civilized person should be sitting in the middle of the sidewalk all day long. Sidewalks are for walking, to have access to stores, cafes, etc ,etc . Everyone has the right to feel safe on the street.
And now for something completely different.
"Under current policies, an officer can ask someone sprawled across a sidewalk to move only if he observes a pedestrian being substantially obstructed and if that pedestrian will sign a complaint and testify in court against the sidewalk sprawler."
If I'm not mistaken, that policy was first promulgated by Supervisor Monty Python.
Excellent article, but it seems that almost every local political issue gets translated and reduced to "growth" v. "no-growth." However, the arguments to support peaceful and civilized street behavior can also be used against, to at least entertainingly infuriate, many progressives and liberals--so often enveloped in their strange cloud of cynical Utopianism--by reciting back to them one of their own major arguments. Liberal or progressive environmentalists who often call for "environmental sustainability" need to be asked: How exactly is sustainability compatible with civic rot?
Having always loved San Francisco, about a decade ago I took the Tony Bennett tune a little too seriously. Long story short, every six months or so when I'm leaving "The City," after visiting my transplant cardiologist, I drive down Van Ness and find the predictable panhandlers staked out along the way, holding up various placards, sauntering between vehicles, beseeching the now captive audience that is stopped, rolling up their windows, behind the final couple of red traffic signals before the on-ramp to the freeway that heads out across the Bay Bridge. These must obviously be very limited choice spots along this heavily trafficked area that often seems to be held by the same scattered band of regulars, which points to there being some sort of hierarchy among the panhandlers, although one would suspect not so one much based on high sterling merit.
As four decades of open-border demographics, white flight and a class-warfare mentality continue to work there inexorable way through California, and the rest of the nation, we will never return to those early days dominated by unashamed European Americans (with the important contributions of others) who had the fire in their bellies to build our cities and continue to rebuild them newer and better. Government was often thought to be a civic responsibility, rather than a deranged PC carnival of the damned.
In fact, in some ways, the geographic limits of San Francisco's growth has actually done it a favor, in at least somewhat holding back the hordes. As in Santa Barbara, where you have the Pacific on one side and a mountain range on the other, breathtakingly beautiful natural areas of such limited geography drives living costs up. (Less limiting to panhandling "travelers" of course, particularly with the mild winters.) Under those conditions, simply calling for "more growth" can easily become something of a shell game used by developers to shove through the next big project, regardless of its positive or negative impacts on the beleaguered working and middle classes.
Many Americans today probably would not choose to live in San Francisco, partly for its street problems. But then here is always Los Angeles. Los Angeles has seen plenty of "growth," and of course that is probably the chief reason why L.A. today is such law-abiding economic and environmental Shangri-La. And that's not to dwell on its city government, California's shining budget-balancing crown jewel of tippy-top civic-mindedness.
Not that there isn't hope. Maybe as all these problems worsen, along with the white flight that has been heading out of California for decades, as the demographics and norms of the state and nation become more Third World at the bottom and PC at the top, the street dysfunctions will become so intolerable that there will be some sort of combined police, military or paramilitary crackdown, as is being tried today in regions of (the wonderfully high-growth) Mexico and Brazil.
In any case, it is ironic that San Francisco and Los Angeles have long been known as illegal-alien "sanctuary cities," when almost no law-abiding average American citizen in their right mind would ever dream of seeking sanctuary there. Supervisor Monty Python, take a bow. Or, if you prefer, just sprawl along the sidewalk.
- - - -
Border Enforcement + Immigration Moratorium = Job, Crime and Eco Sanity.
Homelessness and vagrancy was a problem when I lived in SF just as it is a problem elsewhere in the country.
Los Angeles and the neighboring cities have large camps of homeless beggars. It's the weather; there are few vagrants in Milwaukee.
I feel sorry for them because they cannot gain the tools to become socialized; even with the tools many cannot find jobs. Entry level jobs have young people competing with hispanic and asian workers at below subsistence wages. It's more profitable to panhandle than to work as a laborer. This is where the wage arbitrage rubber meets the road.
Ignoring job availability has the author misstating the problem. First of all there are no easy solutions and pushing people off one street puts them on other streets. Putting vagrants in jail is expensive and does not give the people tools needed to socialize.
If the establishment was interested in solving the problem it would establish work programs that included social skills training. In this sense people in the Great Depression were lucky as the Roosevelt administration gave dispossessed CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp) jobs. These took of people out of dead- end situations and demonstrated the value of creative work. For most this was their first job of any kind. Participants learned skills and discipline. The work itself was healthy, outdoor work to serve public purposes, rather than the sorts of dead- end 'Greeter' jobs that are available now. These jobs are given to retirees: the young are competing for jobs with their grandparents.
The establishment is quick to call for people to go to work without providing universal employment and the means to make employment succeed: this is cynical and self- defeating. Every one of these young people represents a small part of aggregate demand, the economic factor that has disappeared across the sea to China and Vietnam where it has shrunk to insignificance. Too bad we cannot see fit to harness this resource but can only castigate it instead.
A former vagrant/hobo
San Francisco A daring experiment in governance by hipster douchebags.
Ms MacDonald has done a great disservice to San Fran. Just another righteous breast beating rant. Excluding tourists and business flyins the permanent residents deserve better.
Reminds me of a story of how fleas abandon its dying host, in this case, the people who don't give a crap should leave. Negativity begets negativity.
Maybe the only solution is another major earthquake and fire that destroyed it before?
San Fran being a bay city was meant to be a little risque.
Like the immigrants that abandon their counties of birth instead of making it a better place to live in. Could this eventually happen here too?I Guess its easier to whine and complain then to take more interest in your neighborhood's government. That is where where all DA things start. When you try to make a place for only the elite the bleeding hearts step in and take over.
By the way, I can point out many parts and outskirts of this beautiful city w/o being hassled. No.1 rule, don't rent a-car. PT is great even to Oakland etc.
I was there recently on business...had a bit of time, so tried to walk over two blocks to Union Square from my hotel...ended up going back afer a block due to folks accosting me asking for money, and not taking a negative answer...City lost my money that day.
It's very telling that Supervisor Chris Daly moved his wife and children to Fairfield, a bedroom community, to protect them from the damage of his own policies.
" "All snide cynicism aside, homelessness is not an industry."
No one on this thread has made such a claim. However, righteously collecting government money year after year to "fight homelessness" is indeed a lucrative industry."
Uh, what do you call references to the "homeless-industrial complex," the "homeless industry," and "Homeless, INC." such as were made by Ms. MacDonald. Granted, they are not a part of the "thread." But that is pretty weak at best.
" "And those who try to help are homeless advocates[,] not 'homelessness' advocates."
Or "homelessness pimps." The term "homeless" is highly misleading. It naively implies that the only thing the street people lack is a place to live. But if you gave them all apartments, a third of them would jump out the windows to escape the Martians, a third would rip out everything that could be sold for drug money, and the rest would trash the places and then return to blocking the sidewalk and accosting passers-by."
If someone is living on the streets, for whatever reason, then they are HOMELESS. The same is true if the are living in a shelter, or in their car. The reason is irrelevant to the fact that they are homeless. And while it is true that a portion of those who are homeless are mentally ill, are drug addicted, and yes, in some rare cases prefer the streets, the majority of people who are homeless welcome the chance to get shelter. Your remarks are not remotely supportable by evidence or fact.
" "Housing really is too expensive for many people, particularly in San Francisco!"
Do you really think the street people looked for housing in San Francisco but to their horror discovered it to be too expensive?"
The street people represent a small minority of the homeless in San Francisco.
" "Millions of homes are currently being foreclosed[,] and the number of homeless will only grow."
The foreclosure mess was caused largely by government incompetence and corruption. Foreclosures are utterly irrelevant to the problem of street people."
If you are talking about the small number of young people such as those who hang out in the Haight, yes, foreclosures are not that relevant. I would not rule out some winding up in that lifestyle when their parents lose their homes, so I will disagree that it is utterly irrelevant, if only to just show how some overlook various factors.
" "By choosing to focus on a few 'bad seeds' in the Haight, you have lumped all the homeless into one category of lazy troublemakers."
Contrary to p.c. myth, virtually all the street people in this country are (1) paranoid schizophrenics unable to function in society, (2) alcoholics/drug addicts, or, yes, (3) lazy troublemakers. A negligible percentage are normal people who have simply hit hard economic times. And nobody begrudges help to those few."
Contrary to extremist right wing myth, the people who live on the streets often started out as though hit by hard economic times. They did not wake up one morning and say, "Hey, I don't feel like going to work...I will simply pack up, and move to the streets as I suddenly feel like either being schizophrenic or becoming a drug and alcohol addict. Gee, I think I will flip a coin to decide. No, it happens over time. And they wind up that way because society turns it back on them.
" "This is dangerous. Those who break the law, who harass or have vicious dogs, should be arrested."
Sounds good, but in San Francisco, arresting such people is an exercise in futility, as the article points out."
Now, talk about myths....while there is some truth in that, it is largely because the CONSERVATIVE mayor of San Francisco has used the homeless as a political football. He refuses to pressure the DA to do her job, he refuses to pressure the police to arrest people breaking the law, and he refuses to deal with the problem other than to propose worthless propositions to turn out people who hate the homeless."
" "The others have a [G]od-given right to travel the world and live in the streets if they so choose."
They are certainly at liberty to travel, though very few countries would allow them entry. But a "right" to live in the streets? A "right" to wallow in their own vomit and feces? A "right" to prevent the other 99.9% from going about their business? A "right" to clog the sidewalks and harass people? A "right" to set up living quarters in the rest rooms of a public library? A "right" to spend their lives as parasites? I don't think so."
If they have no where else to stay, yes they have a right to live in the streets. And if someone actually wants to wallow in feces and vomit, then I would say that they are in need of serious mental health treatment. But few such people exist. That is a simply classic right wing hyperbole and is not worth mentioning beyond that. The fact is, other than possibly being unpleasant to look at, the homeless have little direct effect on 99.9% of anyone. Granted, for some, having to see "those sort of people" seems a bit too, too much. Again, the stuff about public library restrooms? Hyperbole. And parasites? These people get no more from the public than any other human being. They may get food stamps, but anyone below a certain income level does.
" "This is America, not Singapore."
I love America and would rather live here than anywhere else, but if I were forced to choose between San Francisco and Singapore, I would take Singapore without any hesitation."
And those of us who live in, and love, San Francisco thank God for that.
Oh, and regarding Chris Daly's comment about Sit/Lie being a wedge issue to turn out conservative voters, there is ample evidence, including the funding sources for the campaign, and the fact that this is a common practice in San Francisco. Every city election seems to include such a proposition. Care Not Cash, Aggressive Panhandling, and the Community Justice Center are past examples.
Ms. MacDonald claims that sit/lie is not motivated by hatred. From that I can only assume she has not read the usual comments that appear every time the subject of homelessness comes up in the San Francisco Chronicle.
When they do, they inevitably include numerous comments that call for violence, up to and including murder, against the homeless. One commenter uses "Totenkopf" as his ID. For those who don't know, Totenkopf is the German word for "Death's Head" and specifically refers to the insignia of the SS. Another commenter, who got quite a few thumbs up, suggested that we needed someone like Hitler to deal with the problem. Now, I hate it when someone invokes Nazi to oppose anything. I believe in Godwin's Law, but it is really scary when the people commenting actually seem to be following the very path that led to the Holocaust.
Yes, there are problems here in San Francisco. But the solution is not another silly law aimed at "punishing" the homeless. We have an alternative on the same ballot. It calls for Foot Patrols, and if it gets more votes than sit/lie, would negate that law. But, it would also insure that there are actually police on the streets enforcing the laws already on the books. That, along with a new DA, a new mayor, and people demanding an end to using the homeless as a political football, will go a lot further than the hatred that is Ms. MacDonald's stock in trade.
MacDonald got it right on our city. The political gridlock preventing positive change is a result of district elections, which empowers a "progressive" minority to prevail on quality-of-life issues, though Mayor Newsom has has some success on homelessness with Care Not Cash, Homeward Bound (bus ticket out of town), and supportive housing.
When voters citywide get a chance to vote on an issue, the results are sensible: they reject the progressive attempt to legalize prostitution, the attempt to eject JROTC from public schools, and reject the scary idea of allowing our city government to take over the power system.
But progressives support anti-Americanism, insist that graffiti/tagging vandalism is art, that prostitutes are just "sex workers," and created Critical Mass, the monthly orgy of self-indulgence by the city's cyclists, who are now redesigning city streets to make it as difficult and expensive to drive in the city, thus further damaging our tourist economy and slowing down our bus system.
Truly, the inmates are running the asylum here. Many of us hope that November will mean the beginning of the end of this madness.
Having lived in San Francisco for years (Hayes Valley), I have seen this problem first hand. It breaks my heart to see such a beloved city with so much potential going down the tubes. These Haight hobos are just a modern version of 'deadheads' and are merely a symptom of the problem created by San Francisco's lax policies. These types have always been around and will always hang out where they're tolerated - the only difference now is that hopefully people are starting to get fed up. This article does a good job of showing what a joke the city council is and that they have too much power - Newsom's been fighting their idiocy for years to no avail. But the courts are a huge part of the problem. Not much incentive for the police to do anything, even if empowered, if they know the DA won't prosecute or judges won't rule against this behaviour. The voting public should pay closer attention to candidates in this arena, although the pickings are pretty slim, both there and in city council elections. No one ever seems willing to stand up and fight the status quo. Even if this law is passed, allowing police to just write tickets to these kids with no address seems futile. San Francisco police have a reputation for being apathetic, but relegating them to glorifed social workers must make them pretty hopeless/helpless.
"All snide cynicism aside, homelessness is not an industry."
No one on this thread has made such a claim. However, righteously collecting government money year after year to "fight homelessness" is indeed a lucrative industry.
"And those who try to help are homeless advocates[,] not 'homelessness' advocates."
Or "homelessness pimps." The term "homeless" is highly misleading. It naively implies that the only thing the street people lack is a place to live. But if you gave them all apartments, a third of them would jump out the windows to escape the Martians, a third would rip out everything that could be sold for drug money, and the rest would trash the places and then return to blocking the sidewalk and accosting passers-by.
"Housing really is too expensive for many people, particularly in San Francisco!"
Do you really think the street people looked for housing in San Francisco but to their horror discovered it to be too expensive?
"Millions of homes are currently being foreclosed[,] and the number of homeless will only grow."
The foreclosure mess was caused largely by government incompetence and corruption. Foreclosures are utterly irrelevant to the problem of street people.
"By choosing to focus on a few 'bad seeds' in the Haight, you have lumped all the homeless into one category of lazy troublemakers."
Contrary to p.c. myth, virtually all the street people in this country are (1) paranoid schizophrenics unable to function in society, (2) alcoholics/drug addicts, or, yes, (3) lazy troublemakers. A negligible percentage are normal people who have simply hit hard economic times. And nobody begrudges help to those few.
"This is dangerous. Those who break the law, who harass or have vicious dogs, should be arrested."
Sounds good, but in San Francisco, arresting such people is an exercise in futility, as the article points out.
"The others have a [G]od-given right to travel the world and live in the streets if they so choose."
They are certainly at liberty to travel, though very few countries would allow them entry. But a "right" to live in the streets? A "right" to wallow in their own vomit and feces? A "right" to prevent the other 99.9% from going about their business? A "right" to clog the sidewalks and harass people? A "right" to set up living quarters in the rest rooms of a public library? A "right" to spend their lives as parasites? I don't think so.
"This is America, not Singapore."
I love America and would rather live here than anywhere else, but if I were forced to choose between San Francisco and Singapore, I would take Singapore without any hesitation.
All snide cynicism aside, homelessness is not an industry. And those who try to help are homeless advocates not "homelessness" advocates. Housing really is too expensive for many people, particularly in San Francisco! Millions of homes are currently being foreclosed and the number of homeless will only grow. By choosing to focus on a few "bad seeds" in the Haight, you have lumped all the homeless into one category of lazy troublemakers. This is dangerous. Those who break the law, who harass or have vicious dogs, should be arrested. The others have a god-given right to travel the world and live in the streets if they so choose. This is America, not Singapore.
Of the many cities I've visited in Asia, Europe, the US and Australia SF ranks second only to Shanghai for the amount of street hassle. Even then in Shanghai the hassle comes from street peddlers trying to make a living, not begging.
We visited in early spring so we must have missed out on the Haight st problems because of the cold. As a result it was a delight to visit.
However around the cable car area things were not so pleasant. Spending a night in a nearby hotel meant putting up all night with loud street arguments and constant sirens from firetrucks( I always wondered what they were up to, now I know). Earplugs did not help.
A great article and I hope you citizens see how badly these street people are junking your city. Support these new laws and support the police.
Some of the streets of downtown Vancouver are similar to those of Haight-Ashbury: big groups of up to 10 healthy, fit, tattooed and multi-pierced young people, nearly always white, taking up massive swaths of sidewalk with their large, dangerous dogs, backpacks, bedding, camp chairs and God only knows what else. Marijuana is openly used all hours of the day and night; the air around them reeks of it. They aren't street musicians, they don't make or sell anything and they don't panhandle aggressively, only because new city bylaws passed in the last decade prohibit it; before those laws it really was getting out of control. Like the gutter-punks mentioned in this article they are full of a sense of entitlement to the streets and the city's public spaces and they are fully enabled in their lifestyle choice by a veritable army of well-meaning professional do-gooders both public and private, right down to the SPCA which ensures that they can keep their fashion-accessory dogs fed and healthy. More laws are not needed; it's the misguided kindness that has to end.
I always appreciate Heather MacDonald's insight and analysis into civic and societal issues.
This is an eye-opening piece that should disturb any rational person, when considering the tremendous loss of public moneys (Welfare, Food Stamps, police and fire resources, lowered real estate values, loss of tourist dollars, etc.)
Even more tragic is the loss of a generation of young people, who will no doubt be wards of the State for the rest of their lives.
Progressive liberalism justifies and empowers this behavior, and allows this condition to continue. For shame!
Robert J. Thorpe, author of “Reclaim Liberty: 3-Step Plan for Restoring our Constitutional Government”
www.reclaimliberty.us, www.Amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com, “Laus Deo”
Another fabulous piece by Mac Donald.
As is always the case, the main goal of organized liberal, progressive, "do gooder" groups is filling their coffers with tax dollars so those who rum them can keep their personal bank accounts flush.
In regard to the liberal mindset that defends this nonsense on the streets, (without profit in mind) the idiocy of their "logic" is utterly mind boggling. It's truly amazing that these people are allowed to exist & function in a so called sane & civilized society
Mitchell, the state over the individual is not the correct formula. It's the majority of individuals who work, over the small minority who not only need, but shove it in everyone else's face, holding their inabilities against everyone else's capabilities. If that makes sane, normal, working people fascists, then who cares about that term any more.
Your argument is, though, the same argument that says liberal democracy is intrinsically fascist. That is the weak form of cultural theory that gives the rest of it a bad name. Yes, anyone can make this kind of argument - as you do. But is it true?
If it is, then who cares.
But it's not. Though this probably doesn't matter to you. These street punk kids deserve all the scorn that Ms. MacDonald heaps on them. I hope we can hear much more of this kind of thing in the coming years - it reflects a return of meaningful defense of civil society to political discourse.
My son lives in SF. A few years ago he ran for supervisor from the Haight-Ashbury district on a conservative, pro-business platform.
We kid him that he got every registered Rupublican voter in the Haight. In other words, he came in last.
Birds of a feather... stupid liberals flock to live in SF because that's where a lot of other stupid liberals live already. People with real jobs, normal families, and no drug/alcohol problems live elsewhere. Big employers also fled given the high taxes. Chevron, Southern Pacific, Chevron, Pacific Bell - all have moved out or have been absorbed by other companies and their SF staffs eliminated or reduced.
During the dot.com boom, SF did enjoy a moment but as a bedroom community for people working in Silicon Valley.
Note that during Barbara Boxer's rise, her first office after Marin County supervisor was a Congressional district made just for her. It included the "Old Money" parts of Marin and the worst slums in San Francisco, heavy with public housing residents.
In summary, don't expect San Francisco to clean itself up anytime soon. The machinery is in place to prevent that.
Awwww, I'm sorry Renfield. Did my big words confuse you. You are advocating policies that put the needs of the state over the needs of the individual. You are a fascist. Sorry if you don't like it...
San Francisco has always been my favorite city in the USA. I used to enjoy jogging from Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge. The scenic views are marvelous. However, neither my wife nor I have set foot in San Francisco for over 15 years. From what I read above, the problems that existed 15 years ago, street people (along with the city's politics) have only gotten worse.
My wife and I are only two people but I am sure we are not the only people who are avoiding SFO, save perhaps to change planes.
Business travel also used to take me to New York City, specifically Manhattan. After a long time overseas, I went to NYC and remarked to my wife it was just like I remembered, one wacko per square yard. But then, during about 8 quarterly trips to NYC, I saw the effects of Mayor Guliani's enforcement of the "small stuff". The Broadway, off Broadway, 42nd Street, etc. all were clean and safe and free of squeegee boys, panhandlers, drunks and whatnot. A pleasure to visit (and spend money). SFO could learn much from NYC's experience.
Wow! I bow before a true master of biting sarcasm and intellectual dissection of the "progressives" that rule the day. I wish we could clone Heather and use her to build a new class of political leaders.
I have gone to SF on business for the last 20 years. I can't tell you how often I have seen articles in the Chronicle about aggessive homelessness and how unpleasant it has become for the people who live in the Bay area.
Next time I go up to S.F. it is the same thing.
I am at the point where I go up, do my business, spend as little time as possible, and get out. I think I bought lunch at a cafe last time, before going back to the airport.
SF is a one-horse town politically, and they get the government, and city, they deserve.
"I'm a liberal, and if I can overcome the stupid attitude that tolerates this crap, perhaps there is hope."
Cf. Rudy Giuliani, who managed to persuade even New York City liberals that squeegee men didn't have a Constitutional right to smear people's windshields with greasy rags.
San Francisco's policies epitomize the tunnelvision of the most liberal left policies. These same policies have attracted vagrants for years. But now the vagrants are not harmless hippies, but often violent offenders with swaths of offenses. This is a trip into anarchy and while the leftists embrace it as freedom what it really amounts to is allowing people to indulge their animalistic whims in a descent into savagery. And then they want us to come there to live or as tourists? I don't think so.
Thank you for working hard on a journalistic piece...I visited S.F. for the 1st time yesterday...ended up at bottom of Powell st. and walked up the top of the hill for a business meeting at the Univ. Club.....and experienced 1st hand what goes on down there...I was in shock...and ashamed for the residents of S.F. for creating this culture...I figured this "way of life" was normal & acceptable when I walked in to Grace Chapel and saw the U.N. Logo inside the Catholic Church while about 60 people practiced yoga and mocking catholic congregates...the UN logo/mural in the catholic church was all I needed to see to understand the mindset of the neighborhood...you're article gives me hope that somebody still cares enough to address the issue.
Good article. San Francisco is one of my all time favorite cities to visit for vacation. Our last visit was in last 2009, and I don't know which was worse - seeing corporate America expanding into neighborhoods like the Haight, which were once ruled by local and tourist oriented small business - or the adverse impacts of the street bums. The change from my prior visit in 04 was astounding - we won't be staying as long in the future, as there are many places we're just going to avoid. Great summary of the progressives self serving agenda, but more so a microcosm of what is starting to pull America to the ground: no need to work - free food, medical, shelter, etc.; selfishness - not having to contribute to society, family or community; unrealistic and unsustainable funding of social programs that do more to line the pockets of "activists" who just want a salary; destruction of the urban and natural environment; anti-business, including those that address the urgent needs of the community (food, services, etc.) not just tourism; and more...
Nothing is too obnoxious for the city that inflicts Nancy Pelosi on the rest of us. The problem is not the sidewalk punks its the electorate of San Francisco. Maybe the tourist industry hasnt collapsed but I know a lot of people who used to enjoy a weekend in 'The City' but who avoid it now because of the street people and the generally filthy condition of the streets. This is the logical result of progressivism. SFers need higher taxes and more money spent on drunken bullies. That's what people like that deserve.
GREAT ARTICLE, GREAT REPORTING!
As a 6 year resident of the Haight/Ashbury who considers himself to be fairly liberal, I am nonetheless appalled that I live in a city wherein so many able-bodied, young, English speaking White kids get direct access to cash, food, housing, job training, mental health and drug abuse services, without being expected to prove that they have a reasonable goal and that they are measurably working towards it. It is a slap in the face to those who are genuinely homeless due to economic circumstances or mental illness. I, a strong 30 something male am often reluctant to walk down my own street (Haight) because I dread being asked for money 3 times in one block; I have been punched in the face and called a fag because I refused to give a street girl some money. Those on the BoS who live in tidy neighborhoods are more than welcome to stay with me for a week and be forced to navigate the land mine of dog shit, trash and cracked out "travelers" that infest my neighborhood. And since when did "business" become a dirty word? Am I hearing it right that there are actually people "in charge" who would rather cater to vagrants who have stated that they do not intend to contribute in any positive way to our community, instead of supporting those who are actively doing so??? It's pretty disheartening stuff.
I haven't been to SF in years. Last time I went a homeless bum spat on my son on our way to the theater. I not only don't take the family up there anymore, I avoid doing business there whenever I can.
Thank you for this awesome article. I hope this becomes more of an issue. I live and work downtown in Chicago, and don't understand why the constellation of potential dangerous indigents can't be dealt with. Whenever I try to raise this issue, I get the usual PC reactions. I'm a liberal, and if I can overcome the stupid attitude that tolerates this crap, perhaps there is hope.
Apologies to everyone named Charlie Mason, I meant ofcourse Charlie Manson and his brood of equally smelly, dirty, over indulged youth, whose legacy is cemeted in horror. Everyone of those kids has the potential of becoming another body in the coroners freezer or another homicidal maniac. I doubt that anything liberals in SF are doing will ever result in these people ever becoming productive or socialized.
As the poet once said, "you have to be cruel to be kind". Start splitting some skulls and very soon the problem will disappear. San Francisco needs to understand they better get their act together because the rest of us are tired of footing the bill. For the city that gave the world hippies and Charlie Mason, sympathy is no longer available.
Just let the Haight die.
Triumph of the left.
I have a relative that lives in SF and have seen the decline in the city over the last 15 years. I think this article is exactly on point. SF makes me sad to go there now, and I would NEVER visit as just a tourist. I agree with the posting that describes the city in a death spiral.
However, as to the comment that liberal elites don't get it...I really disagree with that. I knew Campos at school, for example. He often took moderate, well reasoned positions in debates...sometimes even conservative ones. He's not an unreasonable person by nature. To win elections, though, he's had to take extreme positions I don't think he really deep down believes. It's why we get a certain type of politician...you have to be someone willing to do this....I won't use the offensive term for them.
Ultimately, it's our own fault...not the politicians. We reep what we sow. It's the me-first, victim culture that perpetuates this, has brought the country to its knees, and has led this once beautiful city into a death spiral.
I am taking my family to San Francisco for a thanksgiving vacation. My teenage daughter is looking forward to shopping at the vintage clothing stores in teh Haight. We are staying two blocks from the Powell Cable Car starting point.
We were looking forward to spending time in Golden State Park.
This article should be part of Foder's Guide to San Francisco.
They now have exactly what they have brought upon themselves through their own blind benevolence. You gotta love the Left. They are nice, caring people, however, in their glorious ignorance and ineptitude, they simply circumvent the success of any of their utopian ideas. What they ultimately bring about is worse than if they had simply stayed on campus or at home.
I used to love the city. I live in Central CA and am a life-long Giants fan. I have watched the city doing its best to become Amsterdam over the last 30 years.
I took my family to see Wicked in January of this year. I noticed a ton of vacancies on Market St. I am sure part of that is caused by the recession but I can't see a retailer opening shop there unless the rent was bottom dollar.
Chicago is now my favorite city. I travel there at least once a year and took my family last time. The resturaunts are incredible and my wife and I both felt that it was best described as "San Francisco without the problems and whaco politcs". Hope the city changes course before it becomes Amsterdam.
"This is America, and PUBLIC space belongs to ALL of us"
Not in San Francisco, Mitchell. It belongs solely to whatever deranged, filthy, hostile, freakish parasite wants to set up shop on it and spend the day irritating and accosting everybody in range. Streets, restrooms, libraries, parks, sidewalks, and benches do NOT belong to all of us. They belong to the parasites and to the parasites only.
And you write worse than I would expect one of the street people to write. Except for your second and third sentences, it's one disconnected thought after the next. The new American Right. Iran. Proto-fascism.
Incidentally, Mitchell, if you don't think the current situation is just peachy, what's your solution? Don't tell me. Let me guess. More government money for social services?
Thank you for this thoughtful article, that should, but would never be allowed in the Chronicle. I love The City, but will not visit again if changes are not made to return the rule of law for true civility. The topography of San Francisco is beautiful; willful ignorance is not.
When Herb Caen coined the term Baghdad-by-the-Bay to describe San Francisco, he was not trying to describe the future of the City. My native San Francisco is now a bombed out (in every sense of the word) relic of itself. The people of Ess Eff have chosen their path, which is to chase large employers out and hope that tourist dollars can make up the difference. They probably don't miss the money that I don't spend there, but I make every effort to avoid the City on my frequent trips to the Bay Area to visit family & friends. Even my beloved 49ers have found it impossible to work with the dolts in City Hall and are moving to another city...
Well-done, well-researched complete report on the SF situation. As a sometimes visitor to the City going back to the late 1960s, I have noticed all those changes and have been saddened that a city with so much potential fails to do the basic job of making visitors, and residents, feel safe.
Wow, the teabagger nuts sure found this article quickly. People aren't 'animals', 'dirt', 'detritus' or 'monsters'. They are PEOPLE. I especially love the calls for murder by lacing sandwiches with arsenic. The new American Right is nothing but religious fundamentalist proto-fascism. Move to Iran if you want to live in a theocracy. This is America, and PUBLIC space belongs to ALL of us (whether you like 'us' or not).
And we wonder why America is going to hell? Progressives lost all their brain cells from drug use.
Congrats, Babe. You just won the Cognitive Dissonance of 2010 Award. (Or, as we say here in Cali, "My karma got run over by my dogma.") You could have just reprinted the Greatest Hits of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. You're worried about a bunch of boosh-wah merchants? Really? What you're really on about is the disappearance of "expense account tourism," where someone like me flies into SF for a few days, drops a C note at Joe's on Union Square, $500 bucks a night at the Ritz, and walks over/around the travellers, because after all we're leaving on Friday. The TOT and other taxes from that enables all the stuff you're complaining about. BTW, you forgot to mention the popular ATM shakedown. Bank of Opportunity, c'est ne pas?
What a wonderful article. I think it could be applied to many many different issues across the nation. No matter what the issue or the problems it's causing, there is someone out there with a vested financial/political interest in seeing that it doesn't go away.
I used to love visiting San Francisco although I haven't been there in several years, but after reading this article I won't be visiting any time soon. In fact, I'm saving this article to send to any friends who tell me they're planning a trip. Best of luck.
Another superb article by Heather MacDonald, in the best publication coming out of NYC. (Good artwork, too.) I haven't been to SF since the late 1980s, but there were plenty of aggressive street demons back then, too.
Yes, it's a horrible situation, one that can exist only in a country so affluent that it can sustain professional bums, and so misguided that it allows drug-addled paranoid schizophrenics to roam at will. New laws won't have much effect, though. The parasites will leave only when the money runs out. Perhaps that time is approaching.
Still, I find it hard to sympathize with the citizens or the merchants, who have routinely and repeatedly voted for politicians dedicated to perpetuating and milking the problem.
You made your bed, San Francisco. Now lie in it.
Let me suggest that SF could do as much for public safety to clean out as many Gavin Newsome types, San Fran Nan types as they can. It is not broken pavements or the homeless that is haunting SF,it is their reliance on many anti-American ideologies all centered in one city.
"Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery."
Tolerance is a crime when applied to evil
Unfund any judge that thwarts the Constitution, just as Jefferson did, and we solve the nation's problems overnight.
Look to Singapore for a good example of how to maintain cleanliness and order
When San Franciscans tire of the stench of urine, they go to Manhattan for some fresh air.
First point: I want to echo Reluctor Dominatus's sentiments that this is one of the best articles that I have had the pleasure to read in quite some time. Well done indeed.
Second Point: I have visited San Francisco about a dozen times in the past 10 years while a relative of mine lived there. It truly is a beautiful city to visit; however, I would never even think of living there. While geography makes a city a great place to visit, I have always felt that it is the municipal governments that make cities livable and, in this regard, San Francisco may be heading into an urban death spiral: flush with tourist money, laws (often ridiculous ones) are passed based upon halcion projections of capital inflows which, in turn, leads to an exodus of the working class and entrepreneurs which, in turn, leads to higher taxes vis a vis dwindling municipal tax revenue which, in turn, perpetuates the problem by increasing those on the government dole and decreasing the productive tax base. This cycle continues ad infinitum until the city turns into Detroit.
San Fran has been able to stave off this form of municipal destruction due to the influx of tourist monies; but how long is such reliance on tourism sustainable? This question is critically important because tourism revenue relies on two factors; one of which is wholly beyond the city's ability to control: one, what is the average cost to the tourist that needs to be implemented to pay for the city's profligacy and how many tourists does this price out of the city's reach; second, will the tourists always have the available capital to travel? Recently, the answers to both of these questions has precluded my semi-annual visits to San Fran for the past couple years. With my relative soon to move to the Midwest for her job, I doubt I will ever be back to San Fran.
It appears that San Fran is suffering from the same curse of easy money as many of the countries that are flush in natural resources.
I visited San Francisco once in 2001 and the homeless problem back then seemed to be out of control - I can't even imagine how it is today. Not surprising result of letting the lunatics run the asylum.
Sorry, but the communities brought this on themselves by pandering to these losers and accomidating their lifestyles by allowing elected officials to handcuff law enforcement by passing unenforceable anti-loitering and panhandling laws. Want to clean up the streets? Issue a warning that in 48 hours anyone considered by law enforcement to be loitering or hampering will be taken to jail and made to do a weeks worth of community service (pick up trash, paint sidewalks, rake the leaves). They would then be taken to the edge of town and issued a trespassing citation if they return and engage in similar activities.
One of the best articles I have had the pleasure of reading in years. Extremely well researched and written.
This condition is an axiom of the ideas "progressives" have foisted upon us; instead of lifting the less fortunate up those policies drag the rest of us down until we are all homeless. It is all about INDIVIDUAL responsibility not collective action.
I left SF last March and I will never go back. I took my business with me. November will bring a change that will ensure that California will not be bailed out and they will have to deal with their own failure. How many productive people and business' have to leave before they realize the well has run dry. My guess is that they will sell Yosemite to China.
I visited San Fran with a tour group last year. The first day we had a city tour on a bus; our guide introduced herself and stated up-front that she was a Liberal (that a tour guide would announce her personal politics tells you something). One of our group pointed out the number of homeless. Our guide spoke at length about what the city is doing, and said they're trying a BRAND NEW approach, which was NOT to give the homeless cash payments (but to increase services instead). She said, in a voice filled with astonishment, that apparently many of the homeless used their cash stipends for (wait for it!)...drugs and booze! Gosh! Who woulda thunk it? If this doesn't explain the Liberal mentality that rules San Fran, I don't know what does. Just like many Liberals simply cannot grasp that tax hikes destroy jobs...they just...don't..."get it".
Get rid of the vermin. Maybe hand out a few 'free' sandwiches laced with arsenic...make their life really miserable until the dirt is swept into the street.
I have lived within 90 miles of San Francisco (inSANe Francisco) for the last nine years without driving near the dump. I used to visit every few years while living in Missouri, but my last visit was so spoiled by the scarcity of street parking I decided it would have to get along without me. And every time I come across an issue of the San Francisco Chronicle, I find things in it that reinforce my determination to let the place go to hell by itself.
As a native San Franciscan I applaud this this article. Thank you Ms Heather Mac Donald, this was brilliant writing.
Re: Tarquen comment Oct 10 2010
Same ole problem everywhere. To pacify the public they sit on their buts passing laws that are not sutainable or have no thought of who is going to enforce them.
Time to clean house and keep laws that make sense and leave the rest to concerned citizens with better ideas then the fat cats in our governments
SF has passed many laws that forbid such behavior. They simply refuse to enforce them. We have an aggressive panhandling law that is not enforced, we have a trespassing law that business owners repeatedly beg the police to enforce (they do not) and we have a DA that will not prosecute crime. What makes you think this little law will be anything more than ink on paper in a year?
Also, what responsibility do Haight merchants have for the problem (Which isn't a problem in other parts of town) - does anyone really think a string of shops selling hippie junk and bongs to smoke pot with really attract anything but a bunch of bums?
Other cities deal with this just fine.
The last time I was in SF was in 1995. Even then, doing homework as a good trvl agt does, I avoided certain areas being a lone female traveler.
Too bad this beautiful city is getting such a bad wrap when this is going on all over the country.
Even in Europe, especially now if you don't want to get hastled just stay home.
This is nothing new. In fact some places in my travels have improved others have gone down the hill.
I do agree I'm glad I'm not a tax payer in CA.
Live in NJ which also is in trouble but at least we have Christie to bring down the axe on programs generated by bleeding heart organizations and make the unions sit up and pay attention that their propaganda is not going to work on the citizens of NJ
It's been several years since I last visited SanFran and was quite nonplussed even then at the amount of obnoxious panhandling I endures on the streets. This article only confirms that I will not visit there again. With any luck, the San Andreas will give an overdue
sneeze and do some house cleaning.
Are there enough benches to accommodate folk who still wish to sit and rest? More often than not, that's why I find myself sitting on the curb.
There is a reason CA is called a land of fruit and nuts. We have been boycotting it for years.
The origins of this dismal social public condition has it's beginnings in federal legislation known as the "Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963". It's title and date are telling. This law compelled the exodus of the mentally ill out of federally funded hospitals to federally funded "mental health centers" in "communities". Unfortunately, for both the sane and insane, the war in Vietnam claimed these funds before the well-intended "mental health centers" were built. By 1965, the ominous date mentioned at the beginning of this excellent article, the mental hospitals had been emptied just in time for the "Summer of Love" and provided the necessary catalyst of the 1960's drug culture. The crazy needed self-medication and there were those willing to supply their needs. The "60's" had begun.
What began with good intent only ended in the tragic subject of this article with the mentally ill shifting for themselves on the street and charlatans cynically exploiting both the homeless mentally ill and sympathetic taxpayers for a steady government paycheck. It's enough to make one crazy.
Excellent!!! Brava! A must read for every resident of San Francisco. This is a very comprehensive description not only of the Civil Sidewalks law developments, but also of the entire decades long battle with the social services mafia sucking the life blood out of San Francisco's budget. SF funds Homeless, Inc. and associated support services with about 1/5th of the $6.5 BILLION budget, without any accounting for successful outcomes. The resulting slow-speed train wreck (over 30 years of failed "progressive" policies) has brought the City itself to be the largest panhandler in California. Civil Sidewalks is the second major push to reverse the trend, and it will take it, and other future reforms, another 30 years to recover from the virtual tsunami that has rendered our city a disaster zone. Killing the Civil Sidewalks law would be like putting Bush's FEMA in charge of preparing for Katrina.
I lived in the SF Bay Area in the mid 70's. When I had out of state guest, I loved to take them to visit the "City." There were panhandlers and street people then, but seemingly not like the problems described in this article. Too bad, as urban decay follows loss of economic activity. Look at Detroit for a prime example. I visited Palo Alto, last month to attend a wedding, I did not have any desire to visit SF because of what it has become! This article only enforces my current opinion of SF and its politics.
I would retro-fit a city street sweeper truck with water sprayers and armor to protect the operator. Then I would enlist a schedule known only to home owners and businessee, drive through the area, and give the "street people" a free bath. Frequent bathing of the panhandlers and their belongings would convey the a message, "move on and move out or you will get wet!" The vagrants will surely attempt to seek revenge in some unlawful manner, then arrest, convict, and punish them with time. Time to be served working and clean the streets they defiled. When the residents and law enforcement work in unison, the streets will be cleaned.
Homelessness, Inc. probably has too many over-paid executives, and should be defunded. Money should be directed to city services and law enforcement's efforts? Homeless in almost all cases is a choice, and result of substance abuse which should be treated by incarceration, detoxification, and education. Reduce the demand for drugs in the infested areas, and the "dealers" will move out too!
Excellent article - two items struck a chord: first the media - with one newspaper San Francisco doesn't have a divergence of views and my guess is that the "muted" response mentioned in the article was strictly intentional. Until those people who are tired of the same old slant find a new source of news nothing will change will change - the media makes that much difference. Second, the bad news is that San Francisco, like other cities like Detroit, CAN wither away when they lose their economic base. It may take a long time but sooner or later conditions in San Francisco will get so bad that the tourists will stop coming and other major businesses will simply up and leave. Without money the homeless and those who make a buck off the homeless (and no doubt about it money is the driving force for Homeless, Inc.) will finally leave. But by that time it will be too late - there are plenty of examples of dying cities, not so many of cities coming back. Basically, it is up to the residents. In New York voters by a slim margin elected a fantastic mayor - Guiliani, who brought what we call out here "The City" back from the brink. But without the voters who put him there New York would be as bad off as San Francisco.
My daughter attended UCSC a few years ago. If I had known about the homelessness situation in Santa Cruz I wouldn't have let her attend. She left after two years to graduate from Emerson in Boston, a cleaner & safer city. On a visit to San Francisco during one of her spring breaks she and I were accosted by a homeless women for no apparent reason. She was crazy and violent. Luckily a police officer was nearby and assisted us. My heart goes out to the police officers. Their job is more likened to orderlies in an insane asylum than policing in the regular sense. San Francisco has become a dirty scary place.
State, local and Federal infrastructure programs require long term forecasts about the economic health, and thus attractiveness, of cities and neighborhoods. What can you tell us about indicators that would help to forecast the long-term (30 to 50 years)viability of a San Francisco? One theory is that letting a neighborhood go to the dogs may be necessary to lower the real estate values to the point where the land assembly for large-scale redevelopment becomes possible or where gentrification can take hold. In other words, the utter collapse of Haight or Tenderloin may be a condition needed for its long term redevelopment or gentrification. By your account, the relatively mild sit-lie law may only postpone the desirable. In short, neighborhoods in great cities need the urban decay equivalent of maggots. Have not North Beach, Fishermen's Wharf, and other great SF neighborhoods gone through such collapse and rebirth?
Negative talk or ideas? Just walk past these people and you will hear and see enough negativity to last a year. I made the big mistake of taking my kids on a walk to see the city I loved...and realized right away after e got away that the city I loves is no longer. By the way, how many of these kids are taken every night for shelter by the city's leaders? How much personal contact is there between the leaders and the vagrants. A very well researched article that characterizes a "progressive" city that is rapidly regressing to a city regressing to cities described by social workers during the 19th and early twentieth century.
Dream on Ana.
Impressive article. This has been a problem for years. Its helpful to read the history on it. I've been in SF for 10 years now and I am sick and tired of the stench and the mess it is causing. As a resident, I always wonder, what can I do, to voice my anger and concern? Ok, so I vote, but honestly, I don't think anyone in City Hall cares. They will continue as usual. I want to feel hopeful that the tide will turn, but this article highlights the circus we have as city officials. With clowns running our city and advocating a strong homeless industry I don't really believe that this proposition we will be voting for in November will make a big difference. These sick people that supposedly represent their electorate only represent their own sick views. They don't represent law abiding civilized hard working people. They represent slobs on the street who commit crimes and whine all day long. It's so sad.
I appreciate the depth of your article and I agree. I actually live in this place called San Francisco and am planning my exit from here as I speak.I cannot take this liberal mob any more. I made the mistake of attempting to join the discussion thread on the dreaded Bay Guardian online, about Sit-Lie and was basically accused of complicity with Arthur Evans, one man you mention in your article, as if he and I were one and the same (we are not!). Anyway, I have lived in SF 29 years and 3 months and have seen this place decline in quality of life,bigtime. While I do agree this place is very expensive and not easy to survive in on a modest income, the homeless industry is formidable here and even to suggest that perhaps a homeless person might need to participate in some fashion with those who kindly try to help them, was met with ridicule. Disfunction is king here and I want no part of it.Sad to see this, as this place still has some magic left....but liberal is as lib. does and I can't take it "no more".
A long term SF resident who is fed up and leaving.
Dr. Mac Donald: I read your entire article with a sense of awe and disgust. The many "homelessness" issues described made me feel like I was an observer at a forensic autopsies in a messy, smelly, dimly lit venue down by the waterfront.
To me, much of your article seems a metaphor for liberal California. I do not feel sorry for the peoples that populate the drug infested, dirty, violent streets described and the "travelers" subculture of young people.
California deserves the liberal monsters (programs, policies, attitudes, etc.) it has created. In short, I think what Willie Brown concluded is an ineluctable fact.
Thanks for all the research and hard work you put into the article.
I believe it is incorrect that the police need a sit/lie law in order to get people to move along, and for that reason, I don't believe a sit/lie law will change anything.
California Penal Code Section 647
Every person who commits any of the following acts is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor:
(c) Who accosts other persons in any public place or in any place open to the public for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms.
(e) Who lodges in any building, structure, vehicle, or place, whether public or private, without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it.
There are separate laws that cover blocking a public way, and SF has additional ordinances prohibiting "aggressive" pandhandling as well as pandhanding at certain intersections. The "No Pandhandling" signs are posted, and vagrants panhandle right under them.
The problem is that, collectively, like a permissive parent, San Francisco cannot bring itself to discipline those who behave antisocially. The cops won't arrest, and if they do, the DA won't prosecute; and if the DA prosecutes, the jury won't convict; and if the jury convicts, the judge lets the perp walk.
So laws keep getting passed in the futile search for a law that people obey without the need of enforcement.
In 1960, while on academic suspension from university (poor grades), I traveled to California and bummed up the coast from Long Beach to San Francisco. I took up residence in a second-floor walkup on Bush Street, in the heart of the Tenderloin, whence I could walk to my job selling adding machines and calculators for Remington Rand. The neighborhood was certainly seedy, but void of the human detritus described in your article. Later, while on business in San Francisco in 1985, I strolled through the area once again, sort of a sentimental journey, and the place didn't look much different than I remembered it. I haven't been back since, but the place you now describe is straight out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Your account is horrifying and suggests that San Franciscans have willfully cast off the last vestige of a civilized society. Just the thought of going back to that city now makes my skin crawl.
First, Ana...what an airhead. Can you actually read? Ms. Mac Donald nailed it. The Haight and TL are not full of homeless, they're full of crooks and addicts. I dare you to walk south on Taylor from Ellis to the Golden Gate Theater after dark and survive to make such a lame, idiotic remark.
The article is very well researched and points the finger right at the Progressive Left, Daly and Co. They are bent on destroying one of the most beautiful cities in the USA. If the local newspaper writers were more concerned about actually reporting and exposing these "Homeless Advocates" rather than being afraid of being left off of Newsom's Christmas Party invite list, SF would be a much better place.
The homeless problem is like Global Warming. Just another excuse for Progressives to rape the the taxpayer.
Sorry, I meant Ana.
I was puzzled by Ann's remark; I thought Ms. MacDonald's article was quite mild.
It ain't mud-slinging when it's true!! Why is it that California is bankrupt? It's for dishing out money by the truckload to such false programs as described in this article.
There will not be any objective such as the "broken windows" theory as there was in New York, either. Because they will never elect anyone even near to what Rudy Giuliani is. I swear most of the people in government out there are certifiable. Why people who hate what they're doing vote for them is way beyond my understanding.
I can tell you this, if there were able-bodied young people lying on the sidewalks, doing drugs and boozing around here, it wouldn't take long before they'd be "traveling" on their way.
Let them live in Nancy's house......She's a commie lib Dem "progressive". These are her "children". hehe....Atlas has Shrugged.
As a San Francisco resident, who no longer goes shopping the Haight after dark, I applaud Heather's well crafted and meticulously researched article. Thank you!
Dear Ms. Mac Donlad:
I understand you are frustrated by this situation but we are all adults and there is no excuse for your explicit name calling and mud slinging. Don't you realize that people are TIRED of negative talk?