San Franciscans love to complain about how terrible San Francisco has become. We’ll find out about the high rental costs, the homeless problem and how we plan to get out of town because the tech freaks ruined it. “I’ve always been here and came here four years ago. . . That was of course very different back then. “
I’ve lived in San Francisco since 1987. Not quite a native – I was born in Korea – but long enough to have deeper roots than many others. There are very few people I know from my school days who are driven away by exorbitant rents and living expenses. Who in the 1980s and 1990s expected to have to become a software engineer in order to be able to afford life in their own city? Not many, it turns out. So we imported them. Most of the technicians come from other parts of the country, if not all over the world. They come for the high paying jobs and for the lifestyle, including the ultra-progressive values that San Francisco represents. I am not blaming them. San Francisco is an amazing city on a good day. But there are fewer and fewer good days.
With the recent Covid-19 shutdown, San Francisco is a lot quieter. No more busy North Beach restaurants serving sloppy shots of Fernet Branca, no more big conferences at the Moscone Center, no more hanging out with friends. San Francisco “flattened the curve” with only 49 deaths to date. Just a few days ago, the opening of hairdressers and nail salons, which was originally planned for June 29, has been postponed indefinitely. As businesses of all sizes falter and unemployment rose from 2 percent to 13 percent, many of the important problems challenging San Francisco have worsened.
One of these problems is homelessness, an issue that the city has always been short-sighted about and that its leaders are working on to keep it under wraps. The shutdowns have exacerbated this problem enormously by largely keeping it out of the public eye. It only takes a short drive through parts of the city to see how much worse it has got in just a few months. The National Homeless Information Project estimated the homeless population of San Francisco at more than 17,000 in 2019. The San Francisco Examiner reports that the number of homeless tents in the Tenderloin district has increased 300 percent since January. It wouldn’t be a great imagination to guess that the current homeless population in San Francisco exceeds 30,000 – 3 percent of the city’s total population.
The measures put in place in San Francisco during the pandemic likely contributed to this surge. In addition to handing out free tents, the city has offered to house the homeless in hotel rooms that are paid for with taxpayers’ money. Some of the city’s new tenants are receiving free supplies of alcohol, hypodermic needles and methadone out of “compassion”, while reports of overdoses and violence increase.
Mayor London Breed, like all politicians in San Francisco, campaigned for a platform of compassion and tolerance towards the homeless. However, the voting patterns reflect the policies of residents who have no intention of staying here for the long term. With long-term residents evicted and temporary workers hired, politics in San Francisco have become even more one-sided after rising from 75 percent of Democrats in the 2000 election to a record high of 84.5 percent in 2016. Newcomers are increasingly driving politics while the San Franciscan native’s voice becomes isolated. It is easy to tolerate aggressive panhandling and overt drug use when staying in San Francisco temporarily. Long-term planning is difficult to take care of when owning real estate is out of reach. Too many potential homeowners have been priced out of the city.
If the stay at home order is finally lifted, lawmakers will have to deal with the consequences of their policies that allow homelessness and substance abuse. Even those who want to take sensible action are pushed back by their peers who are concerned about the political costs. And few Democrats in this stark blue city will dare to challenge incumbent Mayor Breed. San Francisco has signaled itself into a hole.
With a budget deficit of $ 1.5 billion over the next two years, the city by the bay is bleeding people and revenue. Some of the largest employers let employees work remotely from anywhere in the world. others move their headquarters entirely from San Francisco. Thousands of technical jobs have been lost in the past few weeks. A third of the city’s residents say they are considering leaving, and thousands have already done so. The departing cited issues such as homelessness and crime as factors influencing their departure.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, up to five new tax increases may be on the ballot in November to fill the gap. These include increasing taxes on high-income CEOs, a payroll tax on stock-based payments, and a gross income tax that would increase taxes on hotels and restaurants – the companies hardest hit by the closings. The city seems geared towards getting rid of not only its residents but also its most successful businesses.
San Francisco lawmakers are busy decriminalizing everything from shoplifting to drug use. They do not seem to understand that the city could soon be rid of its inhabitants and its most successful industries. Better politics and leadership could have prevented this situation. Instead, San Francisco ignored its everyday citizens who want safe roads and geared itself towards an affluent, hyper-progressive walking class. The results weren’t nice.
Photo: DianeBentleyRaymond / iStock
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