The neighbors who attended the Fix-It meeting at the Mission Pool and Playground meeting room on Wednesday talked about a neighborhood that changes dramatically at night.
“During the day, we have a beautiful neighborhood,” said a man who introduced himself as Ray. “At night, we don’t have control of our neighborhood.”
Residents of the blocks between 17th, 21st, Valencia and Folsom have long been speaking out about prostitution and homeless encampments in their part of the Mission. Neither problem is new to the neighborhood. Neighbors often raise these issues at the community meetings at the police station, with seemingly little resolution.
Now that Fix-It, a city initiative started a year ago to address quality-of-life issues in the city’s neighborhoods, has begun tackling the Mission District, the community has taken its grievances to the new channel.
At the meeting led by Fix-It Director Sandra Zuniga, they once again expressed powerlessness in the face of crime, as well as frustration that the city — and the police in particular — fail to do enough to keep their blocks safe and clean.
They did their best to describe the way their quiet, family-centered neighborhood transformed into hot spots of crime once dark fell. Neighbors brought up the growing homeless encampments, particularly on Folsom Street. One person said residents living in tents bring furniture and sometimes cook on the sidewalks, and many groups take over the area’s public parks, including Garfield Park and Jose Coronado Playground.
They explained how young women sex workers are driven into the Mission from outside, bringing with them traffic, drug use and other crimes. At the same time, neighborhood women get harassed. They said their daughters have been approached to be recruited. One person said that between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m., he felt the city did not belong to him.
Despite voicing their concerns numerous times, they said, they felt nothing had changed.
“The police do not really do much about it,” Ray said.
One person said she saw several of the women leaving a car and called the police with its license plate and location.
Then she watched the police car drive straight by without stopping.
Ray said families who could afford to live in the neighborhood have left over the city’s failure to address these issues. These were families who could afford to live there, he expressed. Others said the same. “I live on Shotwell street, I have a son, I know all the families, and they’re leaving,” one woman said.
Zuniga did her best to be accessible and available to the neighbors. She said she would be willing to meet with anyone at coffee shops or at their house to ensure all voices were heard.
Nevertheless, many in attendance expressed skepticism at the idea that the city would truly fix anything. They criticized the opacity of channels such as 311 — the phone number to report problems or submit requests — and the police non-emergency number, which one woman claimed never called her back.
One woman said residents of Shotwell street submitted an application to get speed bumps on the street to curb the dangerous speeding in the middle of the night, but their application was rejected.
So they’re trying again.
Zuniga made a list of the neighbors’ concerns and has planned a walk-through of the neighborhood on June 21st.
She also said Wednesday’s meeting should serve as an introduction — the beginning of an ongoing conversation between the city and the neighborhood — and will not be their last.