Mayor London Breed calls for a crackdown in the Tenderloin in December 2021, while a 'glitch in the Matrix' appears over her shoulder. Screen capture from KPIX-5

Last week, a stone-faced and emotional Mayor London Breed stood before a phalanx of cameras and denounced the longstanding conditions of filth, misery and overt dope-dealing and drug use in the Tenderloin. 

The mayor spoke at the decibel level and using the vocabulary you might expect her to use behind closed doors or on the other end of an irate phone call, not at a press conference that would, soon, be touted as a national bellwether regarding a change of attitude toward crime and policing — even in “liberal San Francisco.” 

Breed called for a police crackdown in the Tenderloin, and called for street drug-users to be offered a choice between treatment and incarceration. 

San Franciscans, she summed up, need to be “less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.” 

One day later, the city announced its first two-year budget surplus since 1998. Yes, the wealth disparities in San Francisco are either comical or obscene, depending on how you look at it, but this would indicate the mayor should probably redefine what she means by both “destroyed” and “our city.” 

And, three days after that, the mayor and everyone who was anyone wended their way through the rubble and twisted wreckage to attend the new Matrix premiere at The Castro Theater. Like periodic crackdowns on the longstanding filth, misery and overt dope-dealing and drug use in the Tenderloin, it appears the Matrix is back. 

Forgive me if I get the synopsis of The Matrix wrong, but the conceit of these films is essentially that we’re all living a simulated existence orchestrated by malevolent computers who are harvesting us as a power source. Or something like that; kung fu and freeway chases are involved. And no one would be the wiser, except when some manner of anomaly occurs, tipping us off that we’re living within a vast simulacrum. This is a “glitch in the Matrix.” 

And, I’ll be damned if that didn’t happen during Breed’s Dec. 14 blood-and-thunder press conference. During the mayor’s stentorian announcement, wedding parties in the background posed for goofy pictures in front of the big City Hall Christmas tree. And, finally, during the crescendo of the mayor’s speech, a woman in a slinky white dress with a Kim Novak bottle-blonde hairdo materialized over Breed’s right shoulder. 

These, for all the world, felt like a glitch in the Matrix. Regardless, we are living in a simulacrum. All of the subsequent coverage — referring to a rapidly evolving and still largely inchoate set of goals as a “plan;” enabling cheap populism and breaking things down into an artificial “progressives vs. moderates” binary; ignoring decades of alternating periods of crackdowns and neglect in the Tenderloin — has both obscured the truth and taken us farther from it. 

The truth is, a humanitarian crisis exists in the Tenderloin, and has for decades. And, faced with this generational crisis, San Francisco’s response in recent weeks has been to politicize the issue and launch dueling press conferences. 

So, San Franciscans should be less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city. But the bullshit in question isn’t crime in the Tenderloin; it’s bad government. 

The Board of Supervisors was called into session from its winter break for a special Dec. 23 meeting to weigh in on the mayor’s declaration of emergency in the Tenderloin. The mayor did not attend.

Mayor Breed’s “plan” was not carried down from Mt. Sinai carved in stone. As recently as Dec. 21, the “plan” being described to supervisors was for police to serve as the lead agency in contacting street drug users, asking them to go to a “linkage site” where they could receive services or referrals — or face the consequences a police officer can deliver when you’re caught with drugs or drug paraphernalia. 

This tracks with what Breed said last week, and has continued to say. The mayor didn’t attend today’s lengthy command-performance special board meeting, at which the supes, in the witching hour, approved her declaration of emergency in the Tenderloin. But the mayor’s underlings were mandated to show, and they walked back her repeated statements. 

This has been happening in both public and private: Throughout this week, multiple sources tell us that the “plan” had shifted. Following extreme pushback, the idea is now that groups other than law enforcement will make initial contact with the homeless and/or drug-users, and find ways to get them to the “linkage site” that don’t involve threats of incarceration or having their belongings appropriated. 

As for a “linkage site,” this appears to be something akin to a Navigation Center without the housing element, or a 21st-century drunk tank. At the beginning of the week, it was described by police as a “big tent on UN Plaza.” Then police sources began using the term “sobering tent.” And now it’s a “linkage center.” 

I am told it’ll have beds for about 100 people to sober up. Just how expediently people can be “linked” to services is something of the $64,000 question. Whether people who are “linked” to services here will bigfoot out needy people being referred from elsewhere, a longstanding complaint tied to Navigation Centers, also remains to be seen. 

Will you be able to discreetly use drugs there? Without that offer, drug users would be likely to keep shooting up in the streets of the Tenderloin or simply relocate to a neighborhood not under the microscope. Well, let’s put it this way: If you’re allowed to do that, nobody is saying so on the record. 

SF needs safe consumption sites
At 50 to 100 times more powerful than heroin, fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, can be lethal if one miscalculates its potency.

“There is no plan.” 

That was the answer, earlier this week, when your humble narrator asked a high-ranking police source what “the plan” was regarding the mayor’s call for a greater law-enforcement presence in the Tenderloin.

“Putting a bunch of cops out there? That’s a plan? Whatever,” the veteran officer continued. “Bringing more cops into the district? To do what? Be scarecrows?”

In fact, Tenderloin residents tell me, the city’s move to push dealers out of areas like vacant lots has, bewilderingly, resulted in drug markets moving from isolated spots to residential neighborhoods. 

The call for more police resources naturally begets questions about what’s being done with present resources. The Tenderloin is a realm that’s far from bereft of cops or drug-dealers. San Francisco has, apparently, rethought the benefit of arresting and incarcerating the addicted and/or mentally ill. But dealing is still rampant. In the year The Matrix came out, 1999, San Francisco police made 9,036 drug-related arrests. In 2019, they made 573, and in 2020, they made 537.

The Tenderloin was awash in narcotics and misery 20 years ago, when cops were making 25 citywide drug-related arrests a day. And that remains the case now, with the cops making 1.5 such arrests per day. Clearly, this is a more complex situation calling for more complex analysis and multifaceted “plans.” And, clearly, “scarecrow” policing could just lead to dealers and drug-users, who are not stupid, relocating to other neighborhoods. Breed’s declaration of emergency, which the Board of Supervisors weighed in on today, applies only to the Tenderloin, not to adjacent SoMa or the Mission.    

(After a marathon session of public comment , the supes, at 12:17 a.m. on Christmas Eve, passed the 90-day order after a 10-and-a-half hour meeting. The only dissenting votes were Shamann Walton and Dean Preston; Aaron Peskin was absent ).

Just what the hell extra cops would do, then, is a complicated discussion. It demands the analysis of both whether the SFPD, with its mind-blowingly bloated command staff of 14, is competent to undertake this action in the Tenderloin, and if this is the kind of action the police should be called upon to undertake. 

Clearly, this discussion has not yet taken place; our reporting indicates that, as of mid-week, no specifics had trickled down to either high-level officers or the street-level cops who’d be tasked with “fixing” the Tenderloin.

Regarding the police, they “have to show up if a plan does exist,” said a longtime city politico. “If it’s not articulated, that’s a problem. And even if it is, you still need buy-in.” 

The Tenderloin, May 2, 2020. Photo by Kerim Harmanci

Absent the public-relations element, it makes little sense for Breed to state that, as of late December, 2021, conditions in the Tenderloin have grown so dire that an emergency must be declared, immediately, and our elected officials must be recalled from winter recess to vote on her declaration (at a meeting she did not attend).  

It’s not that conditions aren’t dire or that an emergency declaration is misbegotten. It’s that this condition is not new; the city neglected the Tenderloin so egregiously last year, it was forced into a humiliating settlement with UC Hastings.

The Tenderloin was awash in drugs and misery 20 years ago. It was awash in drugs and misery damn near 40 years ago, when your humble narrator’s father brought him along for an eye-opening visit to the since-shuttered Central YMCA on Golden Gate Avenue. Yes, the drugs are worse now, and the outcomes are often worse. But it’s been bad, and it’s been bad for a long time.

So, declaring an emergency now and forcing city officials to rapidly bang out a series of half-formed plans in a succession of hair-on-fire sessions and then hurriedly vote on it at a special winter break meeting? This is bad government. 

It is bad government to have allowed the untenable situation in the Tenderloin to fester for years, and then demand sweeping emergency powers to cut through “red tape” — “red tape” it appears nobody ever really attempted to previously cut through. 

You are not going to craft the best possible plan via this ridiculous and constrained process, especially regarding an intractable and multifaceted problem like crime and drugs in the Tenderloin. It’s deeply disappointing that our city’s powers-that-be couldn’t meet and hammer out a real plan, or even attempt to do so, and that it didn’t happen years ago. 

But the public relations element was never absent. And our mayor, who has been mayor since 2018, was lauded locally and nationally for her December, 2021, statements regarding longstanding problems in the Tenderloin, problems everyone seems to feel have only grown worse under her watch. Her statements came at a time when, rather than pushing laudatory stories on this city’s covid response, national outlets have been reporting on brazen crime and drug use.

Voters are riled up about crime and safety; they’re riled up about filth and quality-of-life issues. These are all issues directly under the aegis of this city’s strong mayor. And, once again, the onus has been deflected to the Board and the District Attorney. That’s clever. But, in and of itself, it won’t make a whit of difference for the people of the Tenderloin. 

There’s a difference between politics and government. In San Francisco, we excel at the former, but not at the latter. That’s a glitch. That’s bullshit. And it’s destroying our city. 

Supervisor Aaron Peskin did not attend today’s meeting. But he did send this memo.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. You are exactly who we knew you were. You love your little slogans, soundbites and telling everyone who will listen about your oh-so-righteous political beliefs. Yet as soon as you lot have to live under the policy you lecture everyone else about, suddenly you are demanding law and order policy, and blaming “the government” or “the system” for doing exactly what you previously demanded of them.

    Why do you deserve respite from having to lay in the bed of your own making? Especially when you don’t even have the humility to admit that your worldview is a failure, and will continue to preach the policy that you are well aware does not work!

    How many times do your paper “progressive” theories have to fail all over the world before you adjust them? How many people have to suffer so you never have to admit you were wrong and keep quiet with your preaching, lecturing, posturing and condescension? Have you no shame?

  2. Theresa Sparks was a supporter of SFPD and tough on crime; however, SF gov is not.

    If SF wants to be a place of business, travel, and have good tax revenues for its public services, it has to change its culture. It’s time to vote for better people who are tough on crime, but this is up to the voters who already got what they had voted for. If enough voters vote for change, this will happen.

    Being soft on crime results in a costly price for the people of the city and SF gov.

  3. SF government needs to listen to its non-drugged people and resolve the problem that brings SF down. Adding more $ into the problem won’t resolve this issue. Your real issue is crime, but you don’t want to hear this. You just want to blame this on drug use. How many more people and businesses leave before you change your minds and get tough on drug crime? It is crazy to have a drug neutrozone where the dealers are conducting business out in the open and law enforcement is restricted from doing what they are trained to do.

  4. I lived in SF for 20 years of my life. I saw the light and moved back to LA. I am saddened by what has happened to SF. But it was a long time coming. It surprises me that people like Diane Finestine and Nancy Pelosi. Back in the 80s…. I digress. uh. stupid to have commented. I still like the outer sunset. Great Highway and Taraval,

    1. Ah Taraval. More bad government on display. The city has let Taraval fall into a degree of disrepair you got to wonder whether you can find one such bombed out road in Kabul. Curiously, light rail service has not been restored since the Pandemic shutdown. Anyone living nearby isn’t asking to be brought back any time soon – the tracks are so worn and broken that the shaking and rumbling day in day out practically made Taraval an unlivable street, to take the liberty of a pun at an MTA slogan of yore. Recently, PG&E contractors have been out fixing gas lines crossing Taraval. It stands to reason the constant shaking has put the lines at risk of catastrophic failure.
      On the bright side, a decade or more late, construction work has started to finally bring Taraval back in shape. It’ll be a few years out though until that’s completed.

    2. I only go to SF to surf so the Great Highway is about if for me. I do everything possible to drive out of the city to even eat because I can’t stand the idea of a tax dollar going into the hands of the corrupt mayor, city council, their corporate allies, or the completely revolting grifting NGOs. No thanks, I will wait until I hit Daly City to spend money.

  5. Funny to see how, once this garbage encroached on the stores and places the elites in SF like to frequent, Breed’s choker collar got a serious yank.

  6. Happy New Year Joe!
    Great article as always, although I am taking one exception!!
    I have a self-imposed Trade Mark on the term “They Destroyed the City”. I used it first addressing the Cartel members at the SFPUC and DPW! LoL
    As to the Heifer at Room 200 screaming her lungs out is all she can do while she is now enjoying the company (as she enjoyed Nuru) of a key staff related to all this “BS”, the “Chief Officer Criminal Justice & Public Safety”, same story.
    As to why the Cartel never solves issue is simple, its all about pumping $$$ billions into the non-profits dealing with homeless and drug addictions, that generate contracts and the money flow without any public scrutiny, hearings or discoverable records. If the Heifer and her crew solve the issues, this will dry justification of more fundings and Cartel members will lose $$$$ in benefit with contracts pay backs.
    Even Shaman with all the money he got c/o YDC and Dwane Jones have voted against this since he knows first hand, the addiction will simply move from the Tenderloin to his District. Shaman and the Cartel only act when their head is price to be paid and the hell with the City as long as they continue to milk it to the last penny.

  7. The article deftly paints with a wide brush of over-generalizations and half truths to arrive at a decent point.

    Piling the voters and their elected leaders failures on Mayor Breed is an easy out. I’m no fan of the Mayor; however expecting her to overcome the BofS continued failures is unrealistic at best.

    The voters and the BofS have failed for the last two decades. They removed the initiative that required a percentage of apts to condos, they fought housing growth so desperately to avoid gentrification they put it warp drive. They continuously do nothing but throw money at the homeless problem while making no real changes. Letting the Homeless Coalition “manage” the homeless has only encouraged more to come to SF, contrary to the lie most of them are from here. And the throw in the tech boom and the economic crashes of the past, we arrive at our current crisis.

    The voters continually elect leaders who focus on their ideologies more than pragmatically running a successful city gov. So dumping the blame on said leaders is a bit of a denial. But with the shift in richer (and sadly whiter) demographics, much a result of the gentrification of SF, leaders can no longer turn a blind eye to the problem. They can’t continue to use the police as social services while simultaneously blaming them for all the homeless problems. The “career homeless” are all but gone from SF now. We have the drug addicted, mentality ill, criminal element, or a combination of the three left. We all see it daily. And for all the Homeless Coalition’s tricks and lies, people are starting to see the truth.

    Mayor Breed is half right at least. It’s time to start getting serious. With multiple propositions fattening th city’s coffers the city is finally working on developing transitional housing, while the same aforementioned rich folks take on the mantle of NIMBYism to fight every new site.

  8. San Francisco; The City that Forgot How.

    San Francisco has become the codependent, abusive spouse of the homeless and addicted. From one side of it’s mouth it declares and emergency in the Tenderloin and then goes on throwing money around and helping the homeless be homeless and the addicted be addicted.

    The reality is an ugly solution has become necessary. Force the homeless off the streets and the addicts into rehab. There is no other choice. Anything else is appeasing the homeless industrial complex or those averse to understanding that sometimes we all have to do something we don’t want to do.

    This “emergency” is many years overdue. Let’s hope it amounts to something other than more of the same.

  9. I love Mission Local for its nsughtful articles and its caring readers. Whether I agree or not, I’m always enlightened. Stay vigilant and healthy and open minded.

  10. Bad Government? Well, as long as you include the San Francisco Board of Supervisors into that definition. I listened to the meeting on the emergency proclamation. I heard them talk extensively about the protected class of drug users and homeless people. But I did not hear them talk much about the residents, business owners, families with children and workers who have to live and work in the TL. I heard them criticize the mayor for her desire for police presence and how that might affect the lives of the homeless and the addicts, but I did not hear much about the increasing numbers of drug dealers, amount of drugs that are killing people, and the crime and violence associated with that trade. The Board of Supervisors is a more stable fixture in San Francisco than our mayors who are here for 4 to 8 years. Our current situation feels more like their failure than the mayors. The city is in decline. The images that we see on Fox news are not fake news. It is real. Take a bike ride or walk through SOMA, the TL or your own home, the Mission. Filth, people drugged out and sleeping on the streets, broken glass from car window break ins are everywhere. It is bleak. We need action.

  11. I was born and raised in the city… I am 71 now. The Tenderloin was the murder capitol of the USA for the decade of the 70s. I moved at 30 years old out of the city due to corrupt politics and a even worse police department. Remember to always follow the money and you’ll find that those in power thrive on keeping chaos going to deflect from their brutal tactics… Especially in the Mission where I grew up. Cop’s would frequently be on our asses and kicking our asses for nothing or just minor stuff like loitering or being in the park after dark. The Tenderloin was and will always be a hell hole.. My father died in one of those flea bag hotels there and was a 30 year resident of the Tenderloin. I feel for the people especially the kids who have to grow up in that environment. One thing I would like to know. How many drug and alcohol programs are available. Not just detox beds but actual 90 day treatment center’s with certified counselors and ex addicts working them? If the city wants to clean up the Tenderloin they should have over a thousand beds avaliable for detox and more for recovery programs. I was one of the hopeless down there that didn’t end up dead. I went to LA for a 3 month County rehab program that kept me there 6 months because I had no where to go after 3 months. It took another 3 months for me to find another sober living situation… I now am 36 year’s clean and sober but found no help in the city… It appears nothing has changed in the last 50 years there. Follow the money.

  12. I worry that this is a pretext for the Mayor to squander Prop C and similar money on a short term solution that will make the streets “look more normal” for tourists until her next election…..if you put up a “linkage center” it has to link to real treatment and long term housing or it is just another expensive revolving door. This is the Mayor who is closing down shelter in place hotels even though the feds are paying the rent through April. Tourism is obviously most important.

  13. The whole thing is an excuse for the Mayor to funnel money to her favorite people while grabbing more power. The homelessness problem could easily be solved if the city government wanted to do it, but ‘muricans are too invested in hating the poor & pretending like they care to ever let that happen.

  14. As jaded as it may seem, the solution is not in the hands of the “Progressives”
    ( read RADICALs of the Burton Machine which has infected San Francisco since the
    1960’s, with such notables as Jim Jones, George Moscone, Nancy Pelosi, et al).
    The solution is the dark side of reality. These souls are lost. They are vestiges of
    not only bad government, but a culture of decay. The 60’s planed the seeds of
    this catastrophe, with “The Summer of Love”, in the 70’s with the People’s Temple,
    as well as the defacto socialism of the 80’s to this very day. And now the chickens
    have come home to roost. San Francisco used to be a unique metropolis, with the
    tradition of Europe and the vitality of the United States. Now, as evidenced by
    the fleeing of the productive population, such as commerce and the emigration
    of families ( 1970– Population of S.F. = 720,000, SFUSD student population=92,000+;
    versus 2020-Population of S.F.= 870,000, SFUSD student population= 49,500+,
    a decline of 46 %), The spike in crime due to Prop. 47 and the inept DA as well,
    there are no short term solutions: only long term decay. It will not only require
    more than a generation, but as important as the time element, a vast house cleaning
    of the “Tweed Machine” of San Francisco, i.e., the Burton Machine. In the interim,
    those left over will have to endure the consequence of acquiescing to the erosion
    of over 50 years, which they have allowed to occur due to de facto monopolistic
    socialist governance.
    The Venezuelanism of San Francisco continues, unabated.

      1. Forgot Brown, Davis, Willie Brown, Newsom, Board of Supervisors, Phillip & John Burton, as well as Chris Daly, Nancy Walker, Jane Kim, SF Democratic Committee.
        All politics, according to Tip O’Neill, is local. Both Browns, Newsom, BOS,
        are local. Ever wonder why Silicon Valley came rather than, for instance,
        South of Market, Dog Patch, Hunters Point. And, long time commercial
        activists are relocating outside of Baghdad by the Bay.

  15. Take some of this high class realestate, and build a detoxification, rehabilitation center, this is an inside job,to rebuild the human being and everyone can’t be saved, that being said you’d need a team of physians , Therapist and counselors, the people running this city, doesn’t have the know how,to even begin to address this festering, monster of an issue,this town’s in tatters.

  16. No honest players in San Francisco. None. Not a one. VOf course there are no real plans. 4 weeks ago no one in view planned to do anything. Status quo was fine. Story goes, downtown business interests gave Breed a poke. Meaningless. Downtown, travel, hotels, convention business hold no power. Not really. Power isTech. The gangs. Sinaloa Cartel. Daily cash trade in drugs. Mayhem. Violence. Chaos.

    There is always an agenda.

    7th and Market going gang busters last night December 23. Hundreds dealing, buying, using. Not the only hot spot. No one can tell me the Tenderloin was THIS BAD for decades. It was not. Increasingly bad for 20 years, YES. The fast growing violence thru the city, street robberies, violent attacks, home robberies, push in home invasions. Increasing incidents of 3 and 4 armed robbers, attackers roaming the city carrying out mayhem and violence. Grew and grew in recent years. Big show put on Union Sq, night of Rittenhouse verdict. Yes, Big Show. Those in charge have not cared. Nearly silent til millions $$$ “shoplifted” in showy fashion. What does it all mean? Emergency Power grab is Breed and her cronies and cohorts who will self-enrich. I see political puppets running to suck-up to her for treats and toys. Assignments. For shame!

    San Francisco, the spectacularly beautiful Golden Goose bleeding out at my feet. Massive tragedy. Immense suffering.

  17. The Mission deserves better than a shitlib who gives quarter to fascism after spending her career funding the poverty nonprofits that spent the past decades marking time, creating a political vacuum into which Fox News [sic] inserted itself into.

    Little Chamberlains the lot of ’em.

  18. I have lived in San Francisco almost fifty years. In the late 1970’s and 80’s and yes, even into the 1990’s we would go to clubs in the Tenderloin. Always a bit of a walk on the “wild side” but never with fear. Now, I cannot walk on Sunday mornings to the United Nations Plaza Farmers Market from my Nob Hill home without encountering on every block from Jones Street west to Polk , whole blocks of people shooting up, pissing, throwing garbage on the ground and acting violent. So I no longer go. Sad for the merchants who used to get my business…my elderly neighbor used to drive there, but now the parking lot by the Asian Museum is a homeless encampment provided by the City. NO! this is nothing like anything I have seen. They deal in front of the Police Station on Jones. They deal in front of security officers put there for safety on street corners. Say whatever you will it is pulling our City down and people’s tolerance is less and less. It’s time for drastic action. This is tough…but no one really cares that a person a day dies of a drug overdose in the Tenderloin. My heart goes out to the immigrant communities having to live around all the “crazies” and trying to make a life with children seeing death due to addiction, daily savage shootings and beatings and piles of excrement and a City that cares more for addicts than it’s citizens!

  19. Missing from pretty much everything is the fact that residents of the Tenderloin asked the mayor to treat the horrific conditions there as an emergency. In early November, a group of them delivered a letter to Breed telling her, and other city departments, to do their jobs. (Below I have pasted the entirety of the letter.)

    It is unfortunate that no one bothered to read that letter, say at the beginning of the meeting. Supervisor Haney might have been the best choice to do so since the residents are his constituents, and will remain so even if he gets to skip out to Sacramento.

    It is equally unfortunate that the Board talked for so long that when the meeting was opened for public comment, the interpreters had about a half hour remaining on their shift. This effectively silenced any comments from limited English speaking residents.

    I do wonder if the focus on users is the correct approach. Dealers certainly got scant attention last night. Since Breed is leaning Republic right now, she might want to brush up on that party’s preposterous commitment to supply-side economics. Of course, users are easier to catch than dealers. Street users are also easier to catch than people who drive in from Pacific Heights and Marin to score in the TL then go back to their private spaces to swallow, smoke, snort and shoot. Not that the California Highway Patrol has not been keeping track of who drives in (or takes Golden Gate Transit) and then heads right back home. I do wonder if any Maseratis and Mercedes belonging to drug shoppers will be impounded in this process. There are plenty of them that are none -too-hard to spot.

    November 5, 2021
    To: Honorable Mayor London Breed
    Re: Tenderloin Safety Concerns

    We are immigrants and refugees. We are children and mothers and fathers. We are small business owners and the people San Francisco claims to respect and protect and celebrate. We are the Tenderloin and you have failed us.

    On September 29, an 11 year-old girl who recently moved to the United States was attacked while walking to school in the morning. Families have been unable to get an adequate response from the city to ensure our children’s safety. Two weeks later, between 30 and 40 rounds of bullets were fired at Golden Gate & Hyde at 8:30pm. In the building next to the shooting, families were coming home from the park, people were getting in from walking their dogs, adult sons were visiting their elderly mothers. There were at least six gunmen and four people injured. This was a mass shooting that barely made the news because it happened in a poor neighborhood. These are just two of the countless horrific incidents that have happened in our neighborhood.

    We are the densest residential neighborhood in the city with the most children and seniors per capita yet we have been completely forgotten. We have been treated as a containment zone for decades and it is time to stop. We know you did not cause the conditions in the Tenderloin, but we demand you put an end to them. We need you to treat this like an emergency. We demand immediate and transparent coordination between the agencies tasked with ensuring our safety. We demand that the city, your office, and you do your job. We are willing to work with you to come up with solutions but we cannot do it on our own. We would like for you to meet with us directly and are looking forward to your response.

    The Families, Residents, and Small Business Owners of the Tenderloin

  20. Oh lord… people with heavy addicting can’t “just sober up” there’s the withdrawals and whatever drove them to numb their pain in the first place. To solve this issue it’s gonna take a whole lot more care, after care so that they don’t end right back to where they started.

  21. Another “plan” to fix things in the ‘loin, eh?  A convenient, amorphous mass of bullshit in a very glitchy simulacrum. Good audition piece for the stage, however (which has nothing to do with the real life drama of the folks about to be affected by it).

  22. Estimates are that 25,000 SF residents are addicted to illegal opiates/meth/etc. That’s much more than the estimate of addicted homeless residents. The point is a large number of people in SF absolutely depend on a ready supply of illicit drugs. Somewhere, a convenient and reliable supply has to be available. Where should that “market” be?

    Saying just stop drug trafficking is the same as saying everyone addicted should be denied access to their drug. Besides being cruel and often deadly, the fact is “cold turkey” has been proven to not end addiction (unless it’s fatal, which might be the outcome “cold turkey” advocates want).

  23. When things like this happen, one has to figure out what are the motivations that lie behnd this “refocus” on the Tenderloin.

    The reason that there is an emergency now is due to simple politics. When Gov. Newsom remarked about the recent crime spree, ““That’s why you’ve got to get serious about it,” he continued. “I’m not the mayor of California. But I was a mayor. And I know when things like this happen, mayors have to step up.”

    And then you have the Speaker of the House all of a sudden speaking up about local crime (instead of BBB), “There is an attitude of lawlessness in our country that springs from I don’t know where … and we cannot have that lawlessness become the norm.”

    These are clearly messages from the higher ups to the mayor to “get her house in order”. Should things continue as they are, the Tenderloin will clearly affect the 2022 House elections by feeding Republicans the perfect issue to defeat Dems. And when the Governor runs for re-election or for president, the streets of SF will be an issue and a picture that his opponents will be sure to showcase on their television ads.

    This “about face” on the TL is clearly the mayor saying, “I hear you.” Shit rolls downhill in politics.

  24. Ah, so the plan is to provide drug rehab for every one of the addicts who need treatment, right? And then provide a safe place for everyone to live (a place that’s not full of opportunities to re-enter addiction) once they’re out? Right?
    And then a way for all those recovering addicts to get ongoing treatment and support, including but not limited to more addiction treatment when they relapse, as most addicts do?
    And then there will be jobs for all those recovering addicts — jobs that will pay enough for housing and food and health care? And jobs that take into account just how much untreated trauma tends to go along with addiction? Jobs that take into account the terrifying “one step forward, three steps back” pattern that addicts and mentally ill people have to live with?


    Right, so then the answer is just to shove people around from Point A to Point B until public attention goes elsewhere.

    This is a societal failure, and it’s going to get worse. But surely more cops can solve it.

    1. Perfect observation! You are so correct and this needs to be the central debate. Your right- generally you will never cure this endemic disease. So – society needs guard rails to set boundaries and move those to treatment and support, which require police involvement. This problem should be State run -dispersed equally throughout the State.
      This cannot be the problem of just 49 square miles to solve, because it cannot be done!

    2. This is not a societal failure.This is individual failure sanctioned and enabled by a delusional progressive ideology every bit as toxic and unsustainable as communism proved to be.

  25. Article idea…I’d like Mission Local to dig up some interviews with moms/dads in the TL and have them state that they don’t want more cops, and they’d like to keep the status quo while the BoS figures things out. The neighborhood has always been bad, we all know that…but have you walked through there lately. I’ve never seen 25-30 drug dealers posted up across from Emperor Norton’s on Larkin before.
    I got off at Civic Center (which was never great) and walked through a zombie village. Probably 50 dealers and 50 customers. People were shooting up at the top of the escalator. I’ve never seen that many people shooting up in public ever. We can’t support drug tourism at this scale. Take care of SF residents, sure. Help those who want help, sure. But having one segment of society that has zero rules, zero consequences, zero accountability…come on. Does SF spend less on housing than other cities per capita? What’s the numbers on that? Does SF spend less on nonprofits than other cities? What’s the success metrics for nonprofits? It’s always “we can’t do anything because of society.” I get it, people don’t want to be wrong, but they way we’ve been going about it for the last however many years ain’t working. Everyone just doubles down on things that haven’t worked. The article complains about bad government…that’s what we’ve had. Let’s try something else.

    1. Good letter. And why was it not continued? Perhaps because they might have a harder time voting for a concrete plan?

  26. “In the year The Matrix came out, 1999, San Francisco police made 9,036 drug-related arrests. In 2019 they made 573 and in 2020 they made 537.”

    The Tenderloin has never been this bad, it wasn’t good but, it was better in 1999. The City as a whole has never been this bad. The epicenter of crime is the Tenderloin. I don’t think this plan is perfect, but it’s something. The status quo cannot continue. I have numerous friends who are cops that say the shootings in the Haight Ashbury, SOMA, Mission, etc. are all caused by drug trade turf wars that are largely financed in the Tenderloin. You kill a weed by pulling it by the root. If you can reduce the amount of drug profits in the City, you will reduce the amount of criminals coming to the City to make money. Go to
    San Francisco has 5,000 violent crimes a year. It’s safer than 3% of cities in the United States. We have a problem and we need to do something, anything… doing nothing is no longer acceptable. I am happier to hear alternatives but the agenda being pushed by our district attorney is not working. Harm reduction is not working.

    Travel to New York, there are cops everywhere. I feel much safer walking through “bad” neighborhoods in New York than I do the Financial District and the SOMA. Their enforcement strategies work. What we are doing is not working and we are spiraling in the wrong direction. All of my cop friends think that increased police presence and adequate staffing will have an impact. They all agree that prosecution and consequences for crime will have the greatest impact. The recall of our district attorney in June will be the best thing for this City. In the meantime, I am willing to give the Mayor a chance. If she isn’t able to succeed, she likely won’t be re-elected in two years.

    1. From the article:

      So, declaring an emergency *now* and forcing city officials to rapidly bang out a series of half-formed plans in a succession of hair-on-fire sessions and then hurriedly vote on it at a special winter break meeting — this is bad government.

      It is bad government to have allowed the untenable situation in the Tenderloin to fester for years and then demand sweeping emergency powers to cut through “red tape” — “red tape” it appears nobody ever really attempted to previously cut through.

      You are not going to craft the best possible plan via this ridiculous and constrained process — especially regarding an intractable and multifaceted problem like crime and drugs in the Tenderloin. It’s deeply disappointing that our city’s powers-that-be couldn’t meet and hammer out a real plan — or even attempt to do so — and that it didn’t happen years ago.

      1. I don’t think you actually addressed my comment despite replying to it…

        I never said it was good governance. In fact, I think that our local government is completely dysfunctional. That being said, I am willing to give this a shot because that status quo is unacceptable.

        To reply to your comment (which appears independent of my original comment)

        I don’t remember this perspective from you when the City declared a “climate emergency”, or “a traffic- related deaths emergency”? Where was the outrage then? More homeless people are dying in the Tenderloin each year than in “traffic-related deaths” across the entire City.

        What is your plan? What should the City do? Unwind hundreds of years of bureaucracy, and generations of labor union contracts, and then once that has been done (years from now, if ever), then we can address the issue? Based on your article and your reply, it *feels* like the plan isn’t inline with your political views, so it’s a bad one.

        Lastly, how could your mention our Mayor London Breed being in dystopian world ruined by tech, and not mention Willie Brown being in Godfather Part III. Oh the irony…

        1. This is not a cure-all fix, but it’s the most simple, logical, and ultimately cheapest one: Title Ten of the City Charter mandates processes that ensure hires into civil service are based on objectively determined qualifications. Those processes have been systematically ignored for decades, by design, resulting in cronyism as the rule, not the exception, in hiring. That facilitates rampant corruption. Those responsible are the political machine Joe writes about. Reform of the Human Resources Department and Civil Service Commission would go a long way to resolving this. Only one supervisor has made this an issue: Aaron Peskin. Sorry “Z”, but he has done much to try to convince other supes on this. But it will not happen until those who gripe about the city’s problems realize this and take political action to make the changes necessary. As for the mayor’s “emergency”: She is just the latest cog in the corrupt wheel, and declaring this for political opportunism – period.

          1. it’s true. I moved away from Berkeley in 2005, but even back then – it seemed like San Francisco had a comically corrupt government. One would always hear about well positioned friends of the mayor getting high paid positions that didn’t require any work or skills. A much less sophisticated city in the midwest would have a smaller number of administrators, and spend more funds on lower tier workers who accomplish things like maintaining parks, driving buses, direct social services

      2. No, you won’t craft the best possible plan, but we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you’re on a sinking boat with a leaky bucket and the Coast Guard with the perfect equipment is three days away, the time to start bailing is now.

        Hopefully we’ll still be afloat when the Coasties arrive.

        However, come election time, I will absolutely look for Mission Local endorsements to oust any and all supervisors, mayoral and DA candidates who spend their time pandering and running for higher office rather than doing the ugly job of working to bailout the city.

        1. Sir or madam — 

          Mission Local doesn’t do endorsements.

          You still seem to be missing the point: Putting together a so-called plan at breakneck speed for a longstanding and intractable problem — without even pretending to talk to all the parties necessary to ensure its success — isn’t a recipe for progress. It’s political theater.


          1. Yes, that is obvious. She was getting a lot of bad press — society ladies were also giving her an earful (let alone that noxious Stefani!) — so she had to do something to look as if she is doing something!

            The eight simply lacked the backbone to do the right thing, even if that right thing was a two-week delay. Shameful!

            Great job with this Joe! I posted it on NextDoor and elsewhere.

          2. Remember how Breed’s administration hastily pulled sidewalk/parklet dining shanty legalization out of its ass, getting all high and mighty, making demands on the supervisors to pass it or she’d go to the ballot?

            Now they have to go back and fix it because, as was apparent at the time, those regs have proven unwieldy as far as practical utility in the field goes. The move was nothing more than political posturing to make it appear like Breed cared about restaurants, checking a box.

            This is the same thing. Getting all high and mighty, checking boxes that make it appear like she’s trying to do something, hoping that after the recalls (that she’s trying to avoid) outrage will die down and she can get back to normalcy.

          3. Joe you are so wrong. It’s the constant dialogue and diatribes that have enabled and perpetuated this mess. The NGO’s and CBO’s are self serving to a population generally not from our community. To give equal stakeholder input to people squatting here just to push their personal feel good agenda is what is the problem.
            It’s not homelessness it’s drug addiction, you need to stop the crime to create a push to treatment and lifestyle change.
            Joe be honest, years of pandering and enabling have destroyed Market Street, Tenderlion, and now Union Square. Joe the city is like a burn victim. The City is walking and talking but will be dead from infection in a few weeks. The clock is ticking !
            The Mayor has very few tools in the tool box. And to the typical burned out cop, here’s the plan, enforce the law. It will be up to Boudin to uphold it.
            For years, we have been playing your former hometown of Berkeley’s “plan” of – appease and please – news flash it doesn’t work.

          4. Joe I don’t know who you think “the right people” are to talk to. Personally I have listened to public health advocate to “let them have their drugs” and prominent homeless advocates say give us more money so we can handle this compassionately. That is who’s plan the City has been listening to for a very long time. Me and so many others are ready for a new plan, even if it is not fully done. And I’m also done with the City talking to the same old people. It’s not helping. Everyone can see it.

      3. Joe, you really do have a habit of defending the status quo. Would be great to hear what the alternative to this is. Clearly we haven’t made progress for your entire lifetime, why keep doing the same thing?

        1. Hi Dan.

          Thanks for reading. Here’s the part you must have read over:

          …declaring an emergency now and forcing city officials to rapidly bang out a series of half-formed plans in a succession of hair-on-fire sessions and then hurriedly vote on it at a special winter break meeting? This is bad government.

          It is bad government to have allowed the untenable situation in the Tenderloin to fester for years, and then demand sweeping emergency powers to cut through “red tape” — “red tape” it appears nobody ever really attempted to previously cut through.

          You are not going to craft the best possible plan via this ridiculous and constrained process, especially regarding an intractable and multifaceted problem like crime and drugs in the Tenderloin. It’s deeply disappointing that our city’s powers-that-be couldn’t meet and hammer out a real plan, or even attempt to do so, and that it didn’t happen years ago.

          A serious response to decadeslong governmental neglect and failure is not to send in the troops and/or bang out a vague, half-formed “plan” while everyone stands on one foot in an act of political theater.

          It’s this response from our present government that harks to the status-quo.


  27. I’m 66 and the Tenderloin has been a disaster my entire life. Growing up, the Tenderloin and 6th Street were the only no-go areas most parents had. In the intervening years, both have grown progressively worse and that’s been accomplished by a variety of administrations implementing policies that sounded compassionate but, in reality, have led us to the point where these same people are trying to show that allowing people to wallow in their own filth while slowly (and sometimes not so slowly) poisoning themselves is somehow compassionate. It’s anything but compassionate and in one of, if not THE richest cities in the country, it’s a disgrace. How many, at this point in time, BILLIONS of dollars have been spent with non-profit organizations supposedly tasked with improving the situation? What has that money bought, other than seemingly more misery in even larger numbers? Has anyone in City government performed any financial or performance audits of these non-profits? Because it’s very apparent to anyone that bothers to open a single eye that they are failing and that the City, by continuing to fund them, has turned a blind eye to the problem. Instead, they stick their collective fingers in their ears, shutting out the cries for help among the victims of their policies. Yes, the victims in the Tenderloin, in the South of Market and all along all those blocks of tent cities and broken down RV camps, as well as the cries of tax-paying residents who have seen the quality of life in San Francisco steadily erode.

  28. Yeah but it’s not about doing anything. It’s about convincing people who never step foot in the Tenderloin that you are.

    1. Good point. The UC Hastings lawsuit lead to encampment sweeps that had a noticeable and notable impact. This shows us: The needle can be moved if the will is there. We are about to find out how much clout London Breed really has around town.

  29. Thanks for helping fill out the backstory for me.

    You’re probably 100% correct about this plan. I also heard folks on the zoom making other salient criticisms.

    Serious question, should I not be disgusted by every single member of sfbos who along with the Mayor has had an excuse for two pandemic years at least to do the right thing, whatever that is, for the Tenderloin and haven’t?

    Your critiques, the critiques of the call in callers seem far more on point and far more relevant to me than hearing supervisors sitting around with their thumbs up their butts suddenly deciding this plan, this plan, didn’t meet with their approval.

    Meantime I recall two years of them on twitter attending this big social event and that big social event and cramming their agendas undemocratically on the city then demanding they be made permanent.

    Honestly, sadly, I’m ready for USDOJ to take all SF Government to court for civil rights violations.