Supervisor Hillary Ronen will unveil a far-reaching “Mission Plan” on Wednesday, aimed at addressing the district’s persistent problems with trash, street vending, fires, and homelessness. It’s a pilot plan that will last six months.
Ronen’s initiative comes two months after Mayor London Breed announced the Tenderloin Emergency Plan, which controversially mobilized city resources to reduce overdose deaths and crime in that neighborhood.
“As the mayor and the city are really focused on the Tenderloin, we feel like the Mission has gotten even worse and has been left behind,” Ronen said in an interview. “So, we have worked with city departments to create our own plan.”
The Mission has reached what Ronen’s office called a “breaking point.” Business owners have left because of streets littered with garbage and needles; residents are sick of picking up trash thrown outside their houses, and have paid others to do the dirty work for them.
“Street conditions in the Mission are unacceptable,” the plan states. “Sidewalks are unpassable, litter and trash plague the neighborhood, and San Franciscans experiencing homelessness are living in unhealthy and unsafe conditions on the streets.”
Trash and ‘gravity bins‘
As part of the initiative, the Department of Public Works and Recology, the private company responsible for collecting garbage, have agreed to increase trash collections to more than twice a day along the Mission commercial corridor between 14th and 25th streets. Recology will also provide Mission businesses with “gravity bins,” trash cans designed to prevent people from rummaging through them.
Public Works teams will focus on clearing trash from hot spots, such as the commercial corridors and Garfield Park. The city has also committed to cleaning up 1979 Mission St., the future site of 330 affordable units at the 16th Street Plaza.
Ronen’s plan also complements proposed street-vendor legislation that she sponsors with Supervisor Ahsha Safai and Mayor London Breed, which cracks down on street vendors who sell “stolen goods” who don’t have permits.
Along Mission Street, especially near the 24th and 16th Street BART Plazas, street vendors sell a wide range of goods: hot dogs, shampoo, DVDs. But business owners say street vendors and open-air markets interfere with their permitted businesses and trash the sidewalk, and some block the entryways to their shops and restaurants.
Ronen said illegal markets harm “primarily Latino owned mom-and-pop businesses on Mission that pay their business registration fees, that pay taxes, that are barely hanging on, barely made it through the pandemic.” They “now are telling us that people will not come to their stores because there is a full, unorderly street market of, let’s be honest, majority stolen goods,” she said. Her office did not provide data that showed how much of the street-vendor products are stolen.
Mayor London Breed drew backlash for cracking down on unpermitted Latinx hot-dog vendors at Union Square weeks shy of her Tenderloin Emergency Initiative announcement. The street vendor legislation, which will be heard by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee on Wednesday, also prohibits unpermitted vending at UN Plaza, where elderly Asian immigrants sell canned goods.
Ronen said her goal is to stop people from selling stolen goods, not punish immigrant street vendors. She said the plan protects “immigrants who own brick-and-mortar shops,” while “providing opportunities for street vendors to be regulated and to make some extra money.”
Ronen’s office said the plan will tap trusted Mission community organizations to help educate vendors about the permit registration and process in their language. Vendors who cannot show a permit in 48 hours could be fined $100 for their first infraction, but may be able to reduce it if they cannot pay, under the street vendor proposal.
The Mission Plan also includes a proposal to create an indoor flea market to give street vendors a place to sell their wares, and is discussing using a vacant Mission Street storefront to host the market.
The initiative also addresses fires in homeless encampments, which unhoused people may set to keep warm or cook food. The San Francisco Fire Department has agreed to work with Public Works to identify items in encampments that could spark debris fires, focusing on areas where fires are frequently set. The plan does not say how often such inspections will occur.
In February alone, one blaze that started from debris displaced more than 20 tenants and a restaurant, Taqueria Los Coyotes. Another fire threatened Mission Neighborhood Health Centers, and last week, a woman died in an uncontrolled encampment fire under the 280 freeway in Glen Park.
Ronen’s plan also tries to address the biggest challenge facing the Mission and the city: Helping more unhoused residents move off the streets and into permanent housing. Roughly 8,000 people lived on San Francisco streets in 2019, and approximately 260 lived in the Mission. Volunteers conducted another count last week, with results expected this summer.
As part of Ronen’s initiative, the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has committed to reopening 53 beds at Jazzie’s Place and Santa Maria Shelters this spring.
The Healthy Streets Operation Center (HSOC) team, which works with the city’s unhoused residents, will increase its patrols, visiting the Mission “multiple times a week” to connect people to a multitude of resources.
“If they’re not able to convince people to get inside, which is obviously the first and foremost goal, at least [HSOC can] clean around those encampments so they don’t get excessive with the amount of trash,” Ronen said.
Homeless advocates have criticized efforts aimed at clearing encampments, arguing that such initiatives don’t help people move off the streets. Ronen acknowledged that the plan may not solve all of the problems on the Mission’s streets, but she says it represents an important step forward. “We want a commitment to address conditions on the street that are new,” she said.
Executive editor Lydia Chávez contributed to this report.