San Francisco days and nights
SAN FRANSISCO: In the Tenderloin, not far from tourists at the historic cable car turnaround, the city’s incoming police chief was shocked to see open drug dealing. Then, in the swank Union Square shopping area, Sacramento’s visiting mayor had his luggage swiped from outside a hotel.
And in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, crucible for the hippie movement and the 1960s Summer of Love, residents and storekeepers have been complaining about overbearing transients blocking pedestrians and panhandling with their pit bulls by their sides.
This tourist mecca, known for its panoramic views and liberal outlook, is grappling with quality-of-life crimes - and the perception that its cherished sense of forbearance has gotten out of hand.
“This is a city that absolutely relies on visitors as its main economic driver,” said Steve Falk, executive director of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. “San Francisco is known for having a high level of tolerance, but the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I think San Franciscans are ready for that to happen.”
Last year, the city’s overall crime rate was the lowest in decades, with homicides down more than
50 percent. But a groundswell of gripes about “nuisance crimes” has made combatting them a priority for Police Chief George Gascon since he arrived last summer.
The chief has gone so far as proposing a citywide “sit-lie” ordinance that would give police the authority to move and cite those who block sidewalks or otherwise intimidate pedestrians to address problems like those in the Haight-Ashbury.
Mayor Gavin Newsom, who recently moved to Haight Ashbury and was previously hesitant about Gascon’s proposal due to potential divisiveness, said he will now introduce the ordinance this week
to the city’s Board of Supervisors. Newsom said he constantly hears complaints from merchants while jogging or grabbing his morning coffee. He also told the San Francisco Chronicle that he recently saw a guy smoking crack while taking his infant daughter on a stroll down Haight Street.
“It’s a lot of behavior issues, a lot of drug-related and transient issues and I’m sensitive to the challenges of some of these folks,” Newsom told The Associated Press. “But, at the same time, there’s families there, kids in strollers, merchants there barely making ends meet. We’ve got to find a compromise.”