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THE CHANGED FACE OF SAN FRANCISCO: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2020 at 12:25 am

San Francisco has long been one of the most-loved cities in the United States.

Millions of tourists—from both other parts of the United States as well as around the world—visit this city every year to ride its famous cable cars and dine in its magnificent restaurants.

To visit the ruins of its infamous prison, Alcatraz, eat Ghiradelli ice cream in Ghiradelli Square and buy souveniers at nearby Fisherman’s Wharf. 

San Francisco Cable car

Thomas Wolf, http://www.foto-tw.de / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

But San Francisco today is not the city it has long been renowned for.

Its major tourist spots are deserted. Its sidewalks are largely free of pedestrians. Many of its best-known stores have been shuttered since mid-March—and many of them may never reopen owing to the financial losses they have incurred.

Its world-famous restaurants no longer offer in-house dining—only take-out or home delivery.

Many of its bus routes have been eliminated. With so many people “sheltering-in-place” in their apartments or houses, the passengers that once carried those routes have largely disappeared. 

On March 16, the San Francisco Department of Public Health imposed a shelter-in-place order on city residents. This required them to stay home except for essential needs such as shopping for groceries, getting medications, caring for others and exercising.

The goal of the order: To halt—or at least diminish—the spread of COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

The order banned activities considered non-essential: Going to bars, barbers and dinner parties. 

Many restaurants offer their fare via Grubhub, Doordash, Caviar or Uber Eats. Some restaurants—notably pizza parlors—use their own employees to deliver food.

This, in turn, demands that potential customers have not only a computer but Internet access. It also demands that they be willing to pay a higher price for food than would be the case if they could dine in.

Another drawback: Choosing what items to order from many restaurants is like choosing what to order in the military: You either accept what they offer—or you do without. Forget about substitutions or additions. 

Outdoor exercise is allowed, but gyms are closed.

Some businesses were deemed essential. Among these: Grocery stores, hardware stores, hospitals, drugstores, laundromats, funeral parlors, gas stations, airlines, taxis, rental car companies, childcare facilities, rideshare services. 

The effect of the shutdown order on businesses has been devastating.  

Walk along Market Street—the city’s best-known site for marches and storefronts—and you’ll find store after store not only closed but boarded up. The same for Powell Street, a major tourist magnet.

People are on edge right now': San Francisco businesses boarding ...

The city’s internationally famous cable car lines have all been shut down. With “social distancing” the new Golden Rule, cramming people onto small cable cars is no longer an option. 

Taxis are still available—but cab drivers have found business difficult to come by, with so many people staying indoors.

The order allowed most marijuana dispensaries to remain open. Bookstores, on the other hand, were ordered closed—and remain so more than two months later. 

So businesses selling toxic “medical marijuana” are considered essential. But if you want to buy a copy of Moby Dick at your local bookstore, you’ll have to do it online. 

Many businesses started boarding up in April. The reason: Fears that Coronavirus-inspired shortages of items like toilet paper, meat and hand sanitizer might lead to wholesale looting. 

Then, on May 25, as if facing a deadly pandemic wasn’t enough of a threat, a new and unexpected reason for fear emerged: The killing of George Floyd, a former black security guard, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Video shows Minneapolis cop with knee on neck of George Floyd, who ...

The death of George Floyd

Across the nation, cities were convulsed by protests—including those in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among these: Oakland, San Jose, Emeryville, Walnut Creek and San Francisco itself.

On May 30, an initially peaceful protest march exploded into looting shortly before 9 p.m. as looters broke off and began smashing shop windows and ransacking stores in Union Square and on Market Street.

Among stores looted: A Sak’s Off Fifth Avenue, Old Navy clothing store, a Cartier Boutique, a Coach store. Looters especially targeted CVS and Walgreens drugstores. Liquor stores and a BevMo were also hit.

“Thirty businesses were looted or destroyed,” said David Perry, from Union Square Business Improvement District. A total of 33 arrests were made for “criminal activity.”

That night, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that she would impose a citywide curfew beginning May 31, running from 8:00 p.m to 5 a.m.

On the night of May 31, 87 people were arrested for violating the city’s curfew. 

Left unstated by city authorities—within San Francisco and across the nation—was this: With so many people massing in streets, many of them unmasked, would this spread COVID-19 even further?

Northern California—and San Francisco in particular—have closely cooperated with “stay-at-home” orders. As a result, COVID-19 cases have remained relatively stable in those areas.

But the street demonstrations may well reverse the results of those months of self-discipline. The truth will be known only weeks from now.

THE CHANGED FACE OF SAN FRANCISCO PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2020 at 12:05 am

Want to play a new game? Come to San Francisco and play “Count the Stupids.”

Just walk down any major street during a pandemic that’s killed more than 100,000 Americans and count:

  • The people who refuse to wear face masks;
  • The people wearing face masks below their noses;
  • The people wearing face masks around their necks like bandannas. 

On some days—depending on how far you walk—you might spot 10 to 60 or more such people. 

Those who wear masks below their nose negate the purpose of wearing a mask. If they have COVID-19 and sneeze on someone else who’s not wearing a mask, that person is going to be stricken. And if someone who’s also not wearing a mask sneezes or coughs on them, they will be infected.

Coronavirus prevention: Can using a mask help in eliminating COVID ...

Face masks

Many of those wearing masks as bandannas are smoking. Clearly they value getting their intake of cancer as more important than protecting themselves against a deadly virus. Many mask-less men sport heavy beards—which would make a mask impossible to seal properly.

And as for complying with social distancing requirements that put at least six feet between people: Countless people casually pass others only inches away without any apparent concern—for their own safety or that of others.

On May 28, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that a new policy would take effect the next day: 

San Francisco will enforce the wearing of masks or face coverings when people leave their home and are within 30 feet of anyone that doesn’t live in their household.

That includes when you’re waiting in line to go into a store and when you’re inside shopping. A mask or face covering will not be needed when: 

  • You’re in a car by yourself;
  • You’re with people you live with;
  • You’re picnicking with members of your own household and are more than six feet from other groups;
  • You’re walking, hiking, running or biking alone or with people you live with.

Even then, you should still have a mask or face covering on hand.

Of course, that will require police to enforce the new ordinance. This in a city where police have refused to crack down on “homeless” encampments—and their piles of feces, hypodermic needles and trash.

For all the kudos offered city residents by Mayor Breed for complying with social distancing, the blunt truth remains that many of them do not. And the fact that Breed felt forced to legally require citizens to wear face masks is a telling point in its own right.

But to return to life in San Francisco in the Age of COVID-19: 

Civic Center—which lies directly across from City Hall—might better be renamed COVID-19 Center. Once it housed farmers markets and offered easy access to the Civic Center BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. 

Today it is fenced off and serves as shelter for countless “homeless” tents—and all the drugs, trash, alcohol, feces and hypodermic needles that come with this population.

Controversial San Francisco homelessness tax passes

Tent “city” in San Francisco

Of course, Civic Center isn’t the only place in San Francisco where you’ll find huge tents occupied by DDMB’s—Druggies, Drunks, Mentally Ill and Bums. 

Walk down almost any major sidewalk and odds are you’ll find your path blocked by one or more huge tents able to house two to four people. 

If you’re in a wheelchair or elderly or on crutches, you’ll likely be forced to step into the street or cross the street to continue your journey. 

If you call the police on your cell phone, expecting them to remove the tents, you’re in for a big surprise. In bum-loving San Francisco, that sort of action is no longer handled by police. 

Instead, they’ll refer you to a “help-the-homeless” agency that specializes in defending the rights of DDMBs over those of law-abiding, tax-paying San Francisco residents.

The “homeless problem” has become so outrageous in San Francisco that Hastings College of the Law—one of the foremost law schools in the nation—recently filed a lawsuit against the city “to end dangerous and illegal conditions in the Tenderloin neighborhood.” 

Among its goals: To compel the City

  • To clear sidewalks to allow unfettered safe passage for neighborhood residents and workers; and
  • To provide healthy and safe solutions for “homeless” people who now use sidewalk encampments as their residence.

And when it comes to public transit: Forget about using the underground stations of the Municipal Railway (MUNI) bus system. Those have been closed since March—allegedly to protect riders and drivers from COVID-19. 

Inbound T Third train at Church station, September 2017.JPG

MUNI underground station

Pi.1415926535 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

MUNI, which serves only San Francisco, has 4,800 employees and an annual budget of $1.28 billion.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system serves 33 cities and has an annual budget of $2.3 billion. 

Yet BART, which uses many of the same stations is still providing railway service throughout northern California.

MUNI refuses to say why BART has managed to provide service for its passengers—while MUNI has made transit far more complex and time-consuming for its own.

SAN FRANCISCO: THE CITY BY THE BUM

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 13, 2020 at 12:08 am

The San Francisco Travel Association reported a total of 25.8 million visitors to the city in 2018, up 1.2% over 25.5 million in 2017.

Total spending by visitors was $10 billion, up 2.3% over $9.8 billion in 2017 (including spending on meetings and conventions) and creating 82,538 jobs. 

In 2012, the association conducted a survey among San Francisco residents, who named tourism the city’s most important industry.

The study found that 98% of San Franciscan respondents agreed that “tourism is very important or important to the vitality of the city’s economy.” Additionally, when directly asked if they believe tourism is “the city’s most important industry,” almost 70% agreed or strongly agreed.

Downtown San Francisco

Christian Mehlführer, User:Chmehl [CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D

Yet San Francisco’s political establishment seems determined to destroy its main source of city revenues.

They do so by catering to a population euphemistically called “the homeless,” but which is more accurately described as DDMBs: Druggies, Drunks, Mentals and Bums.

Their legacies include the following:

  • The city’s sidewalks reek of human feces and urine.
  • Pedestrians must tread carefully to avoid used hypdermic needles and empty cans or bottles of alcoholic beverages.
  • Sleeping bags and tents litter sidewalks, making it hard to pass by—especially for the elderly or those using canes or wheelchairs.
  • Elevators in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system are often unusable because “homeless” people urinate in them.
  • Restaurants have been forced to close because they’ve become havens for DDMBs. A Burger King at Civic Center Plaza recently suffered this fate. So did a McDonald’s in the Haight Ashbury district. 
  • Tourists—and residents—are daily forced to sit next to filth-encrusted men and women who reek of urine and/or feces in restaurants and movie theaters, as well as on buses.

Bum passed out near the Cable Car Turnaround on Powell

So what are San Francisco’s politicians doing to curb these offenses against public health—and the tourism industry on which the city depends?

They’re opening a series of “Navigation Centers” to invite even more DDMBs to San Francisco.

According to the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing:

  • “A Navigation Center is an asset to a community.”
  • Such Centers are “a form of Temporary shelter that are low-barrier and high-service, have 24/7 access, and connect clients to resources and services to help them exit homelessness.”
  • Services offered include: Health care, benefits counseling, mental health care, housing assistance, substance abuse treatment and employment services.

Since 2015, eight Navigation Centers have been opened throughout San Francisco; six are in operation.

Among the “amenities” they provide:

  • Meals
  • Privacy
  • Space for pets
  • Space separate from sleeping areas
  • Laundry
  • Access to benefits
  • Wi-Fi

While city officials increasingly cater to the drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums who comprise most of this population, San Francisco’s reputation as a tourist mecca is increasingly threatened.

“The large homeless population in San Francisco is more of a mental health and humanitarian issue, although it has affected the tourism and related industries,” said Christian Tong, operations manager for Intrepid Urban Adventures in San Francisco.

“Whether a visitor is staying in Fisherman’s Wharf, North Beach or Union Square, they’ll most likely run into a few of the city’s homeless people, with the largest concentration in the Tenderloin neighborhood.” 

“A few?”

Current estimates peg the homeless population of San Francisco at about 7,500. And it hasn’t changed much during the last 10 years. In 2019, an estimated 2,831 members of this population were sheltered. Another 5,180 were unsheltered. This made for a total of 8,011.

Many DDMBs refuse to enter the city’s available shelters. Some claim these places are dangerous—understandably since they’re peopled with drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums.

But another reason why many of these shelters go unused is they don’t allow their guests to drink up or drug up. 

The city spends about $300 million each year on DDMBs. Dividing that amount by 8,011 provides the figure of $37,448 per DDMB.

Just as roaches flock to areas where huge quantities of food is available, so will DDMBs continue to flock to San Francisco. Especially if other cities/states don’t cater to them.

And while San Francisco politicians are going all-out to provide for DDMBs, they’re fighting a war against those who feed pigeons in parks. This includes posters erected by the Department of Public Works, which read:

“Large population of pigeons is a health hazard. Our huge feral pigeon population is a health hazard and creates many problems in the city.

“Pigeon droppings dirty public spaces, do costly damage to buildings, and can spread life-threatening diseases, especially to the elderly and immune-deficient. Their nesting materials block drains and harbor parasites like bird mites. Pigeon food makes a mess and attracts rats.

“Feeding pigeons promotes over-breeding. Pigeon feeding produces over-breeding.

“Pigeons are harmed when fed. When you feed pigeons, you are not doing them a favor. They lose their natural ability to scavenge and survive on their own.

“Pigeon over population leads to overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and produces sick and injured birds. A smaller flock is healthier and does less damage.”

Substitute “DDMBs” for “pigeons” and you have an accurate description of what San Francisco’s policy toward these people should be.

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