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Posts Tagged ‘SAN FRANCISCO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH’

SAN FRANCISCO: WELCOME DDMBs–DRUGGIES, DRUNKS, MENTALS AND BUMS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 12, 2021 at 12:07 am

In San Francisco, successive mayors and members of the Board of Supervisors virtually roll out the welcome mat for succeeding waves of

  • Drug addicts
  • Drunks
  • Mentally ill and
  • Bums.

Who can otherwise be classified as DDMBs.

Huge areas of the city are covered in feces, urine, trash and used hypodermic needles. Hospitals overflow with patients that have fallen ill due to the contamination.

Image result for Images of trash left by homeless

Typical “homeless” campsite

In February, 2018, NBC News surveyed 153 blocks of the city—an area more than 20 miles. That area includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and the cable car turnaround. It’s bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue. And it’s also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds and a police station.

Reporters found trash littered across every block. Forty-one blocks were covered with needles and 96 blocks were  contaminated with piles of human feces.

Most of the trash found consisted of heaps of garbage, food, and discarded junk—including 100 drug needles and more than 300 piles of feces throughout downtown. If you step on one of these needles, you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B or a variety of other viral diseases. 

But you don’t have to actually get stuck by a needle to become a victim. Once fecal matter dries, it can become airborne and release deadly viruses, such as the rotavirus.

“If you happen to inhale that, it can also go into your intestine,” says Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Berkeley. The results can prove fatal, especially in children.

Related image

And cleaning up the messes of DDMBs is no easy task. In a 2018 news story on NBC’s San Francisco affiliate, KNTV, Mohammed Nuru, the Director of the Public Works Department, said: “Yes, we can clean, and then go back a few hours later, and it looks as if it was never cleaned. So is that how you want to spend your money?”

A single pile of human waste takes at least 30 minutes for one of his staffers to clean up. “The steamer has to come. He has to park the steamer. He’s got to come out with his steamer, disinfect, steam clean, roll up and go.”

Another danger posed by DDMBs: Hundreds—if not thousands—of them are heroin addicts. Such people will commit virtually any crime to support their habit. And their crimes of choice are burglary and robbery.

Thus, pouring large numbers of them into San Francisco neighborhoods via “Navigation Centers”—essentially holding pens for DDMBs—guarantees that countless decent citizens will become targets for desperate criminals.

Navigation Centers boast that they ban drug-abuse or drug-dealing on their own premises. But they allow DDMBs to come and go at will. Which means they are free to engage in drug-abuse and/or drug-dealing in the neighborhoods where these centers exist.

In 2016, San Francisco spent $275 million on homelessness—up from $241 million in 2015. Four years later, City Hall prepared to spend $300 million to find housing for DDMBs.

San Francisco’s political elite see this blight as well as everyone else. They can’t avoid seeing it, since the city covers 47 square miles. 

Related image

The latest fad remedy: “Navigation Centers.” These will supposedly warehouse DDMBs temporarily until they can be “navigated” to permanent housing.

But housing is in short supply in San Francisco, and there is no telling how long how many of these drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally disabled and bums will stay in them. Or what harm they will wreak on the neighborhoods warehousing them.

San Francisco should stop catering to its population of DDMBs who prey on the guilt or fear of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. 

The same laws that protect citizens against patients with highly communicable diseases like typhoid and cholera should be vigorously applied to those whose filthy habits threaten similar public contagion.

Among such reforms:

  • Launch a “Please Do Not Feed the Bums” publicity campaign—as San Francisco has against feeding pigeons. And those caught doing so should be heavily fined. 
  • Trash cans should be equipped with locked doors, to prevent DDMBs from using them as food dispensers.
  • Those living on the street should be given a choice: Go to a local shelter or face arrest and the immediate confiscation of their possessions.
  • San Francisco’s rent control laws should be strengthened, to prevent future evictions owing to the unchecked greed of landlords.
  • Tenants on fixed incomes should be given special protections against extortionate rent increases.
  • Bus drivers should have the right to refuse passengers who stink of urine/feces, as they present a potential health-hazard to others.
  • Owners of restaurants, theaters and grocery stores should likewise be allowed to refuse service on the same basis.
  • Require proof of at least six months’ residency for those applying for welfare benefits. Too many people come to San Francisco because, upon arrival, they can immediately apply for such benefits.
  • Set up a special unit to remove “street people” and their possessions from city sidewalks. This could be a division of the Sanitation Department, since its personnel are used to removing filth and debris of all types.  

Only then will San Francisco rightly reclaim its former glory as “the city by the Bay.”

SAN FRANCISCO–“MY CITY BY THE BUM”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 1, 2020 at 12:06 am

In San Francisco, successive mayors and members of the Board of Supervisors virtually roll out the welcome mat for succeeding waves of

  • Drug addicts
  • Drunks
  • Mentally ill and
  • Bums.

Who can otherwise be classified as DDMBs.

Huge areas of the city are covered in feces, urine, trash and used hypodermic needles. Hospitals overflow with patients that have fallen ill due to the contamination.

Early each day to the City Hall steps
The bum-loving ‘Frisco Mayor comes
In her own special way to the people she calls,
“Come, hand out booze to my bums.”

 

Image result for Images of trash left by homeless

Typical “homeless” campsite

In February, 2018, NBC News surveyed 153 blocks of the city—an area more than 20 miles. That area includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and the cable car turnaround. It’s bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue. And it’s also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds and a police station.

Reporters found trash littered across every block. Forty-one blocks were covered with needles and 96 blocks were  contaminated with piles of human feces.

Most of the trash found consisted of heaps of garbage, food, and discarded junk—including 100 drug needles and more than 300 piles of feces throughout downtown. If you step on one of these needles, you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B or a variety of other viral diseases. 

Feed the bums, six-packs a bag
Six-packs, six-packs, six-packs a bag
“Feed the bums,” she cries from the stoop
While on the streets, her bums take a poop.

 

But you don’t have to actually get stuck by a needle to become a victim. Once fecal matter dries, it can become airborne and release deadly viruses, such as the rotavirus.

“If you happen to inhale that, it can also go into your intestine,” says Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Berkeley. The results can prove fatal, especially in children.

Related image

And cleaning up the messes of DDMBs is no easy task. In a 2018 news story on NBC’s San Francisco affiliate, KNTV, Mohammed Nuru, the Director of the Public Works Department, said: “Yes, we can clean, and then go back a few hours later, and it looks as if it was never cleaned. So is that how you want to spend your money?”

A single pile of human waste takes at least 30 minutes for one of his staffers to clean up. “The steamer has to come. He has to park the steamer. He’s got to come out with his steamer, disinfect, steam clean, roll up and go.”

All around you see needles that are left by the addicts
And poop that slops on your shoes.
Whenever you see them
You know bums are smiling
Each time someone shows up with booze.

 

Another danger posed by DDMBs: Hundreds—if not thousands—of them are heroin addicts. Such people will commit virtually any crime to support their habit. And their crimes of choice are burglary and robbery.

Thus, pouring large numbers of them into San Francisco neighborhoods via “Navigation Centers”—essentially holding pens for DDMBs—guarantees that countless decent citizens will become targets for desperate criminals.

Navigation Centers boast that they ban drug-abuse or drug-dealing on their own premises. But they allow DDMBs to come and go at will. Which means they are free to engage in drug-abuse and/or drug-dealing in the neighborhoods where these centers exist.

In 2016, San Francisco spent $275 million on homelessness—up from $241 million in 2015. Four years later, City Hall prepared to spend $300 million to find housing for DDMBs.

Though her words are simple and few
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you
“Feed the bums, six-packs a bag
Six-packs, six-packs, six-packs a bag.”

 

San Francisco’s political elite see this blight as well as everyone else. They can’t avoid seeing it, since the city covers 47 square miles. 

Related image

The latest fad remedy: “Navigation Centers.” These will supposedly warehouse DDMBs temporarily until they can be “navigated” to permanent housing.

But housing is in short supply in San Francisco, and there is no telling how long how many of these drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally disabled and bums will stay in them. Or what harm they will wreak on the neighborhoods warehousing them.

San Francisco should stop catering to its population of DDMBs who prey on the guilt or fear of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. 

The same laws that protect citizens against patients with highly communicable diseases like typhoid and cholera should be vigorously applied to those whose filthy habits threaten similar public contagion.

Among such reforms:

  • Launch a “Please Do Not Feed the Bums” publicity campaign—as San Francisco has against feeding pigeons. And those caught doing so should be heavily fined. 
  • Trash cans should be equipped with locked doors, to prevent DDMBs from using them as food dispensers.
  • Those living on the street should be given a choice: Go to a local shelter or face arrest and the immediate confiscation of their possessions.
  • San Francisco’s rent control laws should be strengthened, to prevent future evictions owing to the unchecked greed of landlords. Tenants on fixed incomes should be given special protections against extortionate rent increases.
  • Bus drivers should have the right to refuse passengers who stink of urine/feces, as they present a potential health-hazard to others.
  • Owners of restaurants, theaters and grocery stores should likewise be allowed to refuse service on the same basis.
  • Require proof of residency for those applying for welfare benefits. Too many people come to San Francisco because, upon arrival, they can immediately apply for such benefits.
  • The city should set up a special unit to remove “street people” and their possessions from city sidewalks. This could be a division of the Sanitation Department, since its personnel are used to removing filth and debris of all types.  

Only then will San Francisco rightly reclaim its former glory as “the city by the Bay.”

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.

SMOKE—AND POWER–GET IN YOUR EYES

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 19, 2019 at 12:46 am

Officially, government health agencies exist to make our lives safer.

Oftentimes, this simply isn’t true.

Meraki Market opened in October, 2017, at 927 Post Street, directly across from the San Francisco apartment building where Valerie (not her real name) lives.

The main feature of this store—which offers expensive, deli-style food to local residents—is a wood-burning stove. Its fuel is almond and mesquite wood. Mesquite emits an aroma similar to that found in Texas barbecue restaurants.

Since this store opened, Valerie’s apartment—and other apartments on Post, Geary and O’Farrell Streets—has been swathed in thick, foul-smelling smoke that makes eyes water and throats constrict. It clings to clothes and furnishings.

And it poses a threat to tenants’ health.

An article published by the American Lung Association on February 8, 2016, warned: “Wood Burning Stoves Could Be Harming Your Health.”  For example:

“…The reality is that smoke from residential wood heaters can be harmful to the health of those in your home and also in your community. This is especially true for people with lung conditions, as well as children, older adults, people with cardiovascular disease and diabetics….

“Smoke from wood-burning stoves can have both short-term and long-term effects. It can trigger coughing, wheezing, asthma attacks, heart attacks, and lead to lung cancer and premature death, among other health effects.

“This is because wood smoke contains fine particle pollution, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, black carbon and air toxics such as benzene. The wood smoke can increase particle pollution to levels that pose serious health concerns both indoors and outdoors. In fact, fine particle pollution (PM2.5) is so tiny that it can get deep into the lungs, harming the lungs, blood vessels and heart.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s online edition reported: “An inspector with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) paid Meraki a visit…and found everything in order.”

But this is not as reassuring as it might seem.

The city’s Department of Building Inspection also handed out premature building permits to the notorious  Millennium Tower—a luxury residential high-rise in the South of Market district of downtown San Francisco.The result: Since its completion in 2008, the Tower has sunk 17 inches and tilted 14 inches.

Image result for Images of building inspection

The reason: The Millennium Partners did not build on bedrock.

As a result, this 58-story, 645-foot-tall apartment complex is now known as “the leaning tower of San Francisco.”

Meanwhile, Stanlee Gatti, the owner of the market, is one of the best-known event planners in the country. In 1999, he was described by a columnist as one of the three most powerful people in San Francisco.

Gatti’s enormous power as a friend of the city’s top politicians raises the question: “Is he the beneficiary of special consideration?”

The opening of Meraki Market came shortly after the extinguishing of the catastrophic fires in Napa and Sonoma in fall, 2017.

Starting in October, Valerie assumed these fires were still going on because the smell of burning wood was overwhelming the neighborhood.

It was only in early November that she learned the source of the pollution was the market across the street.

While there’s a health concern by those residents forced to live near the pollution-spewing market, it’s not shared by those city officials who don’t live near it.

On January 1, 2018, she emailed her local supervisor, Aaron Peskin.  That same day, Peskin replied: “I’m looping in the Department of Public Health to follow up.”

On January 2, Valerie received a second email from Peskin, which contained a notation from Barbara Garcia, an official with the local Department of Public Health: “I’ve added our Environmental Health management for response.”

On January 4, Valerie received that response from the Health Department:

“While we share the concerns for air quality and particulate pollution the outdoor air is primarily regulated by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD).

“The Department of Public Health’s Environmental Health Branch regulates the safe handling and preparation of the food sold at the market but the outdoor smoke issue is regulated by the BAAQMD.

Image result for Images of health inspection

“So in response to the complaints we received (November 2017) regarding the smoke from this location we directed the owner of Meraki Market to not use or operate the wood burning stove on the BAAQMD designated ‘No Burn Days.’”

Wow!  Local residents will be spared breathing polluted air on whatever days BAAQMD deigns to declare as “No Burn Days”!

For those days not so designated—tough luck.

Valerie had already contacted BAAQMD—and found they didn’t have jurisdiction over pollution caused by restaurants.  Moreover, one of its inspectors must actually come out and smell or see the pollution while it is occurring.

This is akin to a police department’s refusing to investigate reports of a murder unless one of its detectives actually saw it committed.

Valerie quickly drafted a reply to the Health Department: “Your email offers a textbook example why so many people have given up on government at any level.

“I [expected] the San Francisco Department of Public Health [to show] some interest in addressing the health concerns of a public that’s being daily exposed to toxic air. Obviously, that was a mistake on my part.”

She sent similar emails to Peskin and BAAQMD.

No action has been taken by any agency. 

COMBATING SLUMLORDS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 25, 2016 at 1:53 am

City agencies need to see landlords for what they truly are–as, at best, potential predators, if not actual ones. And to act on that knowledge. 

As Niccolo Machiavelli warned:

“All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.  But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.”

Related image

Niccolo Machiavelli

The power of slumlords calls to mind the scene in 1987’s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”

Many tenants have lived with rotting floors, bedbugs, nonworking toilets, mice/rats, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years

This holds true across the United States. But it also holds true in San Francisco–the “renters’ paradise” where the District Attorney’s Office hasn’t prosecuted a slumlord in decades

SF DISTRICT ATTORNEY on Twitter: "Watch our weekly Facebook Live this  Wednesday at noon!… "

Part Two of this series presented a series of badly-needed, long-overdue reforms for the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI). This is the agency charged to ensuring safe housing conditions for San Francisco residents.

This concluding part will cover the remainder of those needed reforms. 

  • Landlords should be required to bring all the units in a building up to existing building codes, and not just those in need of immediate repair.  
  • Landlords should be legally required to hire a certified-expert contractor to perform building repairs. To save money–that they can well afford to spend–many landlords insist on making such repairs despite their not being trained or experienced in doing so. They thereby risk the health and/or safety of their tenants. 
  • DBI should not view itself as a “mediation” agency between landlords and tenants. Most landlords hate DBI and will always do so. They believe they should be allowed to treat their tenants like serfs, if not slaves, raise extortionate rents anytime they desire, and maintain their buildings in whatever state they wish. And no efforts by DBI to persuade them of its good intentions will ever change their minds.   
  • Above all, DBI must stop viewing itself as a regulatory agency and start seeing itself as a law enforcement one. The FBI doesn’t ask criminals to comply with the law. It applies whatever amount of pressure is needed to force their compliance. William Tecumseh Sherman, speaking of the rebellious Southern states, said it best: “They cannot be made to love us, but they may be made to fear us.”  
  • The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office should create a special unit to investigate and  prosecute slumlords. Prosecutors should offer rewards to citizens who provide tips on major outrages by the city’s slumlords.  

  • Install Rent Control protections for tenants on fixed incomes. San Francisco is notorious for having the highest rents in the nation. A one-bedroom apartment runs $3,448 a month. Even those in the vaunted high-tech industry spend most of their income on rent.
  • For tenants on fixed incomes–seniors, disabled, students–the predatory greed of landlords amounts to a staged-in eviction notice.  Social Security recipients did not get a cost-of-living increase in 2016 because there had not been a rise in the price of gasoline. But the fact that many of them do not own cars doesn’t mean that the price of everything else–such as groceries–hasn’t sharply risen.  
  • Allowing landlords to jack up rents to the fullest extent possible every year will eventually drive out all tenants who are not multimillionaires. In fact, an unknown portion of this City’s homeless population doubtless stems from the ability of landlords to gradually raise rents above tenants’ ability to afford them.  
  • In 1979, San Franciscans passed a Rent Control law to protect tenants against predatory rent hikes and unfair evictions. As a result, a landlord can only raise a tenant’s rent a certain percentage every year. This is set by the set by the Rent Stabilization and Arbitration Board, more popularly known as the “Rent Board.”  
  • But there is a gaping hole in the law: Once a tenant moves out, the landlord can jack up the rent as high as he wants. This is why the average rent in San Francisco is priced beyond most middle-class wage-earners. 
  • In addition, landlords are allowed to charge tenants yearly fees to maintain the existence of the Rent Board. This is both unfair and insulting, since the Board was created to protect tenants from predatory landlords. Most tenants have far less money to pay such fees than do landlords, who are free to raise rents every year. And landlords–unlike tenants–can and do write off Rent Board fees on their taxes every year. Thus, landlords–not tenants–should be paying the fees.  

As Robert F. Kennedy wrote: “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”

COMBATING SLUMLORDS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2016 at 12:28 am

The San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) has long been outmaneuvered by predatory, law-breaking landlords.

And San Francisco renters–many of them elderly, poor and/or disabled–have been the victims of landlord greed, neglect and/or harassment.

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Among the reforms that DBI should immediately enact:

  • Hit slumlord violators with a fine–payable immediately–for at least $2,000 to $5,000 for each health/safety-code violation.The slumlord would be told he could reclaim 75-80% of the money only if he fully corrected the violation within 30 days. The remaining portion of the levied fine would go into the City coffers, to be shared among DBI and other City agencies.
  • This would put the onus on the slumlord, not DBI. Appealing to his greed would ensure his willingness to comply with the ordered actions. As matters now stand, it is DBI who must repeatedly check with the slumlord to find out if its orders have been complied with.  
  • If the landlord failed to comply with the actions ordered within 30 days, the entire fine would go into the City’s coffers–to be divided among DBI and other agencies charged with protecting San Francisco residents.  
  • In addition. he would be hit again with a fine at least twice the amount of the first one.  
  • Inspectors for DBI should be allowed to cite landlords for violations that fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health (DPH). They could then pass the information to DPH for its own investigation.  
  • If the DBI inspector later discovered that the landlord had not corrected the DPH violation within a designated time-period, DBI should be allowed to levy its own fine for his failure to do so.
  • If DPH objects to this, DBI should propose that DPH’s own inspectors be armed with similar cross-jurisdictional authority. Each agency would thus have increased motivation for spotting and correcting health/safety violations that threaten the lives of San Francisco residents.

  • This would instantly turn DBI and DPH into allies, not competitors. And it would mean that whether a citizen called DBI or DPH, s/he could be assured of getting the necessary assistance. As matters now stand, many residents are confused by the conflicting jurisdictions of both agencies.  
  • DBI should insist that its Inspectors Division be greatly expanded. DBI can attain this by arguing that reducing the number of Inspectors cuts (1) protection for San Francisco renters–and (2) monies that could go to the general City welfare.
  • The Inspection Division should operate independently of DBI. Currently,  too many high-ranking DBI officials tilt toward landlords because they are landlords themselves.
  • DBI should create a Special Research Unit to compile records on the worst slumlord offenders. Thus, a slumlord with a repeat history of defying DBI Notices of Violation could be treated more harshly than a landlord who was a first-time offender.
  • Turning DBI into a revenue-producing agency would enable the City to raise desperately-needed revenues–in a highly popular way. Fining delinquent slumlords would be as unpopular as raising taxes on tobacco companies. Only slumlords and their hired lackey allies would object.  
  • DBI should legally require landlords to rehabilitate a unit every time a new tenant moves in, or have it examined by a DBI inspector every two years.  A tenant can occupy a unit for ten or more years, then die or move out, and the landlord immediately rents the unit to the first person who comes along, without making any repairs or upgrades whatsoever.
  • Slumlords, unlike drug-dealers, can’t move their buildings from one street or city to another. If they want to make money in San Francisco, they will have to submit to the jurisdiction of landlord-regulating agencies.  
  • DBI should require landlords to post their Notices of Violation in public areas of their buildings–on pain of serious financial penalties for failing to do so. When DBI orders a slumlord to take corrective action, s/he is the only one who is notified.  If that slumlord refuses to comply with that directive, s/he is the only one who knows it. Given the pressing demands on DBI, weeks or months will pass before the agency learns about this violation of its orders. Tenants have a right to know if their landlord is complying with the law–so they can promptly notify inform DBI if a violation is occurring. 

  • Landlords should be legally required to give each tenant a list of the major city agencies (such as DBI, the Rent Board and the Department of Public Health) that exist to help tenants solve problems with their housing.
  • DBI should launch–and maintain–a citywide advertising campaign to alert residents about its services. Everyone knows the FBI pursues bank robbers. But too many San Franciscans don’t even know that DBI exists, let alone what laws it enforces. This should be an in-your-face campaign: “Do you have bedbugs in your apartment? Has your stove stopped working? Are you afraid to ride in your building elevator because it’s always malfunctioning? Have you complained to your landlord and gotten the runaround? Then call DBI at—- Or drop us an email at_____.”

COMBATING SLUMLORDS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2016 at 12:04 am

To hear slumlords tell it, San Francisco is a “renters’ paradise,” where obnoxious, lazy, rent-evading tenants constantly take advantage of hard-working, put-upon landlords.

Don’t believe it.

And in case you’re inclined to anyway, consider the story of Kip and Nicole Macy, two San Francisco slumlords who recently pled guilty to felony charges of residential burglary, stalking and attempted grand theft.

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Kip Macy

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Nicole Macy

Determined to evict rent control-protected tenants from their apartment building in the South of Market district, they unleashed a reign of terror in 2006:

  • Cut holes in the floor of one tenant’s living room with a power saw–while he was inside his unit.
  • Cut out sections of the floor joists to make the building collapse.
  • Threatened to shoot Ricardo Cartagena, their property manager, after he refused to make the cuts himself.
  • Changed the locks to Cartagena’s apartment, removed all of his belongings and destroyed them.
  • Created fictitious email accounts to appear as a tenant who had filed a civil suit against the Macys–and used these to fire the tenant’s attorney.
  • Cut the tenants’ telephone lines and shut off their electricity, gas and water.
  • Changed the locks on all the apartments without warning.
  • Mailed death threats.
  • Kicked one of their tenants in the ribs.
  • Hired workers to board up a tenant’s windows from the outside while he still lived there.
  • Falsely reported trespassers in a tenant’s apartment, leading police to hold him and a friend at gunpoint.
  • Broke into the units of three tenants and removed all their belongings.
  • Again broke into the units of the same three victims and soaked their beds, clothes and electronics with amonia.

The Macys were arrested in April, 2008, posted a combined total of $500,000 bail and then fled the country after being indicted in early 2009.

In May, 2012, Italian police arrested and deported them back to America a year later.

Having pled guilty, they were sentenced in September, 2013, to a prison term of four years and four months.

How could such a campaign of terror go on for two years against law-abiding San Francisco tenants?

Simple.

Even in the city misnamed as a “renter’s paradise,” slumlords are treated like gods by the very agencies that are supposed to protect tenants against their abuses.

The power of slumlords calls to mind the scene in 1987’s The Untouchables, where Sean Connery’s veteran cop tells Eliot Ness: “Everybody knows where the liquor is. It’s just a question of: Who wants to cross Capone?”  

Everybody in San Francisco knows who the slumlords are. But the District Attorney’s Office hasn’t criminally prosecuted a slumlord in decades. 

Many tenants have lived with rotting floors, bedbugs, nonworking toilets, mice/rats, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years. 

Consider the situation at the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI), which is charged with ensuring that apartment buildings are in habitable condition.  

Under San Francisco law:

  • A landlord is automatically given 30 days to correct a health/safety violation. If he drags his feet on the matter, the tenant must live with that problem until it’s resolved.
  • If the landlord claims for any reason that he can’t fix the problem within one month, DBI doesn’t demand that he prove this. Instead, it automatically gives him another month.
  • A slumlord has to work at being hit with a fine—by letting a problem go uncorrected for three to six months.
  • And even then, repeat slumlord offenders often avoid the fine by pleading for leniency.
  • That’s because many DBI officials are themselves landlords.

But the situation doesn’t have to remain this way.

How could it be changed?

By learning some valuable lessons from the “war on drugs” and applying them to regulating slumlords.

Consider:

  • At least 400,000 rape kits containing critical DNA evidence that could convict rapists sit untested in labs around the country.
  • But illegal drug kits are automatically rushed to the had of the line.

Why?

It isn’t simply because local/state/Federal lawmen universally believe that illicit drugs pose a deadly threat to the Nation’s security.

It’s because:

  • Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to “facilitate” violations of Federal anti-drug laws.
  • Local and State law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep some of the proceeds once the property has been sold.
  • Thus, financially-strapped police agencies have found that pursuing drug-law crimes is a great way to fill their own coffers.
  • Prosecutors and lawmen view the seizing of drug-related properties as crucial to eliminating the financial clout of drug-dealing operations.

It’s long past time for San Francisco agencies to apply the same attitude–and methods–toward slumlords.  

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DBI should become not merely a law enforcing agency but a revenue-creating one.  And those revenues should come from predatory slumlords who routinely violate the City’s laws protecting tenants.

By doing so, DBI could vastly:

  • Enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers.

HELL IN THE RENTERS’ PARADISE: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 1, 2016 at 12:57 am

Slumlords would have everyone believe that San Francisco is a “renters’ paradise.”  A place where hard-working landlords are routinely taken advantage of by rent-avoiding bums who want to be constantly pampered.

On the contrary: It’s not renters who hold “untouchable” status, but slumlords themselves.

If you doubt it, you need only review the case of slumlords Kip and Nicole Macy.  They waged a two-year war on their rent-paying tenants to force them out of their South of Market building.

The reason: The Macys wanted to get them out of their rent-controlled apartments so they could rent these out to tenants who could afford extortionate rents.

For two years, the police and district attorney’s office stood by while the Macys aimed threats, vandalism, illegal lockouts and violence at their law-abiding tenants.

The Macys have since been convicted and will be sentenced to four years and four months imprisonment.  But this case is a rarity for the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

Meanwhile, thousands of San Francisco tenants have lived with rotting floors, nonworking toilets, chipping lead-based paint and other outrages for not simply months but years.

But San Francisco tenants need not be put at the mercy of greedy, arrogant slumlords.  And the agencies that are supposed to protect them need not be reduced to impotent farces.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office should create a special unit to investigate and prosecute  slumlords.  Prosecutors should offer rewards to citizens who provide tips on major outrages by the city’s slumlords.

And the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection–which is charged with guaranteeing the habitability of apartment buildings–should immediately adopt a series of long-overdue refirms.

By doing so, it can:

  • Vastly enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions  for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers.

In Part 2 of this series I outlined 14 such reforms.  In this concluding column, I will outline the remaining eight:

  1. DBI should order landlords to post their Notices of Violation in public areas of their buildings–on pain of serious financial penalties for failing to do so. When DBI orders a slumlord to take corrective action, s/he is the only person who is notified.   Thus, if that slumlord refuses to comply with those directives, s/he is the only one who realizes it.  Given the pressing demands on DBI, weeks or months will pass before the agency learns about this violation of its orders.  Tenants have a right to know if their landlord is complying with the law.
  2. DBI should launch–and maintain–a city-wide advertising campaign to alert residents to its services.  Everyone knows the FBI pursues bank robbers, but too many San Franciscans do not even know that DBI exists, let alone what laws it enforces.  This should be an in-your-face campaign: “Do you have bedbugs in your apartment?  Has your stove stopped working?  Are you afraid to ride in  your building elevator because it keeps malfunctioning?  Have you complained to your landlord and gotten nowhere?  Then call DBI at —–.  Or drop us an email at ——.”
  3. Landlords should be legally required to give each tenant a list of the major city agencies (such as DBI, Department of Public Health and the Rent Board) that exist to help tenants resolve problems with their housing. 
  4. Landlords should be legally required to rehabilitate a unit every time a new tenant moves in, or at least have it examined by a DBI inspector every two years.  A tenant can occupy a unit for ten or more years, then die or move out, and the landlord immediately rents the unit to the first person who comes along, without making any repairs or upgrades whatsoever.
  5. Landlords should be required to bring all the units in a building up to existing building codes, and not just those in need of immediate repair.
  6. Landlords should be legally required to hire a certified-expert contractor to perform building repairs.  Many landlords insist on making such repairs despite their not being trained or experienced in doing so, thereby risking the lives of their tenants. 
  7. DBI should not view itself as a “mediation” agency between landlords and tenants.  Most landlords hate DBI and will always do so.  They believe they should be allowed to treat their tenants like serfs, raise extortionate rents anytime they desire, and maintain their buildings in whatever state  they wish.  And no efforts by DBI to persuade them of its good intentions will ever change their minds.
  8. Above all, DBI must stop viewing itself as a mere regulatory agency and start seeing itself as a law enforcement one.  The FBI doesn’t ask criminals to comply with the law; it applies whatever amount of force is needed to gain their compliance. Niccolo Machiavelli said it best: If you can’t be loved by your enemies, then at least make yourself respected by them.

As Robert F. Kennedy wrote: “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves.  What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”

HELL IN THE RENTERS’ PARADISE: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 31, 2015 at 12:01 am

The “war on drugs” has some valuable lessons to teach the San Francisco Department of Building Inspection (DBI) which is charged with protecting tenants against predatory landlords.

Consider:

  • At least 400,000 rape kits containing critical DNA evidence that could convict rapists sit untested in labs around the country.
  • But illegal drug kits are automatically rushed to the had of the line.

Why?

It isn’t simply because local/state/Federal lawmen universally believe that illicit drugs pose a deadly threat to the Nation’s security.

It’s because:

  • Federal asset forfeiture laws allow the Justice Department to seize properties used to “facilitate” violations of Federal anti-drug laws.
  • Local and State law enforcement agencies are allowed to keep some of the proceeds once the property has been sold.
  • Thus, financially-strapped police agencies have found that pursuing drug-law crimes is a great way to fill their own coffers.
  • Prosecutors and lawmen view the seizing of drug-related properties as crucial to eliminating the financial clout of drug-dealing operations.

It’s long past time for DBI to apply the same attitude–and methods–toward slumlords.

DBI should become not merely a law-enforcing agency but a revenue-creating one.  And those revenues should come from predatory slumlords who routinely violate the City’s laws protecting tenants.

By doing so, DBI could vastly:

  • Enhance its own prestige and authority;
  • Improve living conditions for thousands of San Francisco renters; and
  • Bring millions of desperately-needed dollars into the City’s cash-strapped coffers

Among those reforms it should immediately enact:

  1. Hit slumlord violators up-front with a fine–payable immediately–for at least $2,000 to $5,000 for each health/safety-code violation.
  2. The slumlord would be told he could reclaim 75-80% of the money onlyif he fully corrected the violation within 30 days.  The remaining portion of the levied fine would go into the City coffers, to be shared among DBI and other City agencies.
  3. This would put the onus on the slumlord, not DBI. Appealing to his greed would ensure his willingness to comply with the ordered actions.  As matters now stand, it is DBI who must repeatedly check with the slumlord to find out if its orders have been complied with.
  4. If the landlord failed to comply with the actions ordered within 30 days, the entire fine would go into the City’s coffers–to be dividedamong DBI and other agencies charged with protecting San Francisco residents.
  5. In addition, he would be hit again with a fine that’s at least twice the amount of the first one.
  6. Inspectors for DBI should be allowed to cite landlords for violations that fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Health.  They can then pass the information on to DPH for its own investigation.
  7. If the DBI Inspector later discovers that the landlord has not corrected the violation within a designated time-period, DBI should be allowed to levy its own fine for his failure to do so.
  8. If DPH objects to this, DBI should propose that DPH’s own Inspectorsbe armed with similar cross-jurisdictional authority.  Each agency would thus have increased motivation for spotting and correcting health/safety violations that threaten the lives of San Francisco residents.
  9. This would instantly turn DBI and DPH into allies, not competitors.  And it would mean that whether a citizen called DBI or DPH, s/he could be assured of getting necessary assistance.  As matters now stand, many residents are confused by the conflicting jurisdictions of both agencies.
  10. DBI should insist that its Inspectors Division be greatly expanded. DBI can attain this by arguing that reducing the number of Inspectors cuts (1) protection for San Francisco renters–and (2) monies that could go to the general City welfare.
  11. The Inspection Division should operate independently of DBI. Currently,  too many high-ranking DBI officials tilt toward landlords because they are landlords themselves.
  12. DBI should create a Special Research Unit that would compile records on the worst slumlord offenders.  Thus, a slumlord with a repeat history of defying DBI NOVs could be treated more harshly than a landlord who was a first-time offender.
  13. Turning DBI into a revenue-producing one would enable the City to raise desperately-needed revenues—in a highly popular way. Fining delinquent slumlords would be as unpopular as raising taxes on tobacco companies. Only slumlords and their hired lackey allies would object.
  14. Slumlords, unlike drug-dealers, can’t move their operations from one street or city to another.  Landlords aren’t going to demolish their buildings and move them somewhere else.

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