CFAH

Examiner Graphic: Voter Concern in San Francisco (Image Source: Examiner.com)
The two biggest concerns amongst voters in San Francisco: 1. Homelessness and panhandling (38% of voters); and 2. Crime, drugs and gangs (31%).
And with just under half (48%) of those polled of the opinion that the city of San Francisco is headed in the “right direction,” it’s possible that a few of our “negative” readers aren’t alone in their thoughts (and actually voice the concerns of many).
Poll: Voters love S.F., uncertain where it’s heading [Examiner]
Coming Soon: Fifteen New Condos At 1158 Sutter Street [SocketSite]

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Mike

    Homelessness is the problem that will never be solved in SF. No one is “coldhearted” enough to put through the actual solution, so the city will continue to spend millions upon millions shuffling the problem around and making themselves feel better.

  2. Posted by zzzzzzz

    I find it astonishing that only 8% feel that cleanliness of the streets and parks is a major concern. SF, in my opinion, is easily the filthiest major city in the country (OK, I’ve never been to Detroit, so it’s possible we still have some competition 😉 ). If anything, the problem has only gotten worse these past few years. I think it’s a sad commentary that so few people are troubled by the filthy state of our streets.

  3. Posted by Rillion

    “Homelessness is the problem that will never be solved in SF. No one is “coldhearted” enough to put through the actual solution,”
    Please enlighten us as to what is the “actual solution” that would completely solve the homeless problem.

  4. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Please enlighten us as to what is the “actual solution” that would completely solve the homeless problem.”
    I’d posit that there is never going to be a complete “solution” so long as people are free to conduct their lives the way that they want. A small percentage of homeless live on the streets by choice. You can’t force them into a “normal” living environment.
    Any good homeless help program should target effort towards those who want help and should ignore those who do not.
    Those who want to get on the road towards self sufficiency should have access to programs to help them clean up, get shelter, and get jobs or at least get on the dole and into public housing.
    Some would rather panhandle to stay inebriated continuously – no bootstrap program is going to motivate them to move away from their chosen lifestyle. If their drunken behaviour impinges on other people’s freedoms (freedom from poop in your front step for example) then this becomes a law enforcement issue.
    There is yet another smaller demographic : the homeless mentally ill. Some of these folks are not competent to make life decisions and should become wards of the state. Good luck finding funds for that though.
    On a separate issue : California cities are absorbing a disproportionate share of the nation’s “homeless by choice” crowd due to our mild weather that makes it feasible to live outdoors. This is not just a SF problem.

  5. Posted by Anon

    MUNI has gone to crap. Buses are being cancelled, and it is not unusual to wait 30-40 minutes for the bus to show in FiDi at night (specifically 41 bus).

  6. Posted by gh

    I wonder how many of those 519 voters live near 1158 Sutter?

  7. Posted by Sleepiguy

    I agree with MoD… To actually “solve” the homeless issue, you would have to enact policy to force people into treatment. I actually expect many of the chronically homeless are mentally ill, and if they aren’t a danger to themselves or others then they have the right to live on the streets.

  8. Posted by Rob

    Big shock! Less than 1/2 the people surveyed think favorably of the pathetic Board of Supervisors. That means at least 48% of the people in the survey have half a brain. People like Mirkarimi, Daly and Peskin have absolutely no business being in city government, where their actions consistently prove detrimental to the city and its citizens.

  9. Posted by Jim D

    if they aren’t a danger to themselves or others then they have the right to live on the streets.
    I’d love to know where that right is located within law.
    If there’s one sentence that keeps me from moving to SF, this is it.

  10. Posted by scorpio

    i just spent 5 days in your city, visiting from Midwest. had not been in almost 30 years. stayed at San Remo in North Beach. i came expecting homeless everywhere and filthy streets. i found very little of either. and would say that SF stacks up v favorably w NYC in both regards, particularly when you consider how much SF has done to actually ATTRACT the homeless (handouts, etc) and beautiful environment. maybe i was lucky or just in the right neighborhoods. having said that, prices still too high, given last few years comps and imminent prospect of earthquake.

  11. Posted by Michael L.

    If what you get from SF is Filth and Homelessness then your missing the bigger picture of this great city.

  12. Posted by David

    You can’t force nonviolent crazies/rummies/junkies into treatment centers or mental health hospitals. That is in the law, JimD, and the result is that these people become homeless.
    I prefer the water cannon solution though. Clean up the streets and give the bums a bath at the same time.

  13. Posted by hotep

    sum of differences: -10%
    in general, san franciscans care less in 2008 than in 2007

  14. Posted by Satchel

    “I’d love to know where that right is located within law.”
    Not too sure about the homeless situation solution (I have my ideas – too radical for public comsumption!), but just an observation: “rights” are not located in law. That is what you find in systems such as the Soviet Union had, or most of Europe currently has.
    In the US, rights come from God, or from natural law if references to God make you squeamish. The governed (the people) consent to certain infringements or limitations of rights in the interests of social order, societal goals, etc. Certain rights are deemed so essential that infringement of them is enshrined in our Constitution, which the Founders purposely made veryt difficult to amend. But the source of rights is not government. That is despotism. It is an important distinction, but one that is increasingly being forgotten as the power of the state is becoming ever greater.
    I’m not sure whether under its police powers California or San Francisco specifically has limited the rights of people to live wherever they want. I suspect that these rights are limited by vagrancy and public health and safety laws. Obviously, no one is enforcing them….

  15. Posted by Satchel

    “Certain rights are deemed so essential that protection from infringement of them is enshrined in our Constitution…”
    Sorry, now that the comment preview function is gone, it’s tougher for me to write a sensible sentence!
    [Editor’s Note: Not to worry, the “preview” function will soon return.]

  16. Posted by Jim D

    “You can’t force nonviolent crazies/rummies/junkies into treatment centers or mental health hospitals.”
    No, but that’s not what I said.
    Where do they get their right to sleep on my doorstep? Where do they get their right to sleep in public places? Or take a dump in front of children? Or shoot up in an alley?
    The way most civilized places handle it is that you don’t force anyone to be somewhere – you instead restrict their behavior when they are in public places.
    That includes not “camping out” in public parks where children (should) play, or taking a dump in the middle of the street.
    It’s not that hard to do – make it (more) difficult to live on the street, and fewer people will live on the street.
    That this is controversial in SF continues to baffle me.
    BTW – God didn’t give them a right to take a public dump. Sorry. Get over it.

  17. Posted by kthnxbye

    The only reason response to the education question went down is because the district is so very, very bad that most parents give up and move, especially when they hit the middle schools (all of which are horrifying). We’re still here but our kids are in charter schools. The district wants to move one of our schools to a really very bad part of BVHP (yes, there’s good parts -lol) and so maybe we’ll have to move or go private after all.
    (Note to the childfree – why should anyone care if parents stay in the city? Because we’re the ones who usually drive community outcry over the state of parks, facilities, and services for one. Not having your neighbors be totally transient is another.)

  18. Posted by anonfedup

    What is the explanation for why the city has such a problem with people ” taking a dump in the middle of the street. ” ? What made my mother “give up” and sell her home on Green Street between Pierce and Scott was that even in THAT neighborhood, people would go up the stairs from the street into the front garden and take “dumps”. (I have posted about this one time before, but it still gets me furious) At first it was about only 2 times a year in 2002, but by 2004 it was a real problem. We put a lock on the gate, but they just jumped over. I told her they could be using the garden hose to drink from, so she, a widow in her 70’s, removed the hose, and what happened next, but they smeared feces on the garage door on the street as revenge. TWICE! This is on a very steep street in Cow Hollow in a neighborhood of 4 million dollar homes.
    We are an old San Francisco family and these changes are very depressing. It was not just that house, but many neighbors have reported similar problems. I know everyone writes about problems in so-called “bad” neighborhoods, but these problems really are moving everywhere and calling the police does nothing to stop them.

  19. Posted by Satchel

    “calling the police does nothing to stop them.”
    Bingo. Forget about looking to government. I grew up in a fairly dangerous part of the Bronx (NYC) in a pretty dangerous time (1970s). Lots of crime problems. Neighborhoods took it upon thenselves to “solve” the problem. On my block, there was an organization called the “Saint Assunta Security Patrol”. Solving the problem often involved bats and sticks, and even old ladies were able to walk unaccosted at all hours of the evening.
    I’m not advocating violence, of course. But looking to government to solve problems is a fool’s errand, ESPECIALLY here, and neighborhoods should develop some vehicles for “straightening out” their neighborhoods. To the poster above who wrote about families, he or she is exactly on target. Take away families and a city will ultimately die IMO.

  20. Posted by Sleepiguy

    I lived a couple of blocks south of anonfedup’s mom and instead of poop, I would find used condoms all over the sidewalk…
    The car break-ins off Union have gotten out of control. I’ve also noticed a lot more tagging over the last couple few months.

  21. Posted by scurvy

    +1 The Milkshake of Despair
    FWIW, San Francisco is dirtier and more toxic than New Orleans post-Katrina. That’s saying something.

  22. Posted by anon

    Actually people CAN be forced into treatment etc. but no one has the satchel to do so in the Bay Area. New York was able to do it, so obviously it is possible.
    Muni is largely worthless (why would I take muni when I can drive and park my new BMW for about the same amount of money – come on!).
    And SFPD doesn’t seem to help anything. I can’t even count how many times I’ve called them to report an assault etc…and maybe, maybe they’ll show up if they have nothing better to do.
    I only hope that the changing demographics of the city brings an increased political pressure to solve these chronic problems.

  23. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    “Where do they get their right to sleep on my doorstep? Where do they get their right to sleep in public places? Or take a dump in front of children? Or shoot up in an alley?”
    As I alluded to earlier, if an action impinges on someone else’s freedom then this is probably a law enforcement issue.
    The fact that the SFPD does not crack down on all violations probably is due to lack of staffing. They’re working within a limited budget and have to prioritize how to spend their time. And as someone else mentioned a while ago the SFPD as well as PDs all over the country are indirectly funding our adventures in Iraq via salary guarantees to their reservist officers. So a side effect of keeping gasoline prices abnormally low is less police officers on the street.
    To the greater question of homelessness, most homeless people are decent unobtrusive folks. You might not even notice them walking down the street. Its nearly impossible nor is it even beneficial to outlaw homelessness. How would you prove homelessness anyway ? (“Show me zee papers !”)
    Give them a chance. Give them the opportunity to improve their lives. But don’t arrest them unless they’re causing harm.
    Since the SFPD is impotent on cracking down on these quality of life annoyances caused by the scummy few perhaps neighborhoods have to get creative. Lets hope the creativity is benign and doesn’t involve baseball bats.

  24. Posted by liz

    The attempt to counter the “negative” readers comment is a little off. That most people are concerned with the homeless problem is a no-brainer. I think the negativity they were reacting to was the extreme disdain some express for neighborhoods where it’s more visible and the harsh language they use to express that that may make someone wince.

  25. Posted by DerrySF

    I’ve owned a home on a sidestreet off of 12th in Soma for 3 years. My neighbors and I were experiencing all of the depressing quality-of-life insults recounted above, including that of an apparently overwhelmed or disinterested SFPD.
    It wasn’t until, on some inexplicable and poorly thought-out impulse, with tire iron in hand I chased a homeless guy for 3 blocks after watching him p*ss on my parked car (?!) that 90%+ of my street’s problems disappeared virtually overnight. Apparently there is a highly efficient homeless grapevine, and word got round quickly to steer clear of the mental Irish guy. Go figure.

  26. Posted by gh

    DerrySF…nicely done!

  27. Posted by Satchel

    +1 DerrySF!
    And this begs the question. Had you connected, would 95+% of your problems have gone away….?

  28. Posted by DerrySF

    Satchel my man, in the black mood that had taken me at that moment my quarry’s problems would have indeed gone away — but I suspect mine would only have been beginning. So I reckon both of us were lucky that day.

  29. Posted by Jim D

    Give them a chance. Give them the opportunity to improve their lives. But don’t arrest them unless they’re causing harm.
    I’d be all for that if “causing harm” also meant sleeping on the sidewalk. But I suspect that’s not what you meant.
    But if you don’t do that, you’ll be powerless to enforce any other statutes as well, as SF is discovering to it’s dismay.
    The reason why is easy enough – it’s easy to find (and roust) someone sleeping where they have no business being. It’s hard to catch someone pooping in a doorway.
    This ain’t rocket science, folks.

  30. Posted by Sleepiguy

    Oooh, my quote is famous now!
    But seriously, a couple of weeks ago, while walking to a friends house, I spotted shattered glass all the way down Vallejo, Steiner, to Union and Pierce.
    Also, the section of Webster between Green and Union has been ruthlessly tagged. What’s going on?

  31. Posted by Satchel

    LOL! DerrySF!
    What a difference 30 years makes. After one of the “incidents” that I saw around 1976 on my block, the police came around asking questions. All the old Italian ladies did nothing but sit at their windows and watch the world go by. They saw ANYTHING that went on, you can be sure.
    Well, when the police asked what happened, not a single old lady saw a thing. Dressed in black every day from the time their husbands died 20 or 30 years’ prior, the police knew they would never get at a thing out of them. You could have waterboarded them, and all you would have got was “Niente!” and you knew those old ladies meant business!
    The crazy Irish and the crazy Italians stopped fighting each other just in time. Without those two groups, the whole place would have burnt down (literally).

  32. Posted by Frank

    Satchel: you remember a few years back when some guy down in my neck of the woods (the Tenderloin) blew away some punk who had already broken into his apartment once from the fire escape and was trying to do so again? Well, the Guardian got their knickers in a knot about the sancity of human life and how no man doth have the right to take the life of another and their were letters to the editor of the Chronicle demanding the outlawing of handguns and expressing disgust and outrage that some people though this guy was in the right for blowing that punk away, and then (the punk was some sort of half-Asian and the guy who blew him away was Caucasian, I believe) the usual accusations of racism erupted and the DA hauled the guy in for questioning. I forget the final resolution, but this is why your soluttion will never work in SF. This is a city of wimps…

  33. Posted by Satchel

    Frank, I don’t remember that incident specifically (I’m hunkered down here in my bunker west of Twin Peaks), but I can believe it. A real solution to problems like homelessness of course takes time, and would involve cutting government handouts and taxes dramatically, so that “intermediate social institutions” like churches, fraternal organizations, neighborhood associations, etc. could do their tradition jobs of ensuring social order as well as helping the downtrodden through focused efforts that don’t have the “hidden agenda” of using government to rob Peter to pay Paul (and enriching the organizers of these unaccountable and tax-funded “nonprofits”). Absolutely zero chance of some approach like this actually happening, of course. People will scream that you need government money (read: coercion through taxation), forgetting that Americans are charitable, sensible, tolerant and above all moral, especially when it comes to local, human-scale endeavors.
    What will ultimately happen I guess in SF is what happened (more or less) in NYC. As areas gentrified, the people were quietly “disappeared” through “forced migrations” to smaller towns up the Hudson Valley. Go to some of the enclaves such as Wappinger’s Falls, Poughkeepsie and Peekskill, and you’ll find many of the former residents of the now-gentrified Upper West Side. The liberals can claim plausible deniability.
    BTW, do you know what a Conservative is? A: a Liberal who has been mugged (or, insert, “who has kids”). 🙂

  34. Posted by Oceangoer

    If you live in the Cow Hollow/Marina area you might have been part of the meetings put on by the SFPD from Northern Station. The results were positive, and here are some numbers they passed out for us to call if you are having the kind of problems listed above.
    EMERGENCY: 911
    Non-Emergency: 553-0123
    Anonymous Tip Line 575-4444
    Customer Service Center: 311
    Cell phone 911: 553-8090
    Northern Station: 614-3400
    Web: http://www.sfgov.org/police
    Program the cell phone 911 into your cell–it will get answered. And Instead of chasing people with a tire iron try using the cops. We have found they have made a difference.

  35. Posted by anonfedup

    SFGATE has released a homicide map tonight for 2007-2008. It is more than a little concerning, but maybe I just am not “urban” enough.
    http://www.sfgate.com/maps/sfhomicides/

  36. Posted by anon1

    @Frank: You are talking about the graffiti vandalizer Tie-One. He was shot while attempting to tag the ceiling of an apartment building. The tenant apparently mistaked him for a would-be thief. Here’s an editorial by one of his so-called friends: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1998/04/29/EDITORIAL1881.dtl
    There is a better article on sfgate.com but I can’t seem to find it anymore.

  37. Posted by dissent

    I’m amazed you guys are so concerned about the homeless. I am MUCH more concerned about the projects and the gangs they foster. The paralyzed status quo is horrifying. That is why there are 60K guns in San Francisco. That is why our murder rate is going up.

  38. Posted by Moulton Alley

    I’ve lived on Moulton Street with my wife for 3 years, right around the corner from that graphitti. My car’s been broken into and vandalized 4 or so times. There’s constant homeless, junky and hooker traffic in and around the hotels that line Lombard Street (local brokers say it’s an ammenity). It doesn’t seem dangerous, but we’re anxious to get away from it.

  39. Posted by Rillion

    Well at least there are less homeless sleeping in GG park.
    We should just hire more cops and have them chase the homeless around all day, then we can set up loudspeakers to play that Benny Hill music and we have instant entertainment we can watch from our front porches.

  40. Posted by Jim D

    do you know what a Conservative is? A: a Liberal who has been mugged
    And, it has to be said:
    You know what a Liberal is? A Conservative who’s been arrested (or had their kids arrested).
    Which is why things tend to see saw…

  41. Posted by Jon

    I’m a long time resident, over 27 years, and a former crime reporter in SF with a perspective on quality of life issues in SF. Over the last 4 years I’ve spent about 1/2 my time out of state coming back and forth. It’s given me a new perspective I might not have had I spent all my time here. In short, the city seems off the tracks. Cops in SF have been apathetic for a VERY long time. There are a few good ones and loads of others who are just biding their time for the rich City retirement benefits to kick in. The cops hate Newsome (maybe because he expects them to work) and that creates the rub in this Very political town. Seeing cops line up by the dozens in North Beach one late night last summer was a real eye opener. That never happened before. It used to be considered rude to honk your horn here. Civility is gone and I sort of blame the many East Coasters ushered in during the dot-com boom.

  42. Posted by Jon

    I’m a long time resident, over 27 years, and a former crime reporter in SF with a perspective on quality of life issues in SF. Over the last 4 years I’ve spent about 1/2 my time out of state coming back and forth. It’s given me a new perspective I might not have had I spent all my time here. In short, the city seems off the tracks. Cops in SF have been apathetic for a VERY long time. There are a few good ones and loads of others who are just biding their time for the rich City retirement benefits to kick in. The cops hate Newsome (maybe because he expects them to work) and that creates the rub in this Very political town. Seeing cops line up by the dozens in North Beach one late night last summer was a real eye opener. That never happened before. It used to be considered rude to honk your horn here. Civility is gone and I sort of blame the many East Coasters ushered in during the dot-com boom.

  43. Posted by Andrew

    FWIW: the way into the homeless problem is to focus on the less visible marginal homeless. you keep the people on the edge of homelessness warm, fed, and rested, medically attended to, and generally stabilized. give them a foundation to build on so that they don’t slip into a more inextricable state beyond which progress becomes much more expensive.
    problem is, they aren’t the ones inconveniencing the yuppies and tourists so they get ignored. however, this population is the wellspring of the hard case homeless population. if they are not found and helped, even if you implemented your “coldhearted” solution, give it a week and there will one new hard case to replace every one you disappeared.

  44. Posted by frank

    Heh anon1: thanks for that link. Wow, that was a long time ago! Seems like yesterday. Then again, I’ve been traveling and only popping into the city now and then these last few years, so I guess I’m getting chronologies mixed up.
    Actually, now that I’ve refreshed my memory of that incident, I sort of see why everyone was so upset. People like tie-one are why I continue to make the Tenderloin/Polk Gulch my home. (Though I still don’t have a problem with the guy who blew Tie-one away. You live la vida loca, you gotta be prepared to pay the price…)

  45. Posted by spencer

    wow. i have pointed out for a long time on this site that crime and drug use and homelessness are out of control in SF and always get the same responses. “move away” “you shouldn’t be in an urban area” “this is safe” “stay in the marina or pac heights”
    I am always surprised by these answers because it seems that people are OK with what is going on and really just apathetic about what is going on around them. We should all be concerned and trying to make this a better place to live.
    This obviously relates to housing in many ways. There are many beautiful places in SF i would want to live in if crime and homelessness and rampant drug use weren’t problems.
    What i don’t see in current housing pricing is a discount for living in these types of situations. For instance, a place in a bad part of the loin or the mission should have a QOL discount properly priced in. It’s just not currently the case, or at least hasn’t been the case. the conversation is not about diversity. no one wants to avoid diversity. people want to avoid danger and depression. it should cost less to lvie around these things.
    I really believe as the market unravels, this will start to happen again.
    I would go as far as to say that 1158 Sutter Street should be priced at around $450K, but the same condo 12blks to the north should be around $900K. Those would be of equal value to me.

  46. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    I agree with Spencer that QOL should be baked into the price of property. Historically “bad” neighborhoods have been cheaper, ironically making them “good” financially.
    I’ve lived in an alleged “bad” neighborhood. Screaming crazies on some nights. Had to pick discarded trash out of the front yard weekly. Sometimes if I left tools on the front porch for an hour or so they were stolen. Still it was a great place to live and I have no regrets.
    Now I live in a nicer neighborhood. I can leave tools on the front steps for weeks and no-one will touch them. Rarely any trash to pick up. The infrequent night screamers have been replaced by 7 nights a week barking dogs. Prices are higher here than in the old hood.
    Market sanity will eventually resume and spread everywhere now that buyers don’t have to bid on anything within reach just to get a chance to get in contract.

  47. Posted by Kevin Feather

    Wow, sounds like the Mission…what are all you Marina boyz and girlz going to do now? Ease up on the Mission folks. This is a problem all over SF. People need to care more about all of our neighborhoods.

  48. Posted by joe shmoe

    Tell ’em, Satchel. Our rights and the structures that protect them are really unique.
    Actually, I don’t find the situation in SF to be that bad. Families do seem to be staying (even with Marin awaiting with falling home prices) and taking their chances with public school. As urban public school systems go, it could be much, much worse.
    While we have rough parts of town, their roughness seems over-rated unless you are party to the gang disputes.
    There are definite quality of life issues that worry me. I am pretty appalled that Thief’s Market operates without even foot patrols to keep a lid on things. Really, it should be shut down entirely.
    Now I don’t know why Jon is blaming us east coasters for the city’s ills– I always find it is the midwesterners who are rude. Us east coasters are long familiar with living in cramped spaces with neighbors, but the midwesterners grew up in subdivisions with yards and cars for everybody and ample parking and don’t understand the sanctity of a neighbor’s driveway or the meaning of a red zone.

  49. Posted by diemos

    “the meaning of a red zone.”
    Those are emergency reserve $75 a night parking spaces.
    Right? 😉

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