[su_label type=”info”]Staff Editorial [/su_label]
Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development commissioned a survey regarding San Francisco nonprofits who are concerned about “long-term financial sustainability.” The survey was commissioned by the Mayor’s office of housing and community development. This version has been corrected.
San Francisco is famous for its liberal values. Across a range of social issues—from the environment to gay rights to housing and mental health services for the underprivileged—the city has been at the vanguard, establishing progressive public policies that are frequently adopted in other parts of the United States.
And San Franciscans take a special pride in the historical inclusivity and diversity of their city. There is mounting evidence, however, that these traditions are being abandoned.
Since Mayor Ed Lee took office in 2011, San Francisco has become decidedly wealthier, whiter and more economically conservative. Mayor Lee’s mid-Market development plan has been great for wealthy techies, but has made life much more difficult for the marginalized residents of the area.
Tech companies like Twitter have reaped the benefit of Lee’s tax cuts (the city forfeited $34 million of revenue in 2015 alone), while helping to displace many of the nonprofit organizations that provide vital services to some of the most disadvantaged people in the city.
A recent survey originating from the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development found that four out of five nonprofits are concerned about “long-term financial sustainability,” and that seven out of 10 reported needing to make a decision about relocating sometime within the next year—the San Francisco Business Times reported in March 2016.
There seems to be a growing disregard for the kind of underprivileged San Franciscans who rely on these organizations.
“I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle, and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day,” Justin Keller, a young tech worker, lamented in a February blog post.
A few years before that, Greg Gopmen, who founded the startup AngelHack, suggested that homeless people should be grateful just to be in a “civilized” city such as San Francisco and that they should view themselves as “guests.”
In the run up to Super Bowl 50 earlier this year, Mayor Lee made purging the homeless from the vicinity of Super Bowl City a top priority—out of sight out of mind. Several weeks later the mayor declared that a homeless encampment on Division Street, where many had relocated, was a public health hazard, and he ordered it to be dismantled.
This “homeless people as public health hazard” idea is the justification Mayor Lee gave when he declared that there needed to be a “crack down” on the homeless. The “crack down” rhetoric has also been parroted by District 11 Supervisor Scott Wiener, who is running for State Assemblymen this year.
It was the rationale behind Lee sending the Department of Public Health in to destroy the encampment on Shotwell Street, which ultimately resulted in the SFPD fatally shooting a homeless man named Luis Gongora seven times.
Homelessness is a complex problem, often entangled with mental illness and addiction. The idea that it can be solved by just “cracking down” as Lee would have us believe is misguided and actually pretty callous—rhetoric that is more befitting of a Republican primary campaign speech than the mayor of the nation’s leading liberal city.
Mahatma Ghandi once said “The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members.”
If that is true, San Francisco is not measuring up to its reputation.