Once the calling card of America’s most populous state, San Francisco today is showing the bruises of political mismanagement as residents flee for the emergency exits. Can anything save the famed city of seven hills?
In 1879, the American poet Ina Coolbrith attempted to capture the beauty and grandeur of the fabled US coastal city, which continues to serve as host for thousands of artists, writers and progressive thinkers, with her poem ‘To San Francisco’.
Fair on your hills, my City,
Fair as the Queen of old,
Supreme in her seven-hilled splendor
You, from your Gate of Gold,
Facing the orient sunburst,
Swathed in the sunset gleams,
Throned in an ultimate glory,
City of mists and of dreams!
Coolbrith would most likely be appalled by what has become of her beloved city today: intractable poverty, homelessness, drug abuse, and shuttered storefronts are just some of the problems now plaguing California’s once exquisite cultural gem.
A friend of mine, Mark, who is employed in San Francisco’s tech industry, described the situation he is confronted with on his daily commute to work by bicycle.
“In the past, I’d be able to make the ride into the city in about 20 minutes, but I’m constantly forced to change my route due to the sidewalks being taken over by makeshift shelters and drug addicts,” he said.
When I asked if he changes his route out of fear his answer surprised me.
“To be honest, the druggies are so out of their minds that they really only present a danger to themselves. I avoid the areas where they congregate because passing through these zombie wastelands is just too depressing.”
But there is more to San Fran’s current woes than just tent cities playing host to assorted fentanyl abusers and homeless people, two social ailments in the US that now seem to occur concomitantly. Many long-term locals are being forced to give up their beloved city due to high rental costs, runaway inflation, a downturn in the tech industry, and big box stores as well as small retailers who are being driven out of town by roaming mobs that act with impunity. It is getting so bad that San Francisco may actually go broke considering that almost a third of its lucrative commercial property is now standing empty.
The situation should give local leaders, not least of all California Governor Gavin Newsom, tremendous pause as it appears that even the Biden administration is slowly unfurling the white flag of defeat over the trashed landscape. Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) advised its hundreds of federal employees in San Francisco to work from home “for the foreseeable future” due to rampant crime and safety concerns.
“In light of the conditions at the Federal Building we recommend employees maximize the use of telework for the foreseeable future,” the memo warned.
What is doubly embarrassing for the Democratic Party, which largely controls San Francisco, as well as the majority of prime California voting estates, is that the office complex in question, until just recently, was known as the ‘Speaker Nancy Pelosi Federal Building.’ Inside the hollowed-out shell of this 18-story ‘green-building’ disaster is the office of former Speaker Pelosi, manned by five dutiful employees, who said they would hold down the fort and not shift to remote work, in what we can be sure was an absolutely personal decision on their part.
“SoMa [‘South of Market,’ where the federal building is located] is one of those places in the city where I have a hard time getting my employees to go to for jobs, because they just don’t feel safe going there,” Frank Ma, who works as a security advisor for the city, told the California Globe. “They can park their car in a secure lot and they still worry that it might get broken in to.”
While San Francisco’s liberal residents were once willing to blame the surge in crime on overzealous (white) police carrying out too many arrests, the situation is no longer so simple, especially as the evidence of rampant criminal activity is easily captured by CCTV cameras and citizens armed with smartphones.
So who’s to blame for San Francisco’s ongoing plight? One needn’t dabble in conspiracy theories to suggest that George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist and financier who has a soft spot in his 93-year-old heart for progressive politicians who promise to go easy on criminals, played a part.
Last year, The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) released a shocking report that showed there were 75 Soros-backed “social justice” prosecutors overseeing half of America’s 50 most populous cities. To put that figure another way, about 1 in 5 Americans are represented by a prosecutor who either received direct financial contributions from Soros or through his vast empire of philanthropic organizations, many of which are exceedingly hard to trace.
The uproar over the findings was enough to start a grassroots movement to recall these Soros-funded district attorneys, which led to a recall campaign against former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. His replacement was Brooke Jenkins, whose one-year stint in office has seen a closer alignment by the DA’s office and the local police force, which has resulted in a crackdown on drug dealers and other criminals.
“It is not progressive to allow our residents to die out on our streets,” Jenkins said, as she expressed her candid views on the Democratic Party’s reputation for leniency against the criminal-minded. “It does not further reform or the reform movement to allow repeat offenders to continuously offend without any consequence.”
Despite the much-needed changing of the guard, however, this has not translated into a dramatic difference in crime stats, nor the ghost-town appearance that California’s fourth-largest city has acquired of late. And it seems that the average resident is getting tired of waiting, as San Francisco ranks among the urban centers that are witnessing unprecedented declines. From 2020 to 2021, its population dropped to its lowest level since 2010, negating a decade worth of population growth in one fell swoop. Many other Democratic-controlled cities and states have witnessed a similar decline, notably New York, Washington DC, and Boston.
More worrisome, however, at least for the political prospects of the Democrats, is where the average disaffected San Franciscan is escaping to. If you guessed to Republican Country, you are right. Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, where Republican governor and wannabe Trump terminator Ron DeSantis holds court, saw the biggest surge in the number of S.F. out-migrants, increasing by 120% and 107%, respectively, from the yearly averages over the previous five years.
Commenting on that statistic, my friend, a diehard liberal, could only respond with black humor: “The only thing that can save our city now is another earthquake,” referencing the 1906 disaster that left 80% of the city in smoldering ruins. Hopefully the situation won’t reach that point before the great city of San Francisco can see results of the new legal arrangement now taking root. This California gem deserves a second chance.