7 MIN READ - A new mini-series from the Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Economic Affairs and Other Egghead Stuff.
|The view from San Francisco's superelite Pacific Heights district - |
where homeless are strictly forbidden and quickly removed
The Cautious Optimism Correspondent for Economic Affairs and Other Egghead Stuff prefers the focus of his articles to be on economics, not himself.
However, over four years writing as your trusty Correspondent I’ve frequently been asked this common question:
Q. “Do you really live in San Francisco? How on earth can you stand living in that lunatic bin?"
After having explained the answer to personal friends and family multiple times it just seemed more, well… economical to write the San Francisco survival booklet down once and for all while including some tiny—but far from complete—insight into just how crazy a place San Francisco is.
So the answer in a nutshell, which I’ll elaborate in more detail with many examples, is:
A. “San Francisco *is* a lunatic bin full of insane policies... that mostly don’t affect me.”
So even being free from many of the consequences of loony-left politics, let’s start with what’s to like about the San Francisco area.
MUCH OF SAN FRANCISCO IS STILL PRETTY NICE
The city of San Francisco (referred by locals as “The City”) is still one of the most beautiful cities in the world—mostly. It’s effectively a 7 mile-by-7 mile square surrounded on three sides by San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate, and the Pacific Ocean. At 49 square miles it’s very small, one-fifth the size of, say, Austin, Texas proper.
It has steep hills, beaches, neighborhoods with Victorian and Edwardian era architecture, mild weather, scenic fog that generates multiple microclimates, great outdoors venues, and for me especially it has great and scenic road bicycling with challenging hills, fun downhills, and cool temperatures.
San Francisco has great food. I’m an Asian foodie who enjoys the variety of Chinese cuisines (the dominant Cantonese plus Taiwanese, Sichuan, and a splattering of Shanghai and northern Chinese), Japanese sushi and ramen, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, Indian, rare Burmese dishes, and even a little Singapore, Malaysian, and Indonesian.
I also estimate there are literally a hundred restaurants within a 1,000 yard walk from me plus a few more bakeries, boba teas, and bars.
San Francisco also has a great public library main branch that has a surprisingly good inventory of non-socialist economics books (for now), although I often notice I’ve been the first person to check some of them out in twenty years.
San Francisco lefties also feel the need to write their opinions in the margins. For example, once when I was reading a book about Marxism and the author concluded “history has demonstrated Marxism had failed to deliver on its promise to outproduce capitalism” a local leftie wrong “WRONG” in the margin. Well if he felt that strongly then I hope he is enjoying the superabundance of consumer goods living in Cuba or North Korea.
And the library is full of homeless shooting up or bathing in the restroom sinks. My mom from North Carolina likes the library too but exclaimed with a shocked look that “there was a man in the ladies room!” (yeah, it's San Francisco... eye roll) She put it well, concluding “It's a shame that such a beautiful library is infested with so many homeless people.”
Yes, San Francisco has had a major homeless problem for decades and it is growing. The lion’s share of the problem centers downtown around the Civic Center (with government offices, the arts venues, and the public library) and the Tenderloin District although it is spreading into surrounding areas like the Haight, Western Addition, South of Market, the Castro, and even into parts of Union Square, the Financial District, and North Beach.
Feel free to check an online map for these areas.
One of my (rare) conservative friends lives in the Castro, the gay district which has been spruced up over the decades and become a higher-dollar neighborhood, and the last two years small tent cities, trash, and open drug use have mushroomed even on the Castro’s most scenic streets. She trolls the Nextdoor website where the locals now complain endlessly about the homeless invasion, to which she reminds them “Hey, you people voted for this.” To which the reply is either “Orange man bad!” or “You’re a Russian bot!”
When friends visit from out of town part of the world class tours I give includes a drive through the Tenderloin so they can see for themselves how bad the tent cities have become. If we’re lucky we’ll spot some syringes or human poop in time for them to pull out their phone cameras and zoom in before the light turns green.
But homelessness isn’t a problem for your nonconforming Correspondent.
I live in a nice area bordering the Presidio, and most importantly I have two of the city’s most ritzy, superwealthy neighborhoods serving as a geographic buffer between me and the problems downtown: Presidio Heights and Pacific Heights.
The difference between Presidio Heights and Pacific Heights is the latter has world-class views of the Bay, and the former’s homes tend to be in the high-single digit million dollar range while the latter is in the double-digit million range. Next comes my neighborhood (Lake Street District) followed by Seacliff, another superelite place with residents like Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Sharon Stone, uberliberal presidential candidate Tom Steyer, Robin Williams (up until his death) and George Soros’ son among others.
But all these exclusive fiefdoms share this in common: they’re full of rich limousine liberals who claim to care about the plight of the homeless while having zero tolerance for homeless setting foot in their own neighborhoods.
The moment a vagrant wanders into the edge of any of these districts you can expect an SFPD patrol car to show up within 30 minutes and promptly deport the undesirable out. Because the rich liberals in Seacliff, Presidio Heights and Pacific Heights are happy to vote for policies that make homelessness worse… so long as only the hoi polloi have to live with the consequences—all while they continue to bask in the isolated bubble of their wealthy hypocrisy.
So when it comes time for rich San Francisco lefties to deliver on their promises to the homeless their message is: “What, you say we pledged to help and treat you with humanity? You don’t understand. *We* don’t do that, we just force poorer people to do it for us!”
A personal anecdote: For nearly two decades I’ve rarely seen homeless anywhere near my street, but a few months ago I actually heard a crazy guy screaming at himself as I took an evening walk.
The next day the screaming got louder and I noticed the same guy had parked himself on the sidewalk right across the street from my building, tucked away in a sleeping bag as he screamed himself to sleep at 4AM.
The following morning he was even louder. At 7:30AM I looked outside my 4th floor window to see he had set up shop right outside my building.
But he had company.
Two SFPD patrol cars were curbside with four officers standing there ordering him to pack it up and watching him do it. All the screaming this time was his complaining that he was going to be homeless among middle class and poor residents again.
But if you’re a resident of a lower-echelon neighborhood like the Haight, Castro, Mission, or Lower Nob Hill (only low single-digit million dollars homes) and you call the police to complain about a homeless person, well… you get laughed off the telephone. Suck it up common people!
So that’s a valuable lesson for living in San Francisco. When choosing a neighborhood, if you don’t want to have to deal with poop and syringes move in with the rich hypocrite liberals. They’ll keep voting to ruin the city and brag about how progressive they are at Democratic fundraisers so long as they remain insulated from all the unpleasantness.
SHOPLIFTING, CRIME, AND CLOSURES
San Francisco has been in the news recently because our nutty District Attorney Chesa Boudin—raised by Bill Ayers and did pro bono work for Hugo Chavez, continuing a tradition of his grandfather who represented Fidel Castro and great grand-uncle who was a famous Marxist theoretician—is super-duper soft on criminals. Especially those criminals of historically underserved ethnic groups whom he either doesn’t charge and/or lets free, then calling his policy “restorative justice.”.
So Walgreens has closed nearly twenty stores due to ongoing property theft and also reduced hours of many of their other stores.
But the rich locals I live around don’t tolerate undesirables in their neighborhoods so nope, my Walgreens hasn’t closed. You can bet if it ever does THEN the wealthy locals will demand city government gets tough on crime.
The biggest inconvenience—and this is the first problem that has actually affected me—is Target has also tired of unpunished shoplifting and now closes all its city locations at 6PM, although one can still drive out seven or eight miles to Daly City or Colma and shop until 10PM (I have a car but many locals aren’t so mobile, a subject for another column).
One more rising problem is car breakins. Those tend to be focused in tourist areas since criminals know the chances of a tourist flying back from the East Coast or Asia for a trial that never happens anyway are virtually nonexistent. But breakins are still a problem citywide.
So far I haven’t had one yet because everyone learns “don’t leave anything that looks valuable in plain sight in your car and your odds of being a victim will drop 95%.” Plus I have a one-car garage to myself in my building—a luxury in this city—which really, really helps. Many residents have to park their cars every night curbside which adds another fiftyfold risk to being a breakin target.
DRIVING OUT BUSINESS AND JOBS
Yes, San Francisco’s constantly rising taxes and corruption have chased a lot of businesses away. Right after voters passed a “gross receipts tax” in 2018 (0.5% of any large company’s topline revenues) pharmaceutical distribution giant McKesson announced it was moving its headquarters from San Francisco to Irving, Texas.
Shortly afterwards Charles Schwab relocated to Westlake, Texas. Bechtel shipped its headquarters out to Reston, Virginia. Countless other smaller corporations have left in the last three years such as SoFi, Square, Lyft, and Core-Mark, and many large Bay Area companies have announced relocations to Texas like Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Oracle, Palantir Technologies, and just recently Tesla.
The pandemic has also helped ship tech jobs and offices out of San Francisco. All the work is remote so no need to pay for expensive office space that no one is using.
But this doesn’t affect me either. My day job has been voice telecommunications consulting and architecture for over twenty years and over all that time my clients have been outside San Francisco and usually outside California.
In other words my job isn’t reliant on a healthy California economy. San Francisco politicians can turn the city into an economic North Korea (some of them would like that) and I still keep working.
I’ll continue in Part 2 with the biggest economic albatross of all in San Francisco: housing costs.