Residents Sour on Mayor of San Francisco as City Becomes the ‘Butt of Jokes Across America’

After ‘the last five years with London Breed, I just don’t know if the city could take another five years,’ a resident and business owner tells the Sun.

AP/Eric Risberg
San Francisco's mayor, London Breed. AP/Eric Risberg

In San Francisco, London Breed’s predecessor could become her successor, depending on the outcome of a venture capitalist’s bid for mayor.

Mark Farrell, who was the city’s interim mayor in 2018, announced his candidacy last week — joining Mayor Breed, Ahsha Safaí, and Daniel Lurie — and he is already raking in considerable funds. He’s running on a tough-on-crime approach, pushing policy priorities that include hiring a new police chief and “massively” increasing police staffing, implementing a “zero-tolerance approach” to crime, and supporting efforts to reform Prop 47 — a 2014 voter-enacted measure that reduced penalties for crimes including drug offenses, petty theft, and commercial burglary. 

“Over the past five years, I have watched our City crumble. People don’t feel safe, the conditions of our streets have never been worse, downtown has collapsed, and we’re the butt of jokes across America,” Mr. Farrell, whose campaign was not immediately responsive to a request for comment from the Sun, said on his campaign platform. 

The city has faced a reputation crisis in recent months, and a GrowSF poll in October showed that 68 percent of San Francisco voters believed the city was headed down the wrong track, citing homelessness, open air drug use, fentanyl dealing, and crime as top issues. Nearly 60 percent of respondents had a somewhat or very unfavorable view of Ms. Breed. 

A small business owner, father of three, and 30-year resident of San Francisco, Brian Mullin, tells the Sun that he is incredibly proud of the city but that it needs a change of leadership. 

“We’ve obviously gone through many different kinds of political machinations in San Francisco with the last five years with London Breed, I just don’t know if the city could take another five years,” he says as to why he’s publicly supporting Mr. Farrell. 

It seems that as Ms. Breed has “been under pressure from multiple sides,” she has been trying to make more progress, including cleaning up the city when the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation global summit came to town last fall. 

“They certainly had no problem cleaning the streets and moving homeless encampments and moving all this stuff when the international spotlight was on San Francisco,” Mr. Mullin says. “But I think there’s a lot of residents in San Francisco that say ‘you were able to do it for them — they were all international high-profile visitors — but the people that actually raise families, own homes, run businesses in San Francisco, they don’t deserve the same kind of attention?’”

A lot of people were hoping that the APEC cleanup would last longer than it did, Mr. Mullin says. Instead, “the minute the spotlight was off is the minute that things kind of went back to the status quo.” 

His business, a marketing firm called Manifold, had to close its office downtown because of the pandemic and subsequent issues, he says. Since the business involves live event productions and doing large conventions for brands, he says, and “when those conventions are fleeing the city or they’re deciding to do them elsewhere, that has a direct impact on our lives.”

The city’s extremely slow pandemic recovery has affected his work, employees, and his family, he says, adding that increased police presence would “absolutely” be beneficial. 

The Sun reached out to London Breed’s office, which did not return a request for comment. 

As retail theft, homelessness, and drug use have become more visible, leaders have been forced to attempt a crackdown on it, a senior fellow in urban studies at Pacific Research Institute, Steve Smith, tells the Sun. 

“I was the security director of two high rises at the edge of the Union Square shopping area in the financial district,” he says. “I began before Covid and left during Covid, and I saw San Francisco become a ghost town.” 

The shutdown, competition from online retailers, the lack of public safety, and an exodus of office workers all contributed to the closure of dozens of stores in Union Square and beyond, he says.

Both San Francisco and nearby-Oakland are grappling with car thefts and window smashes— the San Francisco Chronicle’s tracker shows 982 vehicle break-ins reported in January alone, many in touristy areas such as Fisherman’s Wharf. The city is also reeling from record-high fentanyl overdoses, which isn’t likely to go away as long as “California is hamstrung by Prop 47,” Mr. Smith says. 

“Addicts are drawn to San Francisco because it’s well known that cash is available, that enforcement is loose, that judges won’t hold you in jail, even if you are arrested,” he says. Many areas of the city have become a “ free for all,” he adds. 

When it comes to the November election and the mayoral race, “we’re all watching it close,” he says, as San Francisco residents wonder if it will be a true change or “reshuffling the deck.”

The New York Sun

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