Earlier this month, President Biden held a reelection campaign rally in San Francisco. For a campaign that has already suffered numerous gaffes and scandals, and will likely suffer more, the choice of locale sent a powerful message. As a recent visit revealed to me, the City by the Bay is absolutely as bad as everyone says.
The downtown area, stretching down historic Market Street from the City Hall to bayside Embarcadero, is gutted, with 47% of businesses in the city having closed their doors since 2020. There and in the surrounding neighborhoods, commercial storefronts are almost all empty except for the occasional liquor store. After nightfall, the sidewalks are crowded by groups of homeless people living in makeshift encampments. Most looked like they were on drugs and/or severely mentally ill. The only people walking with purpose appeared to be selling drugs or women.
The ground was covered with all manner of filth. Being around it felt less safe than in any American city before urban governments adopted policies advocated by Black Lives Matter, which are now the heart and soul of the Democratic Party and anyone who aspires to leadership in it. Most notably, San Francisco gutted its police force’s budget and scaled back criminal prosecution of a wide range of crimes directly affecting quality of life.
A 26-year old tech executive friend who tolerates the city but, like many young people is looking to move, calls his fellow residents in this category “zombie people.” The number of people in his age group living in the city has fallen 21% since April 2020, while the number of San Franciscans in their thirties fell by 13% in the same period. Office attendance is hovering at about 45% of capacity. In the first quarter of 2023, the city’s murder rate was up a staggering 83% over the same period last year. This followed on an annual increase of 17 percent in 2021 and 20 percent in 2020.
This year’s victims included prominent tech CEO Bob Lee, who was stabbed to death in the once-posh Mission district. Entrepreneur Elon Musk, whose Twitter headquarters sits precariously on Market Street, has publicly stated that many people he personally knows have been violently assaulted. On the night I arrived, nine people were shot in a gang incident despite strict gun control laws that almost totally outlaw private gun ownership.
Mind you, this is nearly one year after the radical progressive city district attorney Chesa Boudin, a child of imprisoned domestic terrorists, was recalled by a majority vote in arguably the most leftist municipality in America. Last month, however, Boudin was appointed executive director of the University of California Berkeley Law School’s new Criminal Law and Justice Center, suggesting that patterns of law enforcement and prosecution are unlikely to change any time soon.
The massive downtown Hilton – one of the largest hotels in the world and a convention mecca for decades – was “abandoned” in early June, after Hilton’s parent company declared itself unable to make any more mortgage payments due to the severe urban decline. AT&T has announced that it will withdraw from its city flagship store in the nearby Union Square area. The Westfield shopping mall, Cinemark Holdings, Nordstrom, T-Mobile, Old Navy, and numerous other retailers are also joining the exodus this year, building on the departure of at least 22 well known retail brands in 2022. In Westfield’s case, it is abandoning $558 million in financing.
The Four Seasons Residences property that opened in the formerly fashionable South of Market area two years ago reportedly sold only 13 of its 146 units in the 18 months after it opened, likely because nobody of means and sense wants to live anywhere near there.
At the same time, every major public building, Grace Cathedral, the remaining big league hotels, and other surviving large businesses are all flying multiple versions of the LGBTQ flag, huge posters with BLM slogans, and other propaganda talking about diversity, inclusion, belonging, and, ironically, “safety.” The steps leading up to Grace Cathedral are painted in rainbow colors, suggesting not merely de rigueur “inclusivity,” but a symbolic message that salvation may be through DEI alone.
“We saw people defecating on the street. We saw people using heroin, we saw people smoking crack cocaine,” said Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis on a recent visit, “the wreckage is really sad to see.”
Indeed it is, but unfortunately San Francisco’s atomizing and impoverishing anarcho-tyranny is how the President of the United States and almost anyone of importance in his political party would prefer for you to live.
Paul du Quenoy is President of the Palm Beach Freedom Institute.