San Francisco is earning a growing reputation for more than just its unmatched tech sector – for critics, the city stands as a profound example of the damage ultra-liberal policies can do.
After 20 years of envelope-pushing changes to grow government and ease law enforcement, the once-shining City by the Bay has turned into a place where:
- Property crime runs amok
- An online map is needed to track human feces on city streets
- Discarded syringes are common sightings
- Public urination is so widespread it has damaged subway elevators and escalators, building walls and power poles
“There’s a very tolerant attitude, you can very much do anything on the streets you want,” said Marc Joffe, director of research at the California Policy Center think tank. “As members of a civilized society, there are things you should not accept. But we have ignored that … and there is nobody on the other side setting limits.”
San Francisco’s lax attitude is nothing new and has served as a beacon for the American counter-culture dating back to the Beat Generation. But the city’s embrace decades ago of free love and drugs has morphed into something else.
Depending which list you read, San Francisco has the dubious honor of being at or near the top of numerous national surveys tracking homelessness, the cost of housing and other issues. One distinction is not disputed: it has the most property crime in the nation, according to the FBI. The city also has crafted defiant sanctuary city policies and is preparing to battle the incoming Trump administration on the issue.
And in the media, San Francisco’s brand has taken hits, with headlines such as “Why San Francisco is the Worst Place Ever,” “34 percent of Bay Area Residents are Ready to Leave,” and “Complaints of Syringes and Feces Rise Dramatically in SF.”
Local officials defend their ‘sanctuary’ policies as critical for the thousands of undocumented people who live there. And they contend the city as a whole, with its iconic landmarks and top-notch dining and steep surreal streetscapes shrouded in fog, has not lost its luster.