Let's take it as a given that the status quo of San Francisco streets is crap. But is 2015 the worst "summer of muck" on record?
Certainly Debra Saunders thought so when she used that term to title a July Chronicle article, quipping that "Downtown San Francisco feels like a large public toilet without enough janitors."
Though it's difficult quantify the matter, many including San Francisco's paper of record are raising their noses higher than before. And with a larger overall population though a seemingly stagnant homeless one, there are definitely more noses in the air.
Adopting their colleague's metaphor, Misters Matier and Ross of the Chronicle write that "San Francisco’s streets are becoming one big toilet — with druggies, drunks and the mentally ill openly defecating on downtown’s busiest boulevards."
The anecdotes are in, and this time the case is less about public access than real, unstable people — many of them addicted — which should definitely be part of the conversation.
Tenderloin Housing Clinic head Randy Shaw says “There are definitely more troubled people out there.” A female colleague at the Chronicle saw this behavior happen, in person. And Joe D’Alessandro, who heads San Francisco Travel, says “It’s getting worse, and people are tolerating it.” He thinks it's time for a politically incorrect comparison." People come here thinking of this as the center of innovation and entrepreneurship, and they see a street scene that looks like something out of a Third World country."
Equally invoking our City's perceived status, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce's Jim Lazarus has said that with more work and visitors in the City, more objections have been registered. “We are a live-and-let-live town genetically,” Lazarus said, “but we’re also letting people live on the streets who shouldn’t be living on the streets.”
Even Mohammed Nuru, the director of San Francisco Public Works, thinks its out of hand. "The last few months, we are seeing some literally crazy people on our streets... we have had some close calls trying to communicate with them, and they are not the type of people who should be on the streets.”
With this in mind — is there a bad batch of something out there? — Perhaps more public toilets and more clean-up crews aren't the only answer.
San Francisco, Matier and Ross note, has sent about 7,350 on emergency visits to psychiatric wards over the past three years, which comes to an average of about 20 per day. Roughly 80 percent of those visits end in a mandatory commitment following evaluations that rule patients to be a danger to themselves or those around them. Half of those committed have been committed before.
Recognizing that, Nuru's department plans to coordinated closely with police, social services, and the like. "In the meantime," write Matier and Ross to display the range of their humor, "the brown is coming down." Well, no shit.