A report evaluating 184 routes through San Francisco between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015 shared with the Examiner shows more streets free from debris and detritus "which pose the greatest risk to safety and wellbeing." Now, to what could that possibly refer? Did you have to ask? Do you want to know?
The big three are feces, needles, and condoms, and residential streets free from them in San Francisco are up 11 percent. Clean commercial streets are also up by 7 percent in the annual Street and Sidewalk Maintenance Standards report, which isn't yet available online. The document historically maintains that "there is zero tolerance for feces, needles, and condoms — 100 percent of sidewalks need to be free of these to pass the standard," and while the current 69 percent residential street pass rate and 62 percent rate for commercial streets isn't perfect, it's a marked improvement.
But it's not enough to satisfy San Franciscans who are registering more complaints and disgust than ever with the City. Specifically, the Chronicle points to a drastic uptick in such grievances in the recent past, particularly during the past year. While complaints regarding needles numbered 440 in 2012, so far this year there have been at least 2,565.
What gives? Are we finally fed up? Are we clutching our pearls a bit too tightly? The movements of gentrification could be responsible for the disconnect, in part, with both needle users and San Franciscans new to certain locations. Put another way, the theory goes that gentrification has pushed needle users and non-needle users, perhaps some new to the city and city life altogether, into contact in different places, resulting in alarm and complaint.
Another factor the Chronicle cites is the shift in the city's needle policy. We've gone, in title and practice, from "needle exchange" to "syringe access." What was once a one-for-one program that encouraged users to turn in dirty needles has, for health reasons, been eliminated.
Says Public Health Department spokeswoman Rachael Kagan, “you don’t need a needle to get a needle.” That's because, in order to reduce transmission rates, addicts shouldn't be sharing needles. Needle-sharing, the Department claims, is a behavior bolstered by one-for-one supply limitations.
In terms of neighborhoods, the Tenderloin and Chinatown were found to have the greatest quantity of the big three. Broken glass, another hazard, was down across the city by a bit less than syringes, condoms, and feces. There were 3 percent fewer incidents of glass on commercial streets and 8 percent fewer on residential sidewalks.