London Breed got her Tenderloin ‘State of Emergency’ declaration approved by the SF Board of Supervisors, in a contentious ten-and-a-half hour meeting that stretched into the early hours of Christmas Eve.
Above we see the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, bleary-eyed and being forced to work a sudden emergency 10.5-hour shift on Christmas Eve, some of them still in their office and others presumably at home on a comfy chair and in their jammies. But the circumstances were highly unusual too, as the supervisors were suddenly tasked with approving or denying Mayor London Breed’s proposed “State of Emergency” declaration in the Tenderloin over drug use and overdoses. That proposal has drawn national attention, and plenty of criticism about over-policing and putting people “in cages,” over Breed’s proposed 90-day blitz of the TL by the city’s emergency management department.
And at about 12:20 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Breed’s plan got its board approval. The Chronicle reports that the supervisors approved the emergency declaration in an 8-2 vote, with only supervisors Shamann Walton and Dean Preston voting against.
Then she proceeded to pull up to Dalda’s TL community market grand re-opening and ruined our celebration pic.twitter.com/bK8GTFbIkp— JENSET (@thejenset) December 15, 2021
An 8-2 vote may sound like an easy win, but the debate lasting ten-and-a-half hours shows otherwise. Breed created much of the controversy herself with Giuliani-esque ‘crackdown’ language. As KQED reports, several supervisors were massively uncomfortable with Breed’s recorded statement on December 14 (seen above) that “we are going to make people who are dealing drugs, who are using drugs out in the open with no regard for the community, people who are assaulting and spitting on and stabbing and shooting and destroying this community, we are going to make life hell for them.”
But the declaration comes with services and resources too, and that sweetened the arrangement enough for a few board progressives who flipped and voted to support Breed’s plan. “I’m going to vote Yes today, but I’m going to watch this thing like a hawk," said supervisor Hillary Ronen. “If they use a cent to increase the budget of SFPD, we can undo this emergency ordinance on the spot.”
The declaration also creates some sort of drug treatment “linkage center,” and adds hundreds of new case workers and other staff to the city’s emergency management department.
“We can hire 250 vacant positions in the Behavioral Health department starting tomorrow if we pass this thing,” Ronen said. “Their caseloads are overflowing. Someone who wants help tomorrow cannot get a case manager. There’s a month-long wait for that. We can hire 200 case managers tomorrow by cutting all of our byzantine civil service rules that make it impossible to hite city workers? Sorry, but that’s a really positive thing.”
Andres Power, the mayor's policy director, said Breed is unavailable to take questions now at the board. Won't commit if she'll show up for a Jan. 4 meeting. It was asked by Preston. Continues to say there's no plan. #sfbos— Jerold Chinn 陈景深 (@Jerold_Chinn) December 24, 2021
But boy, was it an issue that Breed herself did not show up for this meeting, which her declaration forced the board working into wee hours on Christmas Eve. Her whereabouts were unknown, Supervisor Walton made a vague reference to Breed being “with her family.” (In Cabo? In Hawaii? At the Western Addition public housing project she grew up at?) Breed’s policy director Andres Power was confronted with this question numerous times and dodged effectively. “The mayor has sent all of her department heads,” he said, ignoring the direct question of why Breed did not dial in. “Which is typically how these cases are handled. I am in communication with the mayor and keeping her updated.”
only redeemable part of this board of supervisors meeting is that gordon mar is petting his cat pic.twitter.com/SLZtrhQNdh— chris arvin (they) (@chrisarvinsf) December 23, 2021
Breed’s absence irked supervisors, with Sup. Dean Preston remarking, “It’s mind-boggling that the mayor doesn't bother to show up.” The board was also none too happy with the vagueness of this declaration, the detailed text of which has not yet even been presented to them, but apparently will on Monday, December 27.
“There is no plan,” Preston complained. “I think we need to see a plan before we hand sweeping powers over to the administration,” adding the declaration contains “no limits on the law enforcement.”
But other supervisors welcomed the increased law enforcement. “Any neighborhood in the city that was represented by any of us that was experiencing the conditions that exist in the Tenderloin would be demanding more foot patrols, more on-the-ground police response,” Sup. Rafael Mandelman said. “And they would be right to do it.”
Public comment went on for five freaking hours. (During a Niners game!) Certainly there were many dignified remarks from homeless-serving nonprofits and hotel groups, but we also heard commentary like “We need to hang the drug dealers” (a Breed supporter), “Mayor Ronald Reagan is a goddamned liar,” (an opponent), and “This being Christmas, I think Dickens would have something to say about forced incarceration” (a Charles Dickens fan).
But it was the supervisors’ vote, and they supported the emergency declaration. "This is a turning point as far as our commitment to this neighborhood and to this epidemic," said Sup. Matt Haney. "We have been yelling and screaming with this neighborhood for more help for a response that matches the epidemic and the crisis that we’re facing."
But the main question remains… Will this work? Or is it just a headliner generator and campaign slogan exercise? After all, we saw Gavin Newsom’s useless sit-lie ordinance, and before that in the early 1990s, then-mayor Frank Jordan’s failed “Matrix” program. Both of these were referenced several times Thursday afternoon and into the night, which is ironic, considering London Breed just appeared in a Matrix move. But the next 90 days will tell whether Breed’s declaration will be thing that finally changes the Tenderloin, or is just another movie we have seen before.