Tensions are heating up again at City Hall, as Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin says that he wants to drag Mayor London Breed out to U.N. Plaza for some political theater.
Peskin announced his idea at today's one-day-delayed Board of Supervisors meeting, saying that he intended to schedule one of Breed's monthy Q&A sessions with the Board in U.N. Plaza, amid what he called the "humanitarian crisis" occurring there and elsewhere. This would look pretty interesting, given that the plaza is typically filled with people illegally vending merchandise, stolen and otherwise, and people selling and using drugs there and across Market Street.
The move comes two days after the announced closure of the city's largest Whole Foods Market, a block up at Eighth and Market — ostensibly because of the conditions on the street, though it's also not clear how well the store was performing in its first year in business.
"We are losing too many San Franciscans to drug overdoses. We are seeing too many businesses shutter and close because their customers and employees and residents feel unsafe,” Peskin said during Wednesday's meeting, as reported by the Chronicle. “We are seeing too many families leave our city because we can’t take care of everyone in our city. It needs to stop. This is a challenge with many causes – and San Franciscans need to know how the mayor plans to bring the many resources she, and she alone, can deploy."
A spokesperson for the mayor, Jeff Cretan, said that the mayor's office was waiting on the Board to explain how they would provide security for such an unprecedented public meeting.
In a statement to the Chronicle, Cretan said, "The Mayor welcomes the Board's participation in the ongoing efforts to address the challenges around UN Plaza. We have dedicated resources there and would appreciate support from the Board to continue to tackle the issues around the area."
Peskin further said he didn't just want to shift the drug-dealing and other activities to another location, and "If the problem persists at 16th and Mission, that is where we'll go next."
This is political theater to be sure, and while the mayor and District Attorney Brooke Jenkins have pledged to be tougher on drug dealing, with more police and "ambassadors" out in the Tenderloin, the success of the current strategy is far from clear. Typically, the progressive bloc of the Board of Supervisors is not the law-and-order bloc, but this move feels geared toward pointing blame at the mayor's office for inaction on drugs and crime? Or on addiction?
The Board was also fully in support of the Tenderloin Linkage Center, later called the Tenderloin Center, which was set up last year in the middle of U.N. Plaza, to help address the scourge of fentanyl use in particular. The center reportedly helped reverse more than 300 overdoses while reportedly allowing some on-site drug use, but its intent was also to connect addicts with city services.
The center shut down in December, with the mayor's office pledging to replace it with multiple sites around the city, but there has since been a change of strategy — with the city saying it wants any safe-consumption sites to be funded and managed privately, to remove the city's legal liability.
In a recent interview on comedian Jon Stewart's podcast, Breed said that the city was presently just "trying to stop the bleeding" when it comes to drug dealing, homelessness, and crime, and more permanent solutions were likely a ways off.
Photo: Yihong Chen