After a year in which there was hardly a news outlet in the country that didn't pile on with a story about San Francisco circling the drain and facing an economic "doom loop," Mayor London Breed just gave another national news interview to discuss the actual situation on the ground.
It's been a wildly popular opinion lately to say that San Francisco is in a miserable, irreparable state. But there is a sense among many of those of us who live here — as in, in the city and not in Palo Alto or Walnut Creek — that it's really not bad at all unless you go downtown after dark, and when it comes to drug dealing and the mentally ill homeless, things in the Tenderloin and Sixth Street are pretty much as they've always been. It's like a legion of Americans who had never seen the Tenderloin or Mid-Market 10 or 20 years ago were suddenly shown videos on TikTok and Instagram this year, and they thought "Wow! That's not the pretty San Francisco I've seen on movies and TV! It must be those damn liberals who fuck everything up who are to blame for this!"
It has behooved conservative politicians, time and again, to join the pile-on and convince their supporters that this is what liberal policies lead to, and that narrative has bled over into the non-Republican world as well.
Yes, further downtown and in the Financial District, things are quieter post-pandemic, and businesses are suffering because of it. But we managed to have a Dreamforce convention and the APEC summit without major incident — even if the Chronicle managed to find several APEC attendees who, in fact, saw some of the Tenderloin chaos and can report that, yes, we do have some urban problems here.
ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz was dispatched to do an interview with Breed, either during or right after the APEC summit, which aired on Sunday's episode of "This Week."
As she previously did in interviews with Jon Stewart and KTVU, Breed discussed the fact that San Francisco can be a magnet for negative national attention in its low moments. "We are used to the kind of attention that we get, sometimes not necessarily fairly, but we are committed to dealing with the challenges that exist here," Breed tells Raddatz.
A cameraperson can easily get a shot of a tent on the street or someone dealing drugs in SF, but Breed touts what the city has accomplished. "We have since 2018 helped over 10,000 people exit homelessness in San Francisco," she tells ABC News. "When you look at the data of what is happening with our crime numbers over the past five years, they are showing a decline, especially with car break-ins, burglaries and other challenges that people are talking about."
Breed adds, "When people are coming to San Francisco, they are surprised that things aren't as bad as what they thought they were." And, she says, "Are things perfect in San Francisco? No they're not. Are they perfect in any other city in the country or in the world? No, they are not. But we continue to work aggressively at it in order to solve some of our most pressing problems."
Raddatz questions whether City Hall's swing to the right, in terms of cracking down on encampments and arresting people for drug use, has been "coming down too hard"?
"What is important to note here is when I put forward the legislation in order to require treatment for people suffering from addiction, if they want to receive general assistance from the city, this came from people who are former addicts themselves, who felt that San Francisco was not being as aggressive as they should have to help people get clean and sober, especially in light of the number of people who are dying from drug overdoses on the streets of San Francisco every single day," Breed says. "I'm willing to do what's necessary in order to save lives."
Raddatz says to Breed, "You are optimistic and you are doing things and you're making changes. But people see what's happening, they do see."
And Breed responds, "But the thing is, it's not just San Francisco. Cities around the country are experiencing challenges with drug use, with fentanyl... the difference is how we are handling it."
"As a leader, it's important that I am confident about the condition of the city," Breed says. "I think the thing I'm worried about the most is people don't always get an opportunity to see or to understand exactly how these things are working to make a difference in San Francisco. So we've got to work harder on our communications strategy."
Photo: London Breed with Sam Altman (r) at an APEC panel on AI last Thursday, a day before Altman was fired at OpenAI. Photo via London Breed/X