Home>Articles>Sign Of The Times: How A Roller Rink In San Francisco Encapsulates The City’s Current Problems

The San Francisco skating rink in the Civic Center in late February 2023. (Photo: Sebastian Luke)

Sign Of The Times: How A Roller Rink In San Francisco Encapsulates The City’s Current Problems

What was once a bright spot in the city became yet another drug-infested area within months

By Evan Symon, March 2, 2023 2:30 am

In October, a pop-up skating rink, Sam FranDisco, opened up in the Civic Center in San Francisco. Situated across from City Hall, the opening day brought out a lot of notable people, including Mayor London Breed. Open from Wednesday to Sunday, from noon to eight, the covered rink was soon a very popular place to go to. Was it for everybody? No, only so many people like to skate after all. But for those who liked it, they showed up. And it was also hailed as a positive for the city, something good to put out there during a time when people are leaving the city in droves, where tech layoffs occur with alarming frequency, and where crime and drug use are still very prevalent.

“The pop-up rink is all about having a good time and encouraged residents to focus on the positive elements of the city,” said the Mayor in October. “Everything can’t be about all the negative stuff.”


Look out for SF’s new temporary outdoor roller rink. Located on Fulton Plaza in Civic Center, “San FranDISCO” offers the fun of roller skating to anyone willing to strap on some skates. #SanFrancisco #SF #RollerSkating #FultonPlaza #SanFranDISCO

♬ original sound – The San Francisco Standard

Less than a half year later, skating days, even on warmer dry nights that had brought a ton of people in during the fall, looked a little different:

The San Francisco skating rink in the Civic Center in late February 2023. (Photo: Sebastian Luke)
The San Francisco skating rink in the Civic Center in late February 2023. (Photo: Sebastian Luke)

So what happened?  The area where the skating rink is located, nearby the Asian Art Museum and Fulton Plaza, was a high traffic drug area for a long time. And with Mayor Breed instituting drug crackdowns since last year in higher traffic areas, the dealers had to go somewhere. The problem was that the rink only had a few security guards. The dealers didn’t go, and neither did the users. As a result, skating rink patrons stayed away, and soon, what once was a new bright spot in the city simply became another area showing the sign of the times.

“People don’t want to bring their kids here and see that,” said a security guard at the rink, pointing to a drug den in between the Asian Art Museum and the roller skating rink. “It’s crazy.”

Sebastian Luke, a local Bay Area resident, told the Globe earlier this week that dealers would even accost those walking by and the few patrons left with drugs to enhance the skating experience.

“As I was browsing through the drugs bazaar, a drug sommelier approached and offered me ‘Hot Stuff,'” Luke told the Globe. “‘Wanna grab something before you skate and let the good times roll?’ he asked with a wink.”

Even worse was the skating rink parking lot, which was filled with drug users shooting up and getting high, all within sight of the City Hall.

The San Francisco skating rink parking lot in the Civic Center in late February 2023. (Photo: Sebastian Luke)

“As I was taking this photo from the parking lot right behind the skating rink, I witnessed several people shooting up in their cars parked in the parking lot,” added Luke. “They were just too ‘occupied’ to notice that I was standing next to their car windows.”

Drug use in San Francisco

Despite the area quickly becoming rundown, the City extended the rink being up until the end of March, with no mention made of the high levels of both drug sales and use in and around the rink. That’s not to say that the SFPD has been doing nothing. They do routinely make large fentanyl busts, and major crackdowns in high-traffic areas still happen frequently. Others, such as DA Brooke Jenkins, have also been reversing policies formerly favorable for dealers and other criminals, leading to many more to be arrested under watch than the previous DA, the recall-ousted Chesa Boudin.

However, a combination of judges and some city leaders have not followed through on punishments, with many dealers/users being let back out on the street. Proposals to change the sanctuary city policies in the city to help curb the fentanyl and opioid dealers have been met with fierce resistance. Overdose prevention sites and areas where the city looks the other way on drug use, have been heavily favored over other policies. As a result, the problem continues to grow even worse.

And all of that goes back to the skating rink right by City Hall. Many wonder what exactly happened there. But the perfect storm of shifted priorities, drug dealers returning to the streets, police being spread thinly, and other factors led to the skating rink changing from a place supposed to bring joy, to yet another place where drug use could easily be seen.

“Only San Francisco could let this happen,” noted Mike Nguyen, a business owner nearby who used to have many skater customers come in. “It seemed like such a good thing had come, but it suddenly went away. Drugs. Of course it was drugs. San Francisco cares more about those people selling them and using them than they do about people following the law and trying to get by.”

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12 thoughts on “Sign Of The Times: How A Roller Rink In San Francisco Encapsulates The City’s Current Problems

  1. Mike Nguyen, the local business owner mentioned in the article, should have said that San Francisco DEMOCRATS care more about those people selling them and using them than they do about people following the law and trying to get by. Who wouldn’t be surprised if the Democrat cabal that controls San Francisco wasn’t profiting from all the dealing going on in the city?

  2. Hey all you law abiding resident taxpayers in “the city”.
    Just get a passenger van, fill it with drug thugs and bums then drive it out to St. Francis Wood, and Pacific Heights, and the drop them off.
    Oh yeah make sure you supply them with tents!
    A beautiful city ignored by politicians and absentee landlords, very sad!

  3. This should be the shining example to the rest of our country that this is what awaits them if they even consider running Newsom as a candidate for President!

    Family fun amongst open air drug dens! How is that for a campaign slogan?

    1. Thanks for posting @Bminks.
      At this point and time I cannot imagine any sane person still residing in California want him as a president!

  4. Hey, S.F. progressives went NUTS about the following perfectly reasonable proposal from an S.F. Supervisor. Kinda shows you where San Francisco is at right about now. How can they be anything but doomed if this stuff continues?:
    “S.F. Liberals Rush to the Defense of Fentanyl-Dealing Illegal Immigrants”
    “Supervisor Matt Dorsey on Tuesday introduced legislation that would amend San Francisco’s ‘sanctuary city’ laws to make illegal immigrants caught dealing fentanyl eligible for deportation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Experts say most of the fentanyl in San Francisco, which has killed more than 1,400 residents since 2020, is dealt by illegal immigrants from Honduras.
    “The bill’s rationale seems lost on progressives, who rushed to condemn Dorsey for his proposal…..”

  5. “Baghdad by the Bay”….

    (Which in English translates to “A beautiful dumpster fire”) Always has been, always will be….

  6. We recently decided to check out Ocean Beach since we couldn’t get through the traffic to get to Headlands beach. Bad idea , the place is pretty creepy. The Cliff House Restaurant is closed up and there is graffiti everywhere. As we were walking up the hill a group of misfits on dirt bikes came down the hill (one driving on the sidewalk) as they shouted and revved the engines. It was like scene from a 70’s movie (like Deathwish). As we left we decided to check out Golden Gate Park. Just when we turned the corner, the biker gang was pulling out of a gas station driving all over the roads in front of cars. Luckily the SFPD pulled up behind them and they quickly left .I have been to the City many times and have never been so afraid, we won’t be returning.

  7. Heartbreaking! I was a student at a college on the peninsula from 1976 to 1980. The Bay Area was a Shangri-La. The city was breathtakingly beautiful. A healthy balance between liberal and conservative. Funny how Reagan is still blamed for the many woes of California, 50 years later! The democrats have controlled this state for 50 years.

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