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New Mayor London Breed Vows to Clean Up Filthy SF Streets

By Evan Gahr

San Francisco heads to work in the Financial District as a homeless man sleeps on the street. (Ken Kurson)

The day after her July 11 upbeat inauguration speech, San Francisco Mayor London Breed vowed to get “aggressive” about fixing up the city’s streets, which are awash with homeless encampments and drug addicts’ used needles.

Breed, San Francisco’s first black mayor,  did not offer any specifics. But during the campaign, attuned to the public’s impatience with the homelessness problem,  she took some hard nosed stances at odds with her fellow liberal Democrats, like making it easier to get homeless people involuntarily off the streets under a program known as conservatorship.

As Breed said about the restless electorate during the mayoral campaign, “They are liberal, but they are getting less tolerant of the behavior and the challenges that exist in San Francisco, and they want to see something done about it.”

Her comments Thursday at a meeting with public safety officials arguably show she is feeling the heat. Breed said about San Francisco’s streets, “I’m committed. I have started. I’m moving forward. When we can see the results is yet to be determined, but I’m looking forward to really pushing forward as aggressively as I can to get the job done.”

Just like those comments, her  inauguration speech was optimistic but short of specifics. Breed voiced  an ambitious agenda but said far less far less about the precise means by which she would accomplish her goals.

One of her most concrete proposal was to have “safe injection spots” to “get people off the street who are shooting up.”

Tackling the problem of mentally ill homeless people on the streets Breed vowed to “reform our mental health system” and change “conservatorship laws” so that guardians, either individuals or organizations, could be more easily appointed for people who can’t care for themselves.   She also vowed to hire more police officers but coupled that with a call for better relationship between communities and law enforcement. But the rest of her speech spelled out big goals but was short on specifics and long on platitudes.

Some examples from her 18 minute address, which did start off on a truly inspirational note when Breed said she had grown up in public housing not far from where she was now being inaugurated as mayor:

  • “The politics of ‘no’ has plagued our city for far too long — ‘not on my block, not in my backyard.’ We have made mistakes in the past by not moving housing production forward all over this city. I plan to change the politics of ‘no’ to the politics of ‘yes.”
  • Referring to San Francisco’s notorious shortage of affordable housing and noting she had been a renter her entire life,  Breed said “Yes, we will build more housing.”
  • ”I want to make us a better, more affordable city.”
  • ”We want to make sure in this city there are opportunities so people don’t commit more crimes in the  first place”
  • “We know San Francisco is unaffordable on so many levels. I am definitely committed to rolling up my sleeves and working together  to get us to a better place.”

Good stuff.   But, as they say, the devil is in the details.

Stay tuned.

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