David Marcus: San Francisco is even worse than we knew and Newsom needs to answer for it

on Sep8
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It’s worse than you thought in San Francisco. It was 2:30 in the afternoon and there was no legitimate business going on in the streets, even the wide thoroughfares. Not a guy delivering a pizza, not a few friends at a lingering lunch, no shopping bags, not any new ones anyway. 

The Tenderloin district of San Francisco was just entirely overrun by the homeless, more accurately by people who appeared to be addicts or mentally ill.

There was no thronging mass to cover them, they were not straggling exceptions to well-run city blocks, they were the city blocks. Even the blocks, and there were many, that boasted the kind of new high end apartment buildings that are swanky back East. This is a place of total surrender, you can smell it, as well as other things, in the atmosphere. I was prepared for a rough scene, but holy hell, this beat the band.

A view of San Francisco's Tenderloin district on Sept. 7, 2021.

A view of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district on Sept. 7, 2021.

What little legal commerce there is here is mainly confined to fast food, liquor stores, little convenience spots and an abundance of marijuana shops. But it’s perfectly obvious, between shouted offers and glancing quick exchanges that illicit deals are everywhere. Even along the soul-crushing lines of tents on what should be nice sidewalks, and among the long lost folk beneath their tarps. All of the street moves slow like it has no place to be.


What was not plentiful on the corners of the Tenderloin were police. In my afternoon wander I saw exactly one squad car that seemed on its way somewhere else, and no cops on foot. In fact, beyond a lone man in a bright shirt picking up trash there seemed to be no semblance of city governance in this place at all. It felt left alone, to its own devices and its devices are pretty awful.

The scene in San Francisco's Tenderloin district on Sept. 7, 2021

The scene in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district on Sept. 7, 2021
(David Marcus)

Images are like these are part of the reason why the recall election to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom has become a nationally important race. In cities across America, like Chicago, Philadelphia, and even New York the San Francisco scene right now feels like foreshadowing. What is happening in the Tenderloin is a far worse, more dramatic example, but urban dwellers in America feel the decline happening.


If one is to be honest, the idea that a person who was recently mayor in this place, which Newsom was, should be in charge of even a carnival ride is absolutely amazing. But in progressive politics it makes perfect sense. Newson, like de Blasio and so many other Democrats have an answer. They will find the evil Republican leprechaun hiding all the gold and start cutting checks. 

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But that is obviously not going to work here, it’s like running a line of credit to your buddy with a bad coke habit. There is no doubt that the pandemic lockdowns played a role in the current state of affairs here, another thing attributable to Newsom, but this runs much deeper. This is an utter loss of control. It is a kind of anarchy that should disqualify any leader who lets it fester. 


On one corner I stood alone smoking a cigarette. A young woman in filthy sweat pants and shirt walked up to me, glanced around as if at several people, but not me, and said, “Does anybody have a cigarette?” I said, “Sure” and handed one to her as she made brief eye contact to say thank you and scurry away. 

San Francisco's Tenderloin district on Sept. 7, 2021.

San Francisco’s Tenderloin district on Sept. 7, 2021.
(David Marcus)

It didn’t feel generous. I felt guilty. These are the wages of the war on police, of refusing to maintain order. This is what comes from that permissiveness. And it is something that Gavin Newsom, both as former mayor and current governor should answer for.


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