Through my Google alerts, I just stumbled upon an article from the latest issue of City Journal titled “The sidewalks of San Francisco“. It’s about Proposition L (Sit/Lie) and, since the City Journal is published by the conservative, New York City-based think tank The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, it is an impassioned defense of the Proposition. It’s a very long article, but just so you get an idea, it starts like this:
The homelessness industry has pulled off some impressive feats of rebranding over the years—most notably, turning street vagrancy into a consequence of unaffordable housing, rather than of addiction and mental illness.
Although I don’t agree with many of the things argued by the article (such as the correlation between the passing of Prop L and crime reduction), there was this paragraph that I found really interesting and wanted to share here:
Though the police fervently hope that under the data-driven policing of Chief George Gascón, the Tenderloin will show the same capacity for renewal as Manhattan’s once crime-ridden neighborhoods, parts of San Francisco’s populace seem as indifferent to violent crime as they are to public disorder. In August 2010, a German schoolteacher visiting San Francisco to celebrate her wedding anniversary and 50th birthday was killed in crossfire outside a dance party in the Tenderloin, a block from her hotel. The public reaction to the shooting was strangely muted, probably in part because of political correctness and the sense that the victims in these periodic club shootings are usually other gangbangers. Perhaps, too, such public passivity in the face of crime owes to the city’s lack of a tabloid newspaper; in New York, such grisly events, which were common in the early 1990s, sparked widespread outrage in no small part because papers like the New York Post made them front-page news.
Whatever the reason, a proposed Starbucks or other chain store in a favorite neighborhood seems to provoke more organized indignation among affluent San Franciscans than a random killing. This hierarchy of concern may partly explain why San Francisco’s violent crime rate was higher than that of Los Angeles or New York in 2008.
What’s your take, dear tender readers – why was San Francisco’s reaction to the schoolteacher’s killing so “muted”?
Here’s a very interesting comment on the issue by Eric Rodenbeck, who lived in the TL for 10 years:
My cousin’s rector from Minden, Germany, was the woman killed in the shooting described in the article.
In the absence of taking steps that are described in the article, what do you suggest be done about the Tenderloin? I don’t mean this rhetorically—what, specifically, do you recommend?
I lived there for 10 years and can tell you first hand that it is a deeply broken neighborhood, and affordable housing is not the answer. I lived in Times Square in the late eighties and watched that neighborhood transform from a blighted and dangerous killing zone into one of the busiest and most dynamic labs for positive urban development anywhere. They’re closing down whole sections of 7th Avenue to vehicular traffic, fer cryin’ out loud. I’m no fan of Guliani’s racist fear-mongering, and sure there are lots of tourists, but I for one would sure prefer a couple tourists in the Loin to the constant shootings and anarchy that the mostly lower-income residents of that neighborhood have to deal with on a constant basis.