Saturday, July 21, 2018

Another tourist talks about San Francisco

A letter to the editor in today's Chronicle:

Regarding “Visitor’s view of the streets of San Francisco” (Letters, July 18): I have to agree 100 percent with the recent letter from the man criticizing San Francisco’s dirty streets, urine smells, drug problems and rising homeless population. I am from Chicago. Yes, we have some of these problems and a huge homicide problem. 

But I can honestly say that I hope Chicago never becomes similar to what I experienced in San Francisco. While trying to walk my kids around in San Francisco, I saw two people publicly urinating in a park, others high on whatever and the smell of marijuana rampant in city parks.

Then on top of it all, right before leaving, I was issued a $70 ticket for the horrible crime of parking slightly more than 18 inches from a curb. Do you really want to penalize people like me? You will lose much-needed revenue. 

And we did see some great things there. Do you want tourists in your city? I would like to come back, visit your city and have my two kids experience diversity along with the formerly great sights, sounds and history of the “City By The Bay.” My kids, wife and I are hesitant to do so.

Todd Keeler
Chicago, Illinois

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A tourist talks about visiting San Francisco

Syringes are scattered in the remains of a tent city along Division Street in San Francisco.
Eric Risberg, A.P.

As Mayor Breed contemplates opening up drug injection sites in the city, she should also contemplate this letter to the editor in last week's SF Chronicle:

My wife and I have experienced San Francisco the past few days; we both work in downtown Chicago. We will have spent three days south of San Francisco along the coastline and four days at a “historic hotel.” Our hotel attracts multitudes of foreign tourists. I have to believe that if the city by the bay does not address the homelessness and open drug use that word will spread to avoid San Francisco.

Less than two blocks from the hotel’s main entrance we have seen people using needles in public to inject drugs. We’ve seen needles discarded on the sidewalk. We’ve seen users slumping on racks, staggering along sidewalks, seeking cigarettes, etc. 

One homeless man told his homeless companion within two feet of me that he was not going to go purchase two packs of heroin; instead, he was seeking “one pack of heroin and one pack of meth.” Glass pipes and foil are being used openly, but users are not smoking cannabis. Youth in the subway openly use drugs beyond pot. These problems are not limited to Market Street.

Chicago has its problems dealing with homelessness, and thus I am quite familiar with the sights and smells. However, your city’s downtown area has a homeless problem on steroids compared to Chicago. 

While waiting to ride a cable car, a person approached the Italian family directly in front of me with hopes to extract money by offering his jumbled advice. The daughter, who was approximately 10 years old, fought back tears during the exchange. I have heard that one convention recently withdrew from your city.

Chicago is also a major city that presently experiences deplorable conditions, albeit different ones. Chicago’s south and west sides are shooting galleries between gangs. Chicago’s finances are some of the worst in the nation, and the state of Illinois has the nation’s worst credit rating. Illinois citizens are leaving the state in droves.

I digress.

I read about proposed legislation called “Our City, Our Home” that will tax about 650 companies with a tiny tax to help the city address the major problems of homelessness and drug use. I strongly encourage your city to pass this legislation. 

Your downtown streets and sidewalks are filthy with litter. Do you sweep your streets? Do you even attempt to eliminate the prevalent urine odor? These are clearly symptoms of a greater problem. If San Francisco does not pass “Our City, Our Home,” your problems will exacerbate while tourism dollars decrease and more lives publicly waste away.

I know I will blog negatively about downtown San Francisco, vowing never to return, and I have to believe that foreign and domestic tourists will spread their observations upon leaving Ban Francisco.

Mark Erickson
Skokie, Illinois

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Please cut the crap on Vision Zero #1

Shoes representing people killed on North Carolina's roads

When I saw this hed in my inbox, I thought it was about San Francisco: We’re not going to make it to zero road deaths and serious accidents by 2024.

The story is about Washington D.C., not SF. But the fatuous slogan disguised as a safety policy is the same nationwide. 

Why can't we pursue traffic safety without pretending we're dumb and insulting everyone's intelligence?

The writer understands this:

Mayor Muriel Bowser announced in 2015 that DC was going to hit zero deaths and serious injuries by 2024. In nine years. We set a goal to hit zero deaths and serious injuries in half the time that Sweden had already been working on it. That isn't a real goal. It's like my son's goal of being a jedi. I don't know if it was just politics, or naïveté or over-optimism, but we failed right out of the gate. Nine years? It takes more than nine years to get most projects from an idea to shovels in the ground. The minute the goal came out of the Mayor's mouth, you could put a tag on its toe.

Turns out that even Sweden, where the Vision Zero bullshit began, has also had to backtrack:

Sweden was the first place to set a goal of zero road deaths. That was back in 1997, and at the time it set the goal of zero road deaths by 2020, or in 23 years, and to cut them in half by 2007. Years later they realized they weren't going to make those targets, and revised the goals to 50% by 2020 and to 0 deaths by 2050. In other words, Sweden — the inventors of Vision Zero — thinks hitting zero deaths is a half-century long project.

How are we doing?

This city graph is a lie, since in implies that "we are doing" really well this year. That bar hasn't moved in months. Based only on media stories that I have noticed, there have been at least 12 traffic deaths on city streets so far this year.

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