San Francisco Leaders Oppose Plan to Clean Up Drug-Plagued District

San Francisco firemen, paramedics, and police treat an overdose victim in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, Calif., March 24, 2020. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

San Francisco Mayor London Breed‘s plan to flood the city’s Tenderloin District with police officers and to set up centers where drug users can get help — or risk going to jail — faces steep opposition from other city leaders.

Breed declared a state of emergency in the area on Friday and has proposed a plan to clean up the area that includes sending more police officers to patrol the streets to stop drug dealers and outdoor drug use. The mayor’s plan also includes building sites where drug users can get help, or risk going to jail.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is set to vote Thursday on whether to approve the state of emergency, which the Democratic mayor argues will allow the city to better address overdoses and provide treatment to addicts.

The plan has caused backlash among several leaders in the city, including the president of the Board of Supervisors, Shamann Walton, who said the board gave Breed the go-ahead to address drug overdoses, not to lock people up.

“That was not intended to increase law enforcement budgets here in San Francisco, and arrest people who use drugs when we don’t have adequate resources to address their needs,” Walton said, according to KRON 4.

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin joined other city leaders on Monday in forming a united front against the measure.

“Jailing people who have mental health struggles, putting who are vending hot dogs and other people in cages will not solve this problem,” Boudin said. “They are not the only options available to us.”

Those opposed argue there are more options available to fix the problem and that if there is more money for officers, there’s also money for programs to help those most in need.

On Monday, Breed wrote in a series of tweets that the state of emergency is necessary to allow the city to quickly address the public health crisis on the streets. She said the declaration waives permitting and zoning restrictions so a center to help people facing addiction in the community could open in two or three weeks, rather than the six to nine months it would take under normal circumstances.

The state of emergency would also allow the city to expedite contracting for security and custodial services at the site, reducing the normal three to four month timeline to two to three weeks, the mayor said.

“We showed under the COVID State of Emergency what can get done when we can move quickly,” Breed wrote in a tweet. “It allowed us to open a testing program from scratch in just a few weeks. It allowed us to move thousands of people into Shelter in Place hotels with adequate staffing.”

She added: “We can’t wait another 6 to 9 months to go through the regular bureaucratic process. We need to act with urgency to provide the services and treatment options that this public health crisis demands.”

Breed’s shift to being tough on crime comes after she announced $120 million in budget cuts to the police just last July, funds which she vowed to reallocate to achieving racial equality. She wanted to defund police and use the funds towards “prioritizing investments in the African American community around housing, mental health and wellness, workforce development, economic justice, education, advocacy and accountability.”

Meanwhile, crime in the city has surged, including a recent spate of “smash-and-grab” looting that has plagued the Bay Area and other parts of California.

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