I was in San Francisco last week for Inman Real Estate Connect. Loved it, as ever. Saturday, I got a Change.com petition launched by Rob Hahn (a Texan, Houston, and a pretty smart guy) to change the location of the conference OUT of San Francisco’s Tenderloin to somewhere else:
ICSF is a great event held in a horrifyingly bad location. Whether we’re getting more sensitive, or the vagrants and panhandlers around the Hilton are getting worse, things have never been as bad as they were this year. We are now actually afraid and worried about our physical safety. Networking with our industry peers should not have to include fending off a half-dozen super aggressive panhandlers, or getting screamed at by mentally unstable homeless people, or dealing with sexual harassment from vagrants. It’s time. Move the ICSF conference out of the Tenderloin.The homeless problem in San Francisco is bad and getting worse
Naturally, I said come to Texas. Just not in August.
I’m debating whether to sign the petition. I can definitely relate. I, too, heard a lot of complaints. Clay Stapp and James Bohan-Pitt saw gals shooting up heroin on the street, which is an everyday occurrence. Another exhibitor told me he had all his brand new Apple computers stolen out of his car the very first night of the conference, resulting in a scramble to get new computers overnight in order to stock his booth the subsequent days. A lot of agents complained about stepping over the homeless and their garbage/pee. I was horrified to see it’s no longer men and pets panhandling but women cradling infants with begging cups. And the day I arrived in San Francisco — after a super early morning flight, lost luggage, no food and little sleep — I learned real estate is not the only inflated commodity.
I grabbed a quick bite to eat across from the Hilton at the Old Siam Restaurant. Sat down, got out my phone and started focusing on emails. Suddenly, man walked in and seated himself at my table. Total stranger.
Excuse me, I said, wondering for a split second if I knew him. He wasn’t badly dressed — it’s hard to tell the millionaires from the homeless in San Francisco.
“You are so beautiful,” he said. Now I knew this was a total BS deal of some sort.
Maybe, I thought, maybe people in San Francisco now share tables because of space?
“That’s sweet,” I said, ” but really I am busy and will just be here a moment, if you want this table…”
“Just give me $10,” he said, ” and I’ll leave.”
$10? The baseline for begging In San Fran is now a tenspot?
For a second, I thought it might be a fun story to buy him lunch, snag an interview, but probably not smart when traveling alone. I grabbed the cashier and told her the guy was a beggar, and someone asked him to leave.
“I thought he was with you,” said the owner.
The vagrants in San Francisco DO seem to be getting worse and more aggressive. The city now has nine public walls covered with a repellant paint that makes pee spray back on the person’s shoes and pants, a last desperate attempt to get people to quit urinating in alleyways and on walls.
Signs reading “Hold it! This wall is not a public restroom. Please respect San Francisco and seek relief in an appropriate place,” hang above some walls.
The signs don’t explicitly state that the wall will fire back, the newspaper reports.
Public urination has long been a problem in San Francisco. Legislation banning it in 2002 has seen little success, despite a fine of up to $500.
That explains a lot of the smells. Contrary to what some Bay area residents say, there are laws in the city banning sitting or lying on sidewalks, as well as yelling and threatening passer-bys. They just have no teeth:
Despite several laws on the books that Newsom promoted (and that have been blasted by homeless advocates as being mean-spirited), there’s not much police enforcement of them. Newsom’s voter-approved 2010 ban on sitting or lying on sidewalks isn’t enforced much outside the Haight, for example.
More significantly, open-air drug dealing and drug use persist, public urination and defecation are widespread, and downright creepy behavior such as screaming at and threatening passersby is tolerated. The Ten Year Plan avoided much discussion of law enforcement.
From what I have researched, there could be as many as 6500 homeless in San Fran. A program that actually paid them was ended in 2007. Ten plus years ago, the city spent $1.5 billion and moved 19,500 homeless off the streets. But every time one leaves, another one takes his place. This year the Mayor, who critics say is less focused on housing the vagrants than he is bringing tech jobs to San Fran, is trying homeless encampments to clear out the estimated 400 homeless people who have been camping in the Mission District and surrounding neighborhoods and triggering complaints for the past year.
The number of chronically homeless in Dallas and Collin counties rose 26 percent in the latest annual count.
The total homeless population in Dallas County increased from 2,972 in 2013 to 3,314 in 2014, according to a Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance’s annual report. But the number of chronically homeless dropped by 37% in 2014 to 413.
It will be interesting to see if conferences like Inman and conventions either move away from the problem, shunning hotels that border on The Tenderloin, or find other cities altogether.
There may be a lesson for Dallas in all of this, too.