The media’s SF “doom loop” obsession has turned into a doom loop


The hottest trend in San Francisco — aside from shopping at Brunello Cucinelli, of course — speaks of the city’s death spiral. CNN just did it. All of the publications here, including ours, have mentioned what is called the ‘disaster loop’. Everyone has a theory; It’s the season that’s all about take off.

Another such “Doom Loop” story from San Francisco made the rounds Thursday, this time courtesy of the Financial Times, which appears to have been the case ParticularlyYou piss people off by including illustrations of an inevitably empty, dystopian city.

Aside from the provocative imagery, the story itself – co-written by two San Francisco writers – is standard and aims for a more cursory assessment of the city. This is somewhat understandable, since the Financial Times is an international publication and as a result even its local journalists must tailor their reporting for an audience relatively unfamiliar with what goes on in San Francisco.

But even with that context in mind, the story of the Financial Times falls under the same tropes as its many, many predecessors, and annoyingly up the ante by lumping the entire city together as a trouble spot. It highlights some statistics that point to San Francisco’s (very real) housing, homelessness, and substance abuse problems, but extrapolates these problems as if they were equally prevalent and prevalent in all neighborhoods, leaving hard data in favor of anecdotes disregard and independent complaints. Then the term “progressive” is softened to include all Democratic Party politicians, implicitly blaming progressives for the city’s shortcomings, even though San Francisco is largely and increasingly governed by moderates who publicly disavow these labels.

The Financial Times article begins with one of San Francisco’s strangest stories: Late last year, a toddler was exposed to fentanyl and nearly died from an overdose. We know from toxicology reports that the toddler was definitely exposed to the deadly drug. We know very little beyond that, especially not about where the toddler was exposed. The toddler suffered his life-threatening reaction at Moscone Park, but no drugs were ever recovered at the park, which is cleaned three times a day by wardens.

The Financial Times, citing the apparently still frightened father of the toddler, says of perceptions of unsafe conditions: “It has spread. It feels like there’s a higher chance of something going sideways here.” If I were the father of a toddler who was exposed to fentanyl, I would feel the same way. For everyone else, what exactly do you want us to take away from this once-in-a-lifetime episode six months later?

The Franciscans and the media (ours included) must be precise. Are we talking about a city-wide meltdown? Or a phenomenon that mainly affects the city center?

Many such “doom loop” stories don’t choose a track. The Financial Times, for example, has images of colorless Painted Ladies, parks overgrown with weeds, and an empty, abandoned Coit Tower. It cites Elon Musk’s “post-apocalyptic” complaints about San Francisco and gives him credibility on the matter, although I suspect he relies on transportation for extremely wealthy people in San Francisco as opposed to, you know, walking around.

Come on. Many of the city’s parks are in pristine condition and get crowded on the weekends – especially now that the weather is finally nice again. Coit Tower is still a popular tourist destination, and nearby North Beach is buzzing with activity. (If we’re going to cook some anecdotes, a North Beach bartender told me a few months ago that nightlife foot traffic has increased significantly compared to last year.) This weekend, Bay to Breakers will draw about a bazillion people; Restaurants and bars will be full. Recent studies show that San Francisco’s tourism industry recovery is lagging behind that of the state, albeit not by much.

I’m not bringing this up to urge “San Francisco is actually perfect.” Encouraging rally. I find that annoying too. Many neighborhoods in San Francisco have been gentrified beyond recognition. Every neighborhood in San Francisco has homeless people, drug addicts, empty storefronts and unaffordable rents.

Relatively speaking, however, San Francisco suffers from the same federal and statewide safety net failures that affect all American cities. We have an increased number of homeless people and some types of crimes are more common here than in other cities. Other crimes, including homicide rates, are lower, sometimes much lower, than other major cities.

Let’s be fair: the near- and mid-term concerns are mostly centered on downtown San Francisco. You won’t get too many counter-arguments from me. I’ve never seen a city that had so many empty retail stores in a short amount of time. There is certainly more visible homelessness and there are more homeless people in crisis. Foot traffic is low, low, low. I live nearby and it’s scary to get off the BART station after a long night and then find that the streets are pretty much deserted. The coverage of downtown store closures is fair. Also stories about the conditions in the city center. Ignoring both is applying a selective bias that is unhelpful to anyone.

But I don’t understand how the Financial Times came up with “progressives” as the alleged reason for the decline of downtown – and by extension the entire city. “There is also a growing sense that the city’s progressive political class has failed its citizens,” the authors wrote, citing “violent attacks in affluent neighborhoods,” such as the fatal stabbing of Bob Lee, the attack on Paul Pelosi and “ the bizarre case of Don Carmignani, the former fire commissioner who was hospitalized last month after a homeless man attacked him with a metal pipe; Carmignani’s attacker was released from prison after CCTV footage emerged that appeared to show the former officer attacking scores of homeless people with bear clubs for no reason.”

What do progressives have to do with the murder of a tech mogul, allegedly by a man who also works in tech and doesn’t live in San Francisco? What do progressives have to do with a suspected Berkeley QAnon supporter breaking into Pelosi’s home? What do progressives have to do with a weirdo who has a history of violent allegations against him, who has most likely been assaulting homeless people lately?

Later in the story, the authors describe how a “twist loop” could turn San Francisco into Detroit (their words, not mine), again using the progressive specter and hinting at a possible future where “political infighting among progressive politicians continues “. prevent the city from making concerted progress on tackling homelessness, violence and drug use.”

I really have no idea who they’re talking about. As the Financial Times notes, San Francisco voters ousted progressive district attorney Chesa Boudin in favor of hard-crime prosecutor Brooke Jenkins. Depending on how generous you are, there are two or three legitimately progressive members of the board — then a whole bunch of moderate Democrats. Some of the city’s most powerful lobby groups are openly trying to overthrow San Francisco’s remaining progressives. For now, at least, local voters seem relatively close to these lobby groups. The city gets what it voted for: the policies of moderate Democrats.

That includes the city’s mayor, London Breed, who endorsed Michael Bloomberg for president in 2020. The Financial Times portrays Breed as a free-spending liberal overseeing a bloated city budget, pouring out buckets of money “to reduce the homeless population.” “Half by the end of 2028” by building more permanent housing as opposed to temporary shelters. “Refuge shelters can be full of empty beds as people with severe addictions are lured back onto the streets for easy access to their next hit,” writes the Financial Times, without citing.

In fact, these shelters are sometimes “full of empty beds,” in large part because of that Conditions in the shelters. Not every homeless person lives on the streets because they really want to use drugs; There’s nowhere else to go, and a camp is rightfully more convenient than the city’s meager offerings. Not to mention, if the city tried to force all of its homeless people into shelters — and boy, would they want that? – they would run out of space very quickly. For this reason, a federal judge issued an injunction against warehouse evictions: According to its own statements, the city does not have enough living space.

Breed knows all this, and there’s not much evidence that she cares. Public records show that she personally texted San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott asking police officers to evict uninhabited people from the areas she just visited, which basically boils down to this to play hot potatoes with people. As for Breed’s allegedly ambitious public housing budget, Supervisor Dean Preston recently sued her office for inexplicably failing to pay out $20 million of funds already committed to repair public housing in the city. It just sits there… unused. Not exactly a good sign that she’s ready to go ahead with her permanent housing plans.

All in all, the Financial Times article makes no attempt to dig deeper and challenges any of the already existing flimsy narratives it raises. That’s what bothers me most about it, as well as major media opinion pieces that are similarly reported: finger-pointing at confusing targets, the city’s most powerful politicians seeming to avoid serious criticism, nothing prescriptive . It’s just aimless gestures.

“San Francisco has always been a boom-and-bust city,” concluded the Financial Times. “Perhaps it will always be so.”

A fitting way to end another inaccurate “doom loop”: basically just a shrug.

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