Small business owners in San Francisco’s Castro District are demanding city officials take action to address the growing issues of crime, drug use, and homelessness in the area.
The Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to San Francisco city officials saying members of the group plan to stop paying taxes if the city doesn't do more to address the issues.
In the letter, the association said people who are living on the streets “regularly experience psychotic episodes” and have vandalized storefronts and harassed business owners, employees, residents and tourists, reports The San Francisco Chronicle.
“Our community is struggling to recover from lost business revenue, from burglaries and never-ending vandalism/graffiti (often committed by unhoused persons) and we implore you to take action,” stated the letter.
"Every day we wake up and have to help people on the street. We have to clean up feces on the street. We have to clear our people from doorways, so we can open our businesses. It's not fair," said Terrance Alan, co-president of the association and owner of Flore Dispensary and Cafe Flore.
According to The Chronicle, the group asked the city to “designate 35 of the city’s shelter beds for the neighborhood’s homeless population, create a comprehensive plan on how to offer services to individuals who repeatedly decline help, and provide monthly metrics on how many people in the community have been offered services and shelter.”
Dave Karraker, co-president of the association, said if the association’s demands are not met, the association may ask store owners to stop paying taxes and other city fees.
“If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” Karraker told The Chronicle. “You can’t have a vibrant, successful business corridor when you have people passed out high on drugs, littering your sidewalk. These people need to get help.”
San Francisco’s Department of Public Health (DPH) responded to the group with a statement of its own. The department acknowledged the association’s concerns and said it is working to address them, though there are difficulties in meeting the demands.
"Clinical teams are trained in assessing individuals for involuntary holds. However, California state law sets a very high threshold for these holds, and often that threshold is not met, even when it looks to the public like an individual needs help," read the DPH statement.
Businesses throughout San Francisco have seen a dramatic rise in burglaries and vandalism since 2019, reports The Chronicle. The Castro Merchants Association began documenting incidents during the pandemic. The association noted over 90 incidents totaling more than $170,000 in repair costs since 2020.
“Until we see demonstrable change, everything is on the table, including civil disobedience,” Karraker said. “We cannot continue with more of the same.”