What are safe streets? - Page 3

Mayoral task force looks for ways to protect people in San Francisco — from the homeless

"Marketing of VIP sounds a little more difficult."

According to the description on the meeting agenda, VIP zones would be established around downtown, the Yerba Buena center, Fisherman's Wharf, Chinatown, and Union Square as areas subject to "special enforcement of drug laws, aggressive panhandling, sitting/lying on sidewalks" and other "quality of life crimes."

Defending the idea, D'Alessandro said, "Just from our perspective, tourism generates $500 million a year in local taxes that fund a lot of the programs we're talking about at this table. And we're very threatened. We've lost a lot of business." He said one convention bailed because a visitor was spit on.

"There's obviously huge problems with this. It's specifically targeting people because of their status, their housing status," Friedenbach said, sarcastically suggesting they have a registration for homeless people entering certain areas of the city.

"I think we have to separate aggressive panhandling and blocking thoroughfares from poverty," D'Alessandro said. "This is not targeting poor people."

"When you say sitting and lying on the sidewalk, that is targeting people who don't have a place to sit," Friedenbach countered.

"Maybe we don't do this unless we provide places to sit," D'Alessandro replied."

"Like more drop-in centers," Rhorer offered.

But temporary places to sit and sleep don't seem like part of Newsom's vision. Since he took office, more than 400 shelter beds have been lost. In March, Newsom defunded the only city-funded 24-hour drop-in center serving both men and women.

By the end of the meeting, many of the ideas for enhancing services remained in play, like ramping up Project Homeless Connect and the Homeless Outreach Teams, as well as more drop-in centers, housing, and job programs. All of the law enforcement–oriented changes were still on the list, including implementing the drug-free and VIP zones.

Speaking afterward, Katzman returned to the issue of what defines safety, and for whom. "We have tenants and clients in the Tenderloin who are afraid to go out of their buildings at night because of drug-related violence. They're not complaining to us about people peeing on the streets," he said. "No one likes it, but that's not the big issue right now."