Mayor Lee is turning San Francisco into a Dickens novel

It’s 8:20 on Tuesday morning, and Division Street is awash with reporters, cops and people from the Department of Public Works. The tent city that sprang up when Mayor Ed Lee pushed the homeless out of downtown for the Super Bowl has been completely dismantled, except for a few folks holding out. In their place, police barricades have been put up to keep people from setting up camp. A billboard right above the last holdouts has a photo of a mansion and the words “Win this San Francisco Dream House or Choose $4 Million in Cash.”

The irony is so thick it’s nearly impossible to swallow.

This is Mayor Lee’s San Francisco: A city where mid-Market paper unicorn companies, which offer their well-paid employees unlimited daily food, are given corporate handouts. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, St. Anthony’s struggles to feed the needy a single meal each day. It’s a city where nuns who run a soup kitchen in the Tenderloin were facing eviction until Tony Robbins, of all people, swooped in to save the day. A city with a $9 billion budget — home to 147,400 millionaires, according to Forbes — and yet one where people survive by eating out of the trash can in front of my apartment.

Mayor Lee likes to think he’ll be remembered as “The Tech Mayor.” But assuming he makes it through his entire term without being indicted, he will actually be remembered as the mayor who let San Francisco become a Charles Dickens novel. Except, if this economy continues where it’s going, this Dickens novel will begin: “It was the best of times, it was the burst of times.”

And Lee will wake up one day and realize he sold out the greatest city in the world to a bunch of bratty, tone-deaf companies that no longer exist.

The police and the DPW, who are sweeping out the homeless from Division Street, are just following orders. Yet there is one order that is conspicuously absent: Where are these people supposed to go?

The way it currently seems to be working is once neighbors complain enough, The City comes in and moves the camp a few streets over until those neighbors complain enough, and so on and so forth. But what they’re not doing is providing any real solutions.

As I mentioned in last week’s column, Jennifer Friedenbach from the Coalition on Homelessness had the fantastic idea that The City should expand Pier 80. While it currently can house 150 people, it also has a giant parking lot. The City should allow people to camp there while also bringing in services, social workers, advocates and mental health professionals to help the process of getting people off the streets and into permanent housing.

Unfortunately, City Hall seems more preoccupied with pushing the homeless around in a game of neighborhood ping pong than having the political will to honestly tackle this issue. If you agree with me, please let the mayor know by emailing him at or sending a letter to his office in Room 200 in City Hall. Also, let your supervisor know as well. I’m tired of this wretched Dickens novel and I know you are, too.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.

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