The City is taking a page out of its Tenderloin and Mid-Market playbook to address problems in the Mission.
San Francisco announced a new program for the neighborhood Monday that will include the deployment of 16 new community ambassadors, seven days a week, in the 13-block stretch between 14th and Cesar Chavez streets.
The program, dubbed Mission SAFE Streets, is a response to deteriorating conditions in the neighborhood that include unpermitted street vending, unsheltered homelessness, and open drug use.
It was announced jointly by Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Hillary Ronen, whose district includes the Mission.
Since the pandemic, The City has leaned heavily on community ambassador programs to address street conditions in its most challenging neighborhoods, including the Tenderloin, where Urban Alchemy ambassadors are a regular presence.
Breed said in a statement that her office has worked for months to “address the public safety issues and unacceptable behavior” proliferating in the Mission.
“Our ambassadors are part of this solution and they will strive to provide culturally sensitive service to support a coordinated City response that will allow police to focus on urgent calls for help,” Breed said. “It is vital that we keep working to ensure the Mission neighborhood is a place where people want to live, visit, and do business.”
The ambassadors, called “Community Connectors,” will be tasked with keeping public spaces passable for pedestrians, reporting emergencies to 911, and referring less-urgent matters to appropriate resources.
The ambassadors will not intervene in situations that could pose a serious safety risk, leaving such work to the police. They will be trained in de-escalation techniques and how to interact with people experiencing mental health crises, according to The City.
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Officials hope that the ambassadors — who are joining the five already employed by The City in the Mission since 2014 — will provide a positive, reassuring presence in the neighborhood.
Their efforts will be bolstered by increased foot patrols by the San Francisco Police Department’s community ambassadors, a group comprising retired and unarmed cops. BART police are expected to take a role in alleviating problems at its 16th Street and 24th Street stations, while the Department of Public Works will continue to ask its inspectors to enforce laws against unpermitted vendors.
Earlier this year, Ronen asked that concrete barriers be placed on Capp Street to disrupt the late-night flow of drivers searching for sex workers.
She has also withheld her support for a proposed tiny cabin village for people experiencing homelessness in the Mission, arguing that The City has failed to prove that it can mitigate its potential impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
On Monday, Ronen expressed confidence in the community ambassador program.
“These ambassadors signal a turning point in our fight to make the Mission a place where families and businesses can thrive and where neighbors feel safe walking in the street or using public transportation,” Ronen said in a statement.
The new effort has buy-in from community organizations, according to the announcement, including leading partner SF SAFE.
“SF SAFE in partnership with the Latino Task Force is proud to manage this intentional, community-driven public safety alternative, designed to be respectful of residents, and reflective of the patchwork of diversity in the Mission,” Kyra Worthy, executive director of San Francisco SAFE Inc., said in a statement.