Winds of Change Coming to San Francisco?



By Richard Eber (a 4th generation native)

San Francisco is literally falling apart at the seams.  Pier 39 is a ghost town. Hotels are empty that ordinarily host the convention and tourist trades.  It is estimated that at least 50% of all restaurants located in the “City by the Bay” will never reopen again.  Even when the Corona Pandemic is over, it will take businesses years to recover from their recent losses.

For a city that survived the Earthquake and Fire in 1906, the immortal words of James Carville, “it’s the economy stupid”, rings loud and clear today.

With the city’s pork barrel infused budget (vegan option available) about to implode, what will their Mayor London Breed do to get things back on track?  Other than placing armed guards on the Golden Gate Bridge to discourage citizens from taking their last plunge, what steps can San Francisco take to achieve even a moderate state of normalcy?

As a start this former tourist Mecca might consider several options at their disposal:

  • Drastically cut down on government welfare services for the homeless including free food, narcotics, hotel rooms and counseling services. At the same time they must make sure the transient population does not continue to chase away visitors from the city when the pandemic is over.
  • Decrease the size of government by at least 35%. Those who remain employed will need to accept significant reductions in pay and benefit packages.
  • Come to the understanding that when things return to normal, it will take years for the convention trade to bounce back. After learning teleconferencing is a viable alternative to $ 250.00 a night hotel rooms and over priced meals, corporations will no doubt reevaluate where to hold their future functions.

In short for San Francisco to survive it will need to go “Back to the Future” to emerge from its present moral, socialistic, and intellectual decay.  The locale that has been called “Baghdad by the Bay”, must take a long look at the mirror prior to charting its future course.

A good place to start is for city government to stop trying to push diversity to absurd levels from the current “No citizen left ahead” state of affairs.  This means ending ridiculous stuff like telling the police to refrain from wearing face masks with blue stripes because homeless advocates might be offended.

Instead, local government needs to make sure lower level workers even have a job.  Forget about increasing employer expenses for free medical care, pensions, family leave, sponsoring Sanctuary Cities, and promoting restroom choice. Survival of this endangered group trumps all other considerations.

Even imposing rent control is a problem.  If a large proportion of the population is forced to move following the Covid-19 pandemic, those who replace them will be paying considerably less than current levels.  Under present rent control laws, it will take several years for landlords to recover these losses.  As a result the present over inflated property values may well take a well deserved tumble.

A decline in rents will especially be felt in the commercial sector.  Outside of retail, there are signs the office market is threatened with no end in sight. When people return to work in San Francisco’s famed financial district, telecommuting from home of white collar workers may well become the wave of the future.

Experts predict the office of the future will be split between time spent by employees at corporate headquarters and from residential work stations. Even prior to when Zoom and other computer applications gained popularity, the concept of cutting corporate expenses by reducing the size of onsite presence in central offices, has become more prevalent.

As an indication of this trend, we have already witnessed the reduction of ridership on BART. Despite complaints on the 6 o’clock news about crime, filth, congestion, and the homeless, on the beleaguered system, demographics may well be playing a critical role in lowering ridership. Should this trend continue, fewer trips to metropolitan hubs will result in further migration of families to the more affordable suburbs.

In short, the Corona plague will make it necessary for San Francisco to reinvent itself.  To do so they will have to cut down on the hate crime rhetoric including the notion that being a Republican’s is worthy of being displayed at the post office next to the FBI post wanted posters.

Taking a step back from their present state of moral superiority, San Francisco’s political leaders including Nancy Pelosi, London Breed, Scott Weiner, David Chiu etc.., will need to back off from their current take no prisoners progressive agendas.  As they say at the beginning of each season, it’s a new ballgame.

Such a makeover might sound a bit radical even by progressive standards.  However, when Adam’s Smith’s criteria for the survival of mankind, “food, shelter, and clothing” are threatened, it’s amazing how conservative political thought becomes.

Such a notion is not complete fantasy. Present day San Franciscans forget that until 1964, A Democrat was not elected to the post of mayor.  Should London Breed and those who follow her forget their city’s heritage, the winds of change could very well come to fruition quicker than they might imagine.

Even the seals who hang out at Pier 39 realize fewer tourists will require them to alter their feeding patterns.  Can humans be far behind?

Richard Eber studied journalism at the University of Oregon. He writes about politics, culture, education restaurants, and was former city and sports editor of UCSB Daily. Richard is president of Amerasa Rapid Transit, a specialized freight forwarder.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Citizens Journal.

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