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City Issues: San Francisco

  1. Public Tranportation Nearly everyone agrees that the city's public transportation system, the MUNI is not what it should be. Enough people use the system that this has become an important political issue. The mayor made fixing it one of his campaign promises. After failing to deliver on his 100 day promise to "fix the system" he has again renewed his pledge to deliver on his promise. The city, which prides itself as a "Transit First" city often gives more attention to the wishes of automobile drivers at the expense of pedestrians, bicycle riders and those who use public transit. The monthly "Critical Mass" bicycle event gets criticized by a press which seems more interested in serving the interests of the downtown department stores who fear a loss of revenue from the event. FIX THE MUNI
  2. High housing prices Those coming into the city are usually shocked at the prices and limited availability of housing in the city. Rents are high and rising. Quality apartments are hard to find. Many report that it's best to know someone to find a place. Current battles pit owners against renters over rent control. "Owner move ins" have become a source of contention. Reports continue of elderly and long term renters being evicted so that rents can be raised. Rental prices have resulted in a situation where many voters who are renters are unwilling to approve city bonds if they know it will increase their rent.
  3. Taxi Cabs The number of taxi permits issued by the city has become a divisive issue. Some argue for more permits while current drivers worry that having more taxis on the street will make it harder to make a living. Tourist and residents complain about the difficulty of finding a cab. The biggest problem is that everyone is having to pay to enrich the owners of current permits to the tune of approximately $30,000 per year. Add your comments here
  4. Election fraud Not much about this in the daily press ... Not surprising given that they backed the 49 stadium measure that appeared to squeak through by a small margin. The problem is that there seem to have been a number of irregularities in the election. See: Election fraud
  5. The News Media The two daily papers, the Chronicle and Examiner, have been operating jointly (sharing revenue and facilities) for the last few decades resulting in a less than robust competition. They have a little competition from the two Weeklies and several other local free papers, but not the kind of competition which is necessary to foster the kind of quality papers one might expect from a city like San Francisco. The Examiner has shown a little more willingness to take journalistic risks lately but lacks the commitment (and perhaps resources) to make the paper a really great paper. Both the Chronicle and Examiner run the risk of continuing to loose market share as younger readers gravitate to other publications. See: Local Media
  6. The Police Most San Francisco police you meet on the street are friendly and do their job in a professional and competent manor. San Francisco police as a general rule are not looking for conflict. It's when the police get together that there seem to be problems. E-media's report of police conduct regarding Critical Mass bike rides is disturbing. See: Politically motivated police violence in San Francisco It seems that the SFPD has done a poor job of ridding the department of those who enjoy bashing heads. From watching a recent "police action" to remove people from the grass in civic center it struck me that whoever was calling the shots was an incredibly stupid strategist. Nearly 100 cops, 30 or so arrests and 2 weeks latter they take down the barriers. Perhaps the SFPD suffers from too many old timers in management who need to retire. The Human Rights Watch report on the San Francisco police department mentions a 1996 investigative report by the San Francisco Examiner found that the city was paying large amounts in civil lawsuits following shootings but that the involved officers were not being disciplined by the department, or criminally prosecuted. [links and comments]
  7. Homelessness and Poverty Anyone visiting the city cannot help but notice the large number of people with shopping carts on the street. It is estimated that there are 10,000 homeless in the city. There are groups trying to help but so far no one has solved the problem of insuring that everyone in the city has enough food and a place to sleep. The shame is that there is a lot of wealth in the city and a number of buildings being unused - yet people starve and sleep in doorways. Public land is mot being used for the public good. Some who are wealthy try to help but more consider the poor on the street people to be avoided. Those who say that the city cannot solve the problems of poverty alone have the task of explaining the observation that the State and Federal governments do nothing while continuing to spend money on activities that benefit the already wealthy. [links and comments]
  8. Prostitution The San Francisco Task Force on Prostitution reported in it's 1996 report that the city spends over 7.6 million dollars per year on police, court and jail costs relating to prostitution. While Terence Hallinan, the district attorney, said that "The traditional practice of dealing with prostitution as a law and order issue is costly and simply does not work" and campaigned on a platform de-emphasizing the prosecution of prostitution there still seems to be police resources spent to entrap and arrest prostitutes and those seeking the service of prostitutes. The San Francisco Police Department still has a vice crimes division and continues to make arrests of prostitution. [City targets, July 1998] But the city has avoided following Oakland's questionably constitutional practice of seizing the vehicles of suspected prostitution customers. [Beat Feet, July 1998 ] [links and comments]
  9. Telecommunications City cable TV service from TCI is poor. It's an old and antiquated system (at up to date prices). For a city in the middle of the high tech revolution one would think that the telecommunications infrastructure would be better. While other cities such as Palo Alto to the south have experimented with city owned fiber optic networks, San Francisco has limped along with what Pac Bell and TCI have dished out. The city leadership which had the foresight to bring water from the Sierras has shown no such leadership in the tech sector - even though many of the new jobs created in the city depend on information infrastructure. [links and comments]


Public Policy Issues and Organizations


FIX THEMUNI - To help create a public consensus for fixing the MUNI and to encourage alternatives to auto based transportation in the city.
Topic San Francisco
Add your comments
What is going on with the Police in the city? - community policing or enforcers for the elite - who makes the decisions?
SF Topic: Homeless - in a wealthy country people are sleeping in doorways.
Poverty in San Franciso
SF Topic: Prostitution - A long history of some deciding what others can do with their bodies.
more cabs = less cars - wonder why there are too few cabs and who is profiting?
Have something new to add? Start a topic on the San Francisco Forum
Organizations Sustainable City - Explore and discuss the San Francisco Sustainability Plan, the natural characteristics of the Shasta bioregion, and the impact of life-styles and government policies on the land.
The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) - a San Francisco public policy think tank.
Discussion the Future of San Francisco [future-sf] email list

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