Gay Shame Podcast – Episode 8: From Compton’s to Cop City: London Breed’s War on the Tenderloin


The Marys are begging to know why SF mayor London Breed is so obsessed with killing houseless people, especially in the Tenderloin district (also known as the TL). 

In late December 2021, Breed declared a “State of Emergency” in the TL: her Xmas gift to her funders in the Real Estate and Tech industries.

Joining us is a special investigator and longtime organizer against the city’s escalating killing spree in the TL. She helps us unravel the Mayor’s bloodlust, as we dive deep into Breed’s unquenchable thirst to please her wealthy donors, and create a safe haven for billionaires who collect luxury condos just to leave them empty.

Along the way, you’ll hear about Breed’s bootlicking operation and its sordid details. 

Thousands of hours in overtime for cops guarding a beloved Louis Vuitton store! 

The reopening of a decrepit jail! 

Her ex-boyfriend’s legion of private cops who work for the shadow agency “Urban Alchemy”!

And who can forget the super-spreader premiere at the soon-to-be-history Castro Theater, to celebrate Breed’s no-line cameo in the locally shot, long forgotten film “Matrix 4Ever: The Revenge of Lana’s Cornrows”?

“Tents and Cash Not Cops that Bash”
Gay Shame declares more CASH NOT CONSERVATORSHIP

“I am a mother in the Tenderloin. I fear and oppose the mayor’s plan: More police will make life less safe and secure for my daughter and me.” By Tracey Mixon in 48Hills.

Recorded January 2022.


PERSON 1: When you were mayor, it was the homeless. Now it appears that most of these are drug addicts and mentally ill people. And they’re compounding in the Tenderloin.

PERSON 2: Phil, San Francisco has a reputation of being so humane. Well, but that’s about to all change. London Breed…

PERSON 1: You think so?

PERSON 2: I do think so. I think London Breed is genuinely committed to the idea that…

LONDON BREED THEME SONG: If you listen real close to the voices, they tell you who the choice is. Her initials are LB and there’s nothing else that you can tell me about who should be mayor. Ask anybody and they will say her…

LONDON BREED: And it has been very difficult when you see what you see. With what happened to George Floyd and others, it is hard not to feel the pain.

LONDON BREED: Today we are announcing a public safety initiatives. We are a city that prides ourselves on second chances and rehabilitation. But to be clear, we are not giving people a choice anymore. The final phase of this intervention focuses on securing long-term funding for ambassador programs, but it also means coordinating with the police and the sheriff’s office on felony warrant sweeps. It’s gonna to require more overtime funding, and it’s gonna require more police officers.

LONDON BREED THEME SONG: So join the campaign, we don’t stop ‘till we pop the champagne. She’s who we need so vote for London Breed (x2)

LONDON BREED: We have worked very hard in this city to turn things around with the challenges that have existed historically in the police department of San Francisco. Part of that is, accountability. Part of that is, making sure that we are consistent. But the other part is…

NEWSPERSON: San Francisco Mayor London Breed has agreed to pay more than $22,000 in fines for several ethics violations she committed while in office…

LONDON BREED: At no time have any of the things related to this stipulation had any impact on the decisions that I’ve made as mayor.

LONDON BREED: Here they’re happy to see Urban Alchemy here. I get so many compliments out here in the community about the work Urban Alchemy is doing to help to keep people safe and Department of Public Works, they’re out here power washing the streets, cleaning up the Tenderloin…

MARY DAGGERS: Gay Shame is a virus in the system. We are committed to a trans queer extravaganza that brings direct action to spectacular levels of confrontation. We work collectively outside of boring, deceptive nonprofit models to fight white supremacy, capitalism, ableism, cops, settler colonialism, and all forms of domination. Liberals think we are frivolous decorations and mainstream gays want us gone. Against them and with each other we instigate, irritate, and agitate.


MARY DAGGERS : I’m Mary Daggers.

MARY ON MY WAY: I’m Mary On My Way.

Mary Crisis: I’m Mary Crisis.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: And today we’re talking about the Tenderloin. The Tenderloin is sort of an anti-Castro, where traditionally people who didn’t fit into the Castro, people who were trans, gender-non-conforming, queer, and it’s also newsworthy because our mayor here in San Francisco recently declared a State of Emergency that has been kind of all over national news. It will further criminalize houseless people who live here in the Tenderloin, which, is where a lot of houseless people in the city have lived for the past few decades. Realizing her agenda to profit and the profit of developers, and techies who want to gentrify one of the last parts of San Francisco where houseless people, where queer people, where Black people, have lived and still live, to increase resources and just the number of bodies in law enforcement and she along with other local government officials, their funders, who are coming from real estate, and coming from tech, they’re using privatized police forces in ways that I would say it’s similar to contractors in U.S. wars overseas, which is a little new to me. All to help her career, so London Breed’s fake excuse for calling this, “State of Emergency” that made headlines, is that the area has a problem with fentanyl overdoses and it’s really a rouse to show that she’s tough on, I guess, overdoses, which is, quite the opposite. She’s basically increasing state-sponsored murder, and evictions, and disappearing houseless people.

MARY DAGGERS: We have a special guest coming on to the particulars to talk about why the Tenderloin has been a safer haven for houseless people and people who aren’t beneficiaries of tech or real estate money. Also, how it’s increasing the number of jails after Gay Shame and others pushed to close 850 Bryant, the most decrepit of SF’s six jails. Conservatorship and medicalization of jails kind of parlaying into the city’s language of mental health justice centers are on their way. Our guest MARY ON MY WAY will address why we can’t talk about what’s happening with the State of Emergency without talking about harm reduction and drug use, and how the city and politicians and their tech and real estate funders are making people’s lives more unstable everyday. And even though we don’t tend to focus on offering positive solutions, cop watching, mutual aid via Tent and Cash Not Conservatorship and how projects like these are replicable to any city where you are.


PERSON 1: Every great city of the world seems to have an area given over to the fleshly needs men. In San Francisco, this are is called the Tenderloin. It is a marketplace of vice, degradation, and human misery…

PERSON 2: I looked up the word Tenderloin in the dictionary, and the first was familiar: a prime cut of meat. But the second definition surprised me: “A vice-ridden district controlled by corrupt policeman.” That’s exactly how it was in San Francisco. The Tenderloin looked lawless and out of control, but the police actually ran the place. They allowed the prostitution, the drug dealing, and gambling. And then demanded pay-offs from people involved in those activities.

PERSON 3: The Ambassador Hotel is located in the San Francisco’s tough Tenderloin district, it’s a residential hotel, open to anyone. Some people here have jobs, others are on welfare. And some have lived here since the late ‘70s.

PERSON 4: It’s a mixed building, young and old, men and women, ex-cons, ex-professors, gays and straights, for a while a young couple lived here with a baby. For a few, this hotel is a jumping-off point to something better. But for many others, it’s nothing more than a revolving door…

PERSON 5: …The Tenderloin, when I was first moved here, was very vibrant and busy. There was like maybe 15 or 20 bars all down there within that vicinity, and Charlie’s. And now it’s like, nothing. Just, and Charlie’s is basically the only bar around there. It’s not as vibrant as it was anymore…

MARY CRISIS: London Breed is not the first mayor to destroy the Tenderloin. Formerly known as St. Ann’s Valley, the Tenderloin has been a residential area since at least the 1850’s and has been referred to the Tenderloin since the 1890’s/early 1900’s. Right before the 1906 earthquake, the name comes from the over policing of sex workers in the neighborhood which only increased as the SFPD, founded in 1849, increased their police force each decade. Being queer was a criminal act into and beyond the 1850s. Laws against dressing in multiple garments belonging to, “the wrong gender,” were already placed by 1963. By the end of the 1906 earthquake, most buildings in the area were destroyed, apartments and hotels built in their place, the remaining now ran by evil landlords and lacking city supervisors. The city’s war on sex workers, queers, and drugs can be traced back through the entire history of the Tenderloin. But we can immediately point to these, “anti-prostitution groups,” ran entirely by religious leaders and cops in the 1910s as the catalyst for it encouraged police violence from city officials. By 1917/1918, literal Mayor Roche was easily persuaded by these groups into pushing new laws against sex workers. London Breed is definitely not the first mayor to try to destroy the Tenderloin and allowed police to raid any location in the neighborhood that sex workers and queers could exist or do their job, to of course, bash and arrest them, shutting down their place of work immediately after. This continued into the 1960s, and now, obviously, with the traumatizing Tay-Bush Inn Raid, a café that existed on Taylor and Bush. It was raided with 106 queer people inside, the history eventually being buried over by a large set of condos. Following that, only a few years later, a police raid occurred at a Mardi Gras Ball on New Years Day in 1965. In August of 1966, 20 months later, the Compton’s Cafeteria Riot broke out. Compton’s, which no longer exists, was a 24-hour diner frequented by trans women, all of whom were targeted by the SFPD. After endless regular harassment, arrests, and sexual abuse from the SFPD, these women fought back in the cafeteria and into the streets. This riot wasn’t acknowledged by SFPD until 2019. In the 1970s, into the conservative government’s dismay, the Tenderloin became a place for refugees. The SROs, apartments, and hotels being used by nonwhite families. This time also brought in the city’s attempts at, “services,” for the people suffering at the hands of the city not too dissimilar from the services we see in the Tenderloin today.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: The Tenderloin, area-wise, is very central. It’s right in the center of San Francisco, right down the hill from fancy Nob Hill, and we have the Main Drag of San Francisco Market Street. We’re very close to the touristy Union Square area downtown, beyond that it’s the Financial District where a bunch of banks replaced what used to be the Filipinx area, Manilatown. During COVID, there’s been a lot of techies who, ya know, can work form home now, indefinitely, so they’re sitting in their condos looking out over houseless people, getting on their apps like NextDoor and Citizen, using the 311 apps


MARY BETTER ON PAPER: Or calling cops and the Department of Public Works, which does the sweeps of tents and people’s possessions, takes them away, if they’re houseless…

NEWSPERSON: London Breed is now being criticized for her texts with the police chief, regarding clearing homeless people from certain areas in the city. Now according to Mission Local, texts messages from July and August of last year between Mayor Breed and police chief Bill Scott, show the mayor telling the police chief to roust homeless people from their camps despite her repeated denials. Now one text reads, “Please deal with the 500 block of Market, it’s terrible right now, thanks.” The texts were requested by an anonymous source through the police department’s public records portal.


[LONDON BREED THEME SONG]: This woman is the fairest, just ask Kamala Harris…

MARY DAGGERS: I’d like to introduce our guest MARY ON MY WAY, and shoot a question which is, what is your relationship to the Tenderloin?

MARY ON MY WAY: Hi, yeah I work in the Tenderloin. And not only that, but I work with a group that serves unhoused people. So we are located in the Tenderloin, I have a lot of presence on the streets there, with the unhoused community in the Tenderloin, and then obviously, the TL is a high concentration of unhoused folks. So a lot of our work and advocacy work revolves around folks living in the TL and the shitty things the city does to them.

MARY DAGGERS: Totally. Do you care to elaborate on what your work is around houselessness?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah so I organize with unhoused folks, specifically folks who are living on the street, and their human rights. I do a lot of outreach to folks who live on the streets, in the encampments, I do a lot of responding to sweeps, being there, videotaping, advocating for folks who are being swept, as well as a lot of policy work trying to change policies around sweeps and displacement, around policing, around the shelter system, access to water, all these human rights that are continuously violated for our unhoused folks, kind of what I’m working on a day-to-day basis. Including the mayor’s TL plan, it’s been kind of my biggest project since that was announced, that I work on everyday.

MARY DAGGERS: Thank you so much for your work. Do you wanna tell us more about what is harm reduction and why it is necessary in this conversation about the Tenderloin?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah, I’ll do the second part first if that’s okay. So, it’s, as was stated earlier, the emergency ordinance specifically for this plan was really framed around the overdose crisis that is facing the whole city of San Francisco, but specifically the TL, pretty hard. And, although it’s framed in that it’s an attempt to, it’s being sold to the rest of the city as a way to reduce the overdose deaths and to protect folks who are dying on the streets which is a real crisis and a real emergency. We’re losing a lot of people. The tactics and the specific things mentioned in the mayor’s plan of how they are going to address this crisis, aren’t actually mostly all that helpful to doing so. It’s a lot more about criminalization, and engaging folks who use drugs with the police, or trying to shepherd folks out of sight rather than actually look at what’s going to reduce the harm of drug overdoses. To talk a little more about harm reduction, I do want to preface this that I am not a harm reduction expert, I work with harm reduction workers, but I am not one myself. So I will do my best relaying all of the information they have passed onto me over my time. But harm reduction, the way I think about it, is that rather than treat substance use as a crime inherently and like something that should be reduced or cracked down upon because it’s a crime, it looks at the folks who are using substances, and all kind of substances, and the harms that can come from that, and how we can reduce those harms. So specifically, in this context, we talk about a lot folks who use drugs and especially folks who use opioids, and right now, very specifically, folks use fentanyl. One like really negative outcome from that, obviously, is overdose deaths. So then rather than saying, “Oh someone is using fentanyl, let’s arrest them all,” or “Fentanyl is a bad thing, let’s throw everyone in jail,” or “Let’s arrest all the fentanyl dealers,” it’s we have this community of people who is using opioids or fentanyl and is facing a lot of overdose deaths, what can we do to reduce those harms, reduce those deaths, and keep more of our people safe.

MARY DAGGERS: Cool, so things like Narcan distribution and stuff?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah, so like on a practical level that looks like, a lot of things like, training people how to reverse overdoses, get Narcan out to folks who are using drugs, folks who are around folks who are using drugs. Most overdoses are actually reversed, not by a paramedic or by the cops, but by other drug users or folks who are around in the community, right? A lot of education about how and when to be safe while using substances. It looks like having harm reduction workers who can pass out equipment, things like safe needles for folks who use injectable substances, or having just general survival gear for folks who are use substances an are unhoused, to stay warm and safe. Also, a big point of advocacy in recent years, has been around safe injection and safe consumption sites. Places where folks can use while supervised by harm reduction workers, in case there is an overdose it can be reversed and taken care of, or maybe connected to services or treatment programs that they’d like. Yeah.

MARY DAGGERS: Thank you. Can you speak to the ways that politicians like London Breed and developers who fund politicians, use the reputation of the Tenderloin to advance their goals?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah, that’s a really interesting one. It’s a thing we see with homelessness in general, but with San Francisco it’s really specifically used to the TL. Which is, a bit two-fold. The TL, historically, has been referred to as a containment zone, meaning that folks from the other surrounding neighborhoods, the richer neighborhoods, Nob Hill, Union Square, the Castro, what have you, are pushed out systematically through sweeps and policing and kind of funneled into the TL and the city tries to keep them there as a way to keep the other neighborhoods cleaner and you know, more friendly to the rich people who live there or visit there. And so while that’s happening, there’s this other side of people who live in the TL, especially a lot of the gentrifiers and folks who are coming into the TL, part of the landowners, and the business districts, the Tenderloin CPD, Community Betterment District, who don’t want those unhoused people in their neighborhood, want to be treated like the rest of the neighborhoods are and have unhoused folks scraped off of their streets and pressure washed out away. And so, just as unhoused people are used by all politicians in California they have been for decades, as a way to give themselves a name, they release a bill or a legislation about homelessness, they’re doing something, they’re solving the problem. Whether it’s Scott Weiner’s conservatorship shit, or Gavin Newsome’s Care Not Cash, or Raphael Mandelmann’s Safe Place for All shit last year, just looking like you’re fighting for a solution whether the solution is actually is good or not, is great political capital in California. So the TL, specifically, it’s is kind of seen, it’s a really interesting dynamic because San Francisco and the TL specifically are seen as like this hell hole walking city by a lot of outside media forces. They use a lot of political capital in like talking shit about the Tenderloin to national audiences and as a failed model of progressive politics. And so, folks like London Breed can enter themselves into those national conversation by appearing to be doing something about it. By cracking down, being tough on crime, or what have you. Nationally, that’s a really good political move. And then locally, it can be dicey, which is why they I think some of the messaging has been like mixed. But for folks, for the landlords, and the business districts, and the travel agencies who operate out of the Tenderloin or who have stakes in that mid-Market area, they have been pushing really hard on the mayor to do this. What’s interesting about this one politically is, on the one hand, the mayor is seceding to those interests right, and saying, “Okay, I hear you business districts, I hear you tourist district, we’ll—we’ll crack down on them, we’ll send cops in, we’ll make their lives hell,” and like that makes them happy. And then on the other side of her mouth, she’s talking to the Board of Supervisors, she’s talking to harm reduction organizations, “No this is about reducing drug overdoses and we’re going to get more safe consumption sites and we’re going to get more services and hire more DPH workers.” And trying to make them happy and have them on board. So she’s walking this tight line where someone is being lied to but everyone has enough plausible deniability to be on board.

MARY DAGGERS: Damn, thank you. This may speak to some of your experiences talking about doing cop watch for sweeps and stuff, but can you speak to some of the ways the city is using police and also non police institutions to promote this agenda that you’re talking about?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah. So something I think is interesting is the extent to which the mayor is announcing this plan and the emergency ordinance, actually mean anything at all. The reason I say that is because we’ve seen over the last 365 days, long before this emergency thing, an increase of police and non police entities in the TL doing this work. Last summer, the mayor had her mid-Market improvisation plan that placed a bunch of cops in Civic Center, or not Civic Center, UN Plaza, which is at the bottom of the Tenderloin, as well as Urban Alchemy workers, who are like a, basically, in this context, a private security firm who contracts with the city in the business improvement district there. And they use that to push all the, not just unhoused, but kind of all poor folks out of UN Plaza. They but barricades up to block the normal pathways into UN Plaza, they pressure washed it everyday, like twice a day, to keep folks off and harass the elderly street vendors who are selling peanut butter and shit for a dollar, kick them all out of the neighborhood. So that’s like already was what was happening. Basically what’s happening now is two-fold. One, they’ve really increased their HSOC operations. For folks who aren’t aware, HSOC is the Healthy Streets Operating Center. I could like talk for hours about what that is. Basically, a simple way of talking about it is, HSOC is a coordination of several city departments aimed at like getting rid of tents. And, what’s not said is, the people in them. And so, HSOC was given a lot of power under this emergency ordinance, as well as extra resources, so there was hotel rooms that could have gone to anyone in the city, but were specifically like given to HSOC for the Tenderloin. And they’ve used that to just do sweeps on every block everyday, just getting as many people, some of them get hotel rooms that’s great, but otherwise just getting people cleared out. Or when they run out of hotel rooms, which they already have, just clearing people out. And then what they do is, they call it re-encampment prevention, so HSOC will come through, wipe out an encampment, and then after that, they’ll place more cops there, or they’ll place an Urban Alchemy worker there, and not allow anyone to come back. And that’s the kind of the strategy they are using to clear out the Tenderloin. And on the other hand, they are having a lot more police operations targeting drug dealers and users. I don’t think we have clear data on who all is being arrested, I don’t have a way to tell you if a bunch of drug users are being arrested or if a bunch of drug dealers are being arrested, but they are arresting a lot of people and making a bit in public about arresting people and doing a good thing. So those are like the two ways I’ve seen it change.

MARY DAGGERS: Thank you. It’s so fucked up what they are doing.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: You spoke about the TL plan and how it’s been years in the making, and then more recently with this State of Emergency that gives the mayor all of these new powers to lord over people here, and it kind of came at a time when people are dealing with the Omicron variant, and it was right around the holidays when the politicians love to make big changes and hoping that nobody is going to be paying attention. And it often works. As I understand, like a lot of the politicians who are supposed to be representing neighborhoods like the TL, they got handed like a one-pager one day that was like, “These are the terms of the State of Emergency.” Do you know who is consulted in, and I have some guesses, but who is consulted in creating the documents that called for the State of Emergency?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah. This is a really good question, I’m glad you asked it. I think the timing is really interesting. So something that has made this complicated, this issue around the emergency ordinance specifically, is that harm reduction organizations, front line folks, people who have seen the effects of this overdose crisis over the couple of years have watched our community members die and pass away over drug overdoses, as well as some of, like leaders, at city hall, have been asking the mayor to declare a State of Emergency around this. To streamline getting new DPH workers, to streamline spending more behavioral health dollars, to get new beds, to streamline things like safe consumption sites. And the mayor had told them no, consistently. Said basically that this crisis was not large enough to warrant an emergency ordinance, this was not a crisis to the scale of COVID, and that we didn’t need this in order to do what needed to be done. Which is obviously not true, because none of that shit got done. But, the mayor declaring the emergency ordinance, and with a lot of urgency in talking about things like, “There’s two people dying of overdoses everyday, we need to act now. If you delay this one second to ask what the plan is, you’re stalling, letting many people die.” This urgency came out of nowhere, to the outsider, I think. But what we saw is, people begging the mayor to do something to save people’s lives forever, and her saying no, and then…

NEWSPERSON: Stunning video, this is going viral in San Francisco. Brazen thieves emptied out the Louis Vuitton store in Union Square. In one video, you see the immediate aftermath of the robbery, in another you see a suspect wearing multiple COVID masks, walking out with as much merchandise as he can carry. Then, San Francisco police officers descend on the getaway car, they use their batons to smash its windows and windshield. One officer can be seen with his firearm drawn at a person inside the vehicle. All six suspects under arrest.

MARY ON MY WAY: …And then, Louis Vuitton gets robbed, the Tenderloin CBD [Community Betterment District] starts doing organizing people to tell the mayor we need more cops. All this national backlash to the Black Lives Matter Movement, and the failures of defunding police, like all that shit never happened. And all of these right-winged forces came together at this perfect time and you see, I mean, if you listen to the mayor’s press conference and stuff when she’s announcing this, it’s so directly tied to Louis Vuitton robbery and tied to that big stories of crime in the TL.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: Right. The… Oh, sorry. No please, go ahead.

MARY ON MY WAY: So that’s kind of the timing of it, you can see. That’s reflected what you asked, who was consulted in this? I work in the TL in around homelessness, with a lot of other organizations who work around homelessness, around harm reduction—None of us were consulted. And not in a salty way, like I personally don’t need to be consulted in my organization, but other organizations have stakes here and who’ve known this was an issue that was needed and have been fighting them for years but not consulted. The people who were consulted were the business districts, the Tenderloin CBD [Community Betterment District] specifically, Urban Alchemy who like stands to gain so much from this contract and from security because of this plan, and a lot of other groups like business districts, neighborhood councils, and tourist agencies were the ones who were consulted and pieced together some sort of community consulting in closed-door meetings that the rest of us were not invited to.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: It seems pretty clear that the police were also directly consulted in terms of, I mean there were these texts that were released under our local Freedom of Information Act, the Sunshine Ordinance, that showed that the police and the mayor were speaking about the optics of shooting an announcement in front of the Louis Vuitton store, which was, of course, insured. It was reopened like two days later, but the mayor was really concerned about handbags and San Francisco’s access to handbags for that week. Oh sorry…

MARY DAGGERS: What happened at the Louis Vuitton store?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah, so there was a pretty high-profile smash-and-grab at Louis Vuitton. It was pretty rad, there was like several cars folks jumped out and broke in and grabbed a bunch of shit…

NEWSPERSON: We begin with that breaking news in San Francisco, it’s the first Friday night of the holiday season and it is chaotic, take a look. People running in all directions, police officers and security guards also chasing down suspects. We have several videos sent to us by terrified eye witnesses…

MARY ON MY WAY: What’s interesting is, it didn’t just happen in San Francisco. It happened in several cities in the same day. And it was, but of course, it was San Francisco, in San Francisco, so it got a lot of national coverage for it and we were Gotham City for the day. And the mayor came out really hard against it, saying that the city’s falling apart and we need to piece it together and sent a bunch of cops into Union Square right around the holidays, which was, I don’t know if any of y’all have time to go to Union Square during Christmas, but I like went one night and there was just pigs everywhere and a big van. I think the national backlash and the national response to that Louis Vuitton store really was directed at the mayor and she was really upset about that, that people made her look bad for robbing Louis Vuitton.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: [Laughs] Yeah, no I read something in the Chronicle that admitted that over 8,000 overtime hours were clocked after the Louis Vuitton massacre of 2021 happened, overtime hours for cops. And San Francisco already has a huge glut of overtime that we offer up to the Boys in Blue. They are the top users of overtime in the city, and often times overtime is actually, it amounts to more money than their regular salary, which is already in the hundreds of thousands just starting out. So San Francisco’s mayor London Breed created a one-pager that declared the State of Emergency. And what is the TL plan more broadly and what are the terms of this State of Emergency?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah. So that’s an interesting question that took a while to really find all the answers to. Well, unless you were looking with any kind of critical eye. So the mayor started this whole project with some really fiery press conferences and a Medium article talking about taking back the Tenderloin, cracking down with tough love, making drug users’ and drug dealers’ lives hell, cleaning up the streets, what have you. And it seemed really clear from those speeches and that Medium article, that the plan was to send a bunch of cops in and fuck everyone over. Then there was like a two week walking-back period where the mayor disappeared and her cronies, one of her staffers, and then the head of the Department of Emergency Management, Mary Ellen Carroll, they kind of when on this apology tour and trying to reframe it like it was just about curbing drug overdoses and getting services to people, and that was the plan, the whole plan. As a part of the mayor’s plan, she announced this agenda and then said that she would have to pass an emergency ordinance to give her the power to do her plan. So what we all saw, that the emergency ordinance was giving a pass to the mayor to over police and crack down on people, the Board of Supervisors voted yes on it, kind of buying the lie, or maybe buying the lie, that it was to curb drug overdoses. About a week after that, the plan actually came out of what they were going to do, what the city was going to do, released by the Department of Emergency Management. Basically, the only new service attached to it was the idea of a linkage center, which kind of confused most of us in this space, especially because we have through Prop C a lot of money for behavioral health beds, and that has already itemized in the budget and has not been released by the mayor. And like none of that money, none of those beds fit into what the linkage center is described as. It is described as either indoor or outdoor, but some kind of big room where people folks who are high can like go stand around and maybe be linked to services, but like with no new services to link them to. Other than that, there was talk about taking some of the existing resources and specifically dedicating them to the Tenderloin, and then increasing a lot of language about critical engagement, targeted engagement, targeted outreach, which can sound really good to folks from the outside, I think. What it means in practice is like, one, if there’s no new resources, then outreach and engagement doesn’t actually mean connecting anyone to anything, right?. It just means they’re telling them, “Hey, sorry we have no resources for you.” But, two, when we talk about HSOC and the police, critical engagement, or efficient outreach, means bringing services and bringing their outreach teams to the places that they want to have clear. So it’s like, looking at the TL and saying, “We want this street to have no more tents on it, let’s send our cops and our HSOC team there to get rid of it.” Other than that, the plan is pretty low on details. The other thing it mentions is hiring a bunch of new DPH and HSH workers, which is important because, it’s this kind of continual pattern when folks fight for solutions that we need and they’re routed through the Departments of Public Health, or the Department of Homeless and Supportive Housing, DPH and HSH, those departments who are really acting at the will of mayor Breed to stop those solutions from happening, will tell us, “Oh we can’t do those because we don’t have funding, we don’t have capacity,” and when we do get them the funding it’s, “We don’t have capacity, we don’t have staffing to do this. We’re working really hard, we’re just so low on staffing.” And so, as part of this emergency ordinance, they made all these promises that they were going to hire a bunch of new staffers, for Department of Public Health and Homeless and Supportive Housing. Which is a thing that has yet to be seen or if it could actually happen. It’s a thing that could have happened already, we’ve been under an emergency ordinance because of COVID for two years now. But it’s like a weaponized incompetence where these departments, they say that they are on board with our solutions but they’re like, either not competent or not enough capacity to do them, and so that’s a reason we’re told we can’t have anything good. And then when they need shit like this to go through, they obviously, it’s a really big emergency to hire a bunch of new people and put shit through.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: Yeah, no, that is super helpful and it’s enraging like you said, they’re hiring Public Works workers, who, in my mind, are acting as just this further layer of cops. We know that they’re taking people’s possessions, in many cases, selling them, and they work in collaboration with the police and the local neighborhood groups, community business districts or CBDs, to clear places of houseless people.

MARY DAGGERS: MARY ON MY WAY, I think a lot of people might now know what Urban Alchemy is, and so I was hoping you could elaborate on just the particular, the way… [Laughs] Wait, yeah, sorry, let me try that again. MARY ON MY WAY, what is Urban Alchemy?

MARY ON MY WAY: Good question. Urban Alchemy is a nonprofit based in San Francisco. It started as a jobs programs for ex-cons basically, to hire them, and get them nonprofit jobs. It’s, for a lot of reasons has to do with corruption and who do you know? They’ve become the mayor’s favorite contractor for any and all jobs in the city. And they’ve really just kind of grown exponentially during the pandemic and taken on a bunch of contracts. And specifically, to the Tenderloin and to this plan, they’ve taken on a lot of contracts related to, one is related to service provisions, so they operate a lot of shelters and SIP [Shelter-In-Place] Hotels that serve unhoused folks, and two, in the TL especially, they’ve taken on these safety ambassador contracts. To talk about the first one first, it’s been problematic, to say the least, for unhoused folks because Urban Alchemy is not equipped to run a shelter in the same way some other service providers are. And two, to be fair, there’s a lot of shitty service providers and shelters are kind of a nightmare for unhoused people. Urban Alchemy has been taking all these shelters and hotels and not running them particularly well, from the folks I’ve talked to who’ve stayed there. They tend to treat people like shit. The other, more I think insidious contracts, are the safety ambassador ones. Originally, I think this is not too as much anymore, but originally they were really framed as this kind of defunding and kind of anti-police language that, “We’re getting rid of police and bringing in community policing, and safety ambassadors. Instead of a cop on every corner with a stick to beat you with, we have a nice, friendly ambassador who is going to say, ‘hi’ and send you on your way.” There’s like a big range of what safety ambassadors do in the city and there’s some really shitty ones and some really good ones, I think. What Urban Alchemy does in the TL is really similar to what a lot of other business improvement districts in the city, and across the state honestly, have their safety ambassadors do. Which is like, be private police. And what that means is like, you’ll pay a guy to stand on a corner all day. Your corner is Turk and Leavenworth, and you keep people moving along. And if someone tries to set up a tent there, you tell them to go away. If someone leans against the wall to take a break real quick, you yell at ‘em. If someone’s trying to use drugs near you, you get them out of there. A lot of times, unfortunately, Urban Alchemy does so, threats of violence, or a lot of aggression I’ve seen. Ultimately, even the best version of it, if they tell you to move and you don’t move, it ends with a cop coming. Which is like one step removed. But so they’ve taken these contracts, it started really small with UC Hastings, this law school in the Tenderloin who sued the city basically because there’s too many poor people near their campus. So then the city brought in Urban Alchemy to keep the poor people away from the campus. And then they expanded it to UN Plaza, expanded it up north to the mid-Market improvisation plan last summer, and with this TL emergency plan, it’s the completion of this long strategy that the Tenderloin community business district has had for a long time to get Urban Alchemy through the whole district. Matt Haney has been a big supporter of, too. Because he resides through the Tenderloin, so that’s kind of why you’ve seen Urban Alchemy expand through the Tenderloin. Which, as an interesting side note, the Tenderloin community business district, when they formed, it was like they had to fight really hard to pass their vote to exist and one of the promises they made to the community in order to exist, was that they would never have private security, security ambassadors, as part of the CBD, and they’ve like broken that with Urban Alchemy.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: You mentioned earlier the Shelter-In-Place Hotels that were put into place during the pandemic early on, can you talk about where we’re at with those and what they are?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah. So, I’ll try to keep it quick, but the Shelter-In-Place Hotels were opened up at the beginning of the pandemic, like you said, and the Board of Supervisors basically told the mayor we’re going to lease these hotels, a lot of like tourist hotels and the SROs that aren’t open, or were fully empty because of the pandemic, and that we should lease those all and fill them with unhoused folks basically as a way to de-congregate the shelters, which were like COVID death traps, and to get folks off the street to be safe in the pandemic. And the mayor kind of stalled it as much as she could the entire time, said, “We didn’t have enough money for it, it would break up the city,” and then the federal government came in and said, “No actually, we’ll pay you 100%, like it’s free for you. Just do it.” And mayor Breed did to an extent. She put about 2,000 people in the hotels, but there’s like 8,000 unhoused people in San Francisco. So, much less than she could have. Then, what was horrifying for us, is around the beginning of 2021, we started seeing it really slow down in terms of new entries to the hotels. And by the end of May they were basically like, “We’re done putting people in the hotels.” And the reason they gave is that, even though it’s free for them to put more people in hotels, they won’t do it, because it costs them a lot of money to find housing for those people after the hotels. And they’re worried about being able to do so before the hotels close, before they stop getting money back from the federal government. Which again, is like weaponized incompetence. Their job is to always house unhoused people, and they should have been doing this anyway. What the truth is, is that we don’t have enough housing for everyone that’s unhoused in San Francisco. It would have been impossible to house everyone in that way. And they normally are not forced to admit that. They can usually just call people service resistant or whatever. But because  the SIP hotels have an end-date on them, they would have had to mass-evict thousands of people out of the hotels and then that’d look bad for them. So what they’ve been doing instead is slowly getting the people they can house out of it, getting people into shelters and closing the hotels one by one. So there’s less places for people to stay. And that’s been happening all year, even when the federal government extended the funding deadline for them April of 2022, they kept closing the hotels down. Then, as part of this emergency plan, well although not directly connected, everyone knows is like what they did is they open up the hotels to fill them back up again as temporary winter shelters, and they are using that as a way to do more sweeps so they can take those hotel rooms and take them out of the Tenderloin and shove people into them who will and anyone who denies a hotel room or doesn’t get offered one will get pushed out of the way. And so it’s this really cynical weaponization of shelter, of hotel resources, that folks have desperately wanted all year, but then only being brought around to serve a specific purpose of clearing up the streets of the Tenderloin.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: When you say there isn’t enough housing for people who are coming out of the SIP Hotels, you mean because those hotels themselves, which could just be converted to permanent housing, like is that what you mean?

NEWSPERSON: Voters decide whether large companies should pay a new tax to help fight the city’s chronic homeless problem. The measure is Proposition C, and while San Francisco’s mayor just announced her opposition, the proposition received a big endorsement today.

NEWSPERSON: …Pretty much the poster child for Prop C, Marc Benioff here, the CEO of course, of Salesforce. Marc, thanks for being with us.

MARC BENIOFF: Great to see you, thanks for having me again.

NEWSPERSON: For me, it was binary, and that’s because I walk around San Francisco everyday and, so do you, and you can see, we are in a horrible situation…

NEWSPERSON: You’ve probably guessed by now, that mayor Breed, State Senator Scott Weiner, and Jack Dorsey, are on the no side. They’ve gotten big donations from Stripe, Visa, Lyft, Macy’s, and a handful of venture capitalists, adding up to about 1.6 million dollars. Benioff, Friedenbach, and Sysco COO Chuck Robbins are all on the yes side. Most of money their is from Salesforce and Benioff himself, totaling 8.5 million dollars.

NEWSPERSON: …We had a lot of momentum and a lot of folks that were really kind of, had a lot of negativity about the issue, were moved and moved in a positive way.

NEWSPERSON: Homeless advocates like Friedenbach, won the battle of Prop C, which imposes an average 0.5% in gross receipt taxes on corporate revenue above 50 million. 300 to 400 of San Francisco’s largest businesses would be effected, the majority in the tech and financial sector. Now there’s 300 million in the coffers to fight the growing homeless problem.

NEWSPERSON: …Half of it has to go to housing, we are anticipating in about 4,000 housing units through that, or about 6,000 people, because a lot of those are families. About 4,500 substance abuse and mental health treatment slots, a quarter of the funding has to go there…

NEWSPERSON: San Francisco mayor London Breed opposed the measure…

NEWSPERSON: …From the very beginning, they begged her and the city to get as many people into hotels as they possibly can to create social distance, instead that did not happen, that it was business as usual.

NEWSPERSON: …The plan is to try and clear some people from the shelters so they can keep a safe distance apart. They have set up about 400 cots in Moscone West for the homeless…

NEWSPERSON: Hi everybody, I am at Urban Alchemy Safe Sleeping Village, the first state-sanctioned tent camp in San Francisco…

MOHAMMED NURU: Hi I’m Mohammed Nuru, the Director of Public Works in the county of San Francisco, and my guest today is Lena Miller, from the Hunter’s Point Family. Welcome Lena.

LENA MILLER: Thank you, Muhammad.

NEWSPERSON: Lena Miller, the CEO, gave me a wonderful tour…

LENA MILLER: So first, what I would like to show you, is our bathrooms. Now this is how Urban Alchemy got its start, and its what we do, and we care about it a lot.

NEWSPERSON: …We report out of San Francisco, that the city set up tent sites for homeless people and ended up spending 61,000 dollars a year for each tent, or more than 5,000 dollars a month per tent…

NEWSPERSON: …Both under…

NEWSPERSON: This is the Safe Sleeping Village that we’re talking about. This is the Safe Sleeping Village that Urban Alchemy is running at a cost of 2,600 dollars per white square of asphalt…

NEWSPERSON: That white square… this is fucked up…

NEWSPERSON: Look at how each one of these squares cost 2,600 dollars and there’s your Urban Alchemy people, like painting them on. 2,600 per person a month for a similar arrangement for a tent site in San Francisco, the San Francisco Chronicle noted the city was paying 5,100 per tent per month, twice the rate of a 1-bedroom apartment.

NEWSPERSON: Insane… This is corruption…

NEWSPERSON: Urban Alchemy CEO Miller has been criticized for her lavishly adorned public appearances.

NEWSPERSON: New data from the Governor’s office on Project Roomkey, aimed at securing hotels for the homeless, shows San Francisco lagging behind the East Bay and South Bay in terms of how many hotel rooms its secured versus how many homeless are actually in those rooms, with fewer than half filled.

SPEAKER: Over 55% of the unhoused in San Francisco are Black and Brown or American, African American-identified. That’s a problem. And we had an opportunity to house 8,500 unhoused people in San Francisco, and only 2,500 got used, over 600 rooms are vacant right now, and they’re trying to close more.

NEWSPERSON: A corruption bombshell is rocking city government…

NEWSPERSON: Supervisor Peskin wants a full investigation by the city attorney’s office into how Mohammed Nuru, San Francisco’s long-time Public Works director, conducted himself in office. This after the feds announced Nuru was arrested, along with restaurant tour Nick Bovis, the owner of Lefty O’Doul’s for a variety of so-called schemes.

NEWSPERSON: The complaint alleges five schemes, four schemes. In 2018, as described a complaint there was a public process for new public restrooms, new homeless shelters. As alleged in the complaint behind the scenes, Nuru was providing Bovis with inside information and manipulating the specifications to give Bovis an unfair advantage in the awarding of the contract for those public restrooms and homeless shelters.

NEWSPERSON: They’re doing it…

NEWSPERSON: They’re franchising this shit out everywhere I bet…

NEWSPERSON: And this is how you make it like, you make it like, Liberals will be like, “You say they’re coming with love.”

NEWSPERSON: It’s such a grift, it’s such a grift.

NEWSPERSON: “We’re removing the unhoused with a crystal healing ceremony.”

PERSON: Okay, don’t diss crystals…

NEWSPERSON: Well today the mayor tried to distance herself from this scandal, but to do so, she put herself increasingly close to the man at the middle of it…

LONDON BREED: I reflected on my own personal relationship with Mohammed over the years, and felt in the spirit of transparency, it was important that I disclose…

NEWSPERSON: On Valentine’s Day, of all days, a record number of couple got married here at San Francisco City Hall because of the holiday, with no idea the political bombshell that was sending shockwaves throughout City Hall…

NEWSPERSON: Mayor Breed also admitted that she accepted a nearly 6,000 dollar gift from Nuru…

NEWSPERSON: Supervisor Hillary Ronen, “It was an illegal gift.” We are going to play again for you how mayor described Nuru superior at City Hall.

LONDON BREED: You know, Mohammed reported to the city administrator…

NEWSPERSON: The mayor has, under the chart of the power, to hire and fire the director of Public Works, and if that’s not her subordinate, I don’t know what is.

NEWSPERSON: Nuru consented to plead guilty to wire fraud. In his plea agreement, Nuru admits to public corruption. While authorities say today’s announcement is significant, they say it does not end the FBI’s investigation.

NEWSPERSON: There are many advantages to both the city and homeless people for implementing a sanctioned tent camp. For the city, instead of just having encampments wherever sprouting up and with evictions coming, mass evictions because of Corona Virus, you’re going to see huge encampments like we’ve never seen before.

NEWSPERSON: It’s an eerie feeling, standing at the corner of Folsom and Beale, staring at an empty office building that sits across from an empty row of brand new luxury condos. One pocket hit the hardest, South Beach. 147 luxury condos are on the market. According to ABC 7 Analysis of real estate data, they are moving out of their San Francisco condos, citing everything from work from home, high costs, to there’s nothing to do.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: We know that there are thousands of empty homes, like especially condos that have continued to open during the pandemic that are very expensive, butcould be opened tonight for people who are unhoused.

MARY DAGGERS: We’ve talked a lot about how politicians are using emergencies as they’ve declared them, to advance their own agendas. I don’t want to just flip it to be positive at the end, but I do want to hear, I feel like you’ve suggested that there are so many ways that, instead of being mismanaged, and instead of attacking homeless people, that this could be actually addressing the crises that are taking place and the impacts that are happening that are harming people. Can you elaborate on solutions or the ideas of how you could see these things allocated better, or, in your mind, what is the actual emergency at hand?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah. So I think there’s several emergencies going on. The very devastating and scary crisis the emergency the politicians are responding to is that their rich constituents and business districts are complaining to them about having to see poor people in their neighborhoods. The actual emergency faced in the TL facing our communities is that the TL is a neighborhood that systematically impoverished, it’s home to thousands of people, I think, who are unhoused, living on the street, forced to find refuge in tents and tarps and blankets on the ground, who are over policed and over harassed and the compounding crisis that a lot of those folks use substances that’s resulted in a lot of overdose deaths unfortunately. What sucks is that, we know how to solve those actual emergencies. We know how to get people into housing, we know how to get people to get to a place so they can use substances more safely, or use less substances, or practice whatever they need to practice in a safer way that results in less deaths. But what politicians are doing is harming all those projects, and doubling down on more police and law enforcement instead.

MARY DAGGERS: It’s so punishing, like it’s so wild how the things that are actually would improve quality of life for more people are being withheld because of judgments and like just like horrible discrimination against houseless folks and folks who use drugs. It’s fucked up.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: We have San Francisco Chronicle journalist coming into the TL to purchase drugs, Heather Knight. I would say, mascot journalist of this podcast, for her popularization of the term, “open-air drug markets.” Why does Heather insist on using this terminology to specifically talk about the TL? Without fail?

MARY ON MY WAY: Yeah, that’s a really great question and it pops up constantly. Basically, any time you treat, you see people trying to justify they are harmed by seeing unhoused people. Inevitably, this terminology would be brought out but they have to say, “open-air drug use,” “open-air drug dealing, drug selling,” and really, like the term sounds very scary. But what it means is that people who use and or sell drugs don’t have an indoor place to do that. Or, otherwise, are not able to do so indoors. And so, a lot of it has to do with, in the TL you hear a lot of people talking about seeing folks smoke fentanyl on the street, or inject heroin, or smoking out of pipes or tinfoil right out on the street, so everyone can see how horrible. But really, what we’re talking about is folks using drugs, just like most people use drugs, to get through their days or their lives, but folks who are poor enough that they have to sleep on the street outside, do that where everyone can see them and judge them and to make a fuss about it. Kind of same with open-air drug market or open-air drug dealing, most of the folks complaining about it like go to the dispensary and buy their weed, or go to the liquor store and buy a bottle of whatever. And because it’s not open-air, it’s less harmful, I suppose. But there’s kind of this conflation of, we have to, poor people are outside and that’s bad, and we need a legitimate reason to say why that’s bad, and so the folks that their drug use and drug selling is exposed to the public is a reason they can demonize them.


MARY DAGGERS: So even though the city is fucked and there’s this huge conspiracy against houseless people, we see people continuing to survive and help each other out. Some things maybe folks can do to help support houseless neighbors include mostly, it’s just like giving people money if you have it to spare. Like, hook it up. It does a whole lot, and it also helps to counteract some of these ways poverty is being weaponized against people. Also Gay Shame has done a tent drive where we are able to fundraise to money to be able to give money directly to houseless neighbors and also tents and you can do something like that wherever you are.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: Yeah, I’d get to know your neighbors who are unhoused, see what they need and do something about it when you see whatever your city’s version of a Public Works person or the cops are messing with houseless people and their shit.

MARY DAGGERS: Yeah that’s a great idea, to film the cops if you see the cops fucking with houseless people or trying to sweep folks. If you have a cellphone camera, and you wanna turn it on and stay at a safe distance that feels safe to you and record what’s going on, that can really help. So yeah, we encourage cop watching for sure.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: Cops hate being videotaped for some reason.

MARY ON MY WAY: This is MARY ON MY WAY, thank you for having me, and I’m signing off.

MARY BETTER ON PAPER: This is MARY BETTER ON PAPER, and I’m signing off.

MARY DAGGERS: This is MARY DAGGERS, signing off.

MARY CRISIS: This is MARY CRISIS, signing off.