The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

The decline and fall of San Francisco

Journalist and author Nellie Bowles, a San Francisco native, looks at the defenestration of Chesa Boudin as part of a larger pattern of progressive San Franciscans coming to their senses:

San Francisco voters decided to turn their district attorney, Chesa Boudin, out of office. They did it because he didn’t seem to care that he was making the citizens of our city miserable in service of an ideology that made sense everywhere but in reality. It’s not just about Boudin, though. There is a sense that, on everything from housing to schools, San Francisco has lost the plot—that progressive leaders here have been LARPing left-wing values instead of working to create a livable city. And many San Franciscans have had enough.

It was easier to ignore...suffering amid the throngs of workers and tourists. And you could always avert your gaze and look at the beautiful city around you. But in lockdown the beauty became obscene. The city couldn’t get kids back into the classroom; so many people were living on the streets; petty crime was rampant. I used to tell myself that San Francisco’s politics were wacky but the city was trying—really trying—to be good. But the reality is that with the smartest minds and so much money and the very best of intentions, San Francisco became a cruel city. It became so dogmatically progressive that maintaining the purity of the politics required accepting—or at least ignoring—devastating results.

But this dogmatism may be buckling under pressure from reality. Earlier this year, in a landslide, San Francisco voters recalled the head of the school board and two of her most progressive colleagues. These are the people who also turned out Boudin....

It has become no big deal to see someone stealing in San Francisco. Videos of crimes in process go viral fairly often. One from last year shows a group of people fleeing a Neiman Marcus with goods in broad daylight. Others show people grabbing what they can from drugstores and walking out. When a theft happens in a Walgreens or a CVS, there’s no big chase. The cashiers are blasé about it. Aisle after aisle of deodorant and shampoo are under lock and key. Press a button for the attendant to get your dish soap.

The rage against Boudin was related to that locked-up soap, but it went far beyond it.

San Franciscans tricked themselves into believing that progressive politics required blocking new construction and shunning the immigrants who came to town to code. We tricked ourselves into thinking psychosis and addiction on the sidewalk were just part of the city’s diversity, even as the homelessness and the housing prices drove out the city’s actual diversity. Now residents are coming to their senses. The recalls mean there’s a limit to how far we will let the decay of this great city go. And thank God.

I've got family in the Bay Area, a good portion of whom read The Atlantic. I'll publish any of their thoughts they allow me to.

Friday afternoon reading

Yesterday I had a full work day plus a three-hour rehearsal for our performance of Stacy Garrop's Terra Nostra on Monday night. (Tickets still available!) Also, yesterday, the House began its public hearings about the failed insurrection on 6 January 2021. Also, yesterday was Thursday, and I could never get the hang of Thursdays.

Finally, Wired takes a look at the law of war, and how Ukrainian civilians may cross the line into belligerents by using apps to report military intelligence to the Ukrainian army.

San Francisco voters oust district attorney

San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin 60%-40% yesterday (but with only 26% turnout), which suggests a growing backlash against progressive crime policies as crime rates inch up from their historic lows:

Boudin was an easy scapegoat. Decades of failed housing and mental-health policies have fed a homelessness crisis in a city that was never as liberal as it appeared. The pandemic appeared to fuel deep sociological challenges that no politician or prosecutor had easy answers for. Still, his rejection reflected visible grassroots anger at both these conditions and his policies, particularly Boudin’s unwillingness to bring heavier charges against shoplifters and other kinds of petty thieves that had come to define, in the popular imagination, 2020s San Francisco. Wealthy, older voters were eager to dump Boudin, as were middle-class non-white voters, particularly Asian Americans. Victimized by a surge in hate crimes, Asian voters felt Boudin had not responded properly to their plight. In 2021, Boudin drew sharp criticism for failing to describe the murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, as a racially motivated crime. While denouncing the crime, Boudin said the defendant was “in some sort of a temper tantrum” and said there was no evidence to charge him with a hate crime. His office would later charge him with murder and elder abuse, but it wasn’t enough to assuage anger in the community.

The outcome in Los Angeles, though, was not so decisive. [Rick] Caruso, a former Republican who developed the Grove and other popular malls in the city, unloaded almost $40 million to shoot to the top of the polls and discombobulate a sleepy race that was supposed to be Bass’s to lose. Caruso blanketed the city with TV and digital ads and secured the backing of several major celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow. His campaign, in many ways, represented conservative backlash: He promised to hire more cops and championed the broken-windows policing pioneered by Bill Bratton, the former police commissioner of L.A. and New York. Like Rudy Giuliani and other right-wing mayoral candidates of yore, he vowed to crack down on perceived disorder in the city.

Caruso was also able to exploit the blind spot of California’s left — the belief that it is progressive, and accepted by broad numbers of people, to allow the unhoused to sleep in tents on public property. But, borrowing from some on the left in the housing movement, he also promised to build 30,000 new shelter beds, convert more hotels and motels into shelters, as well as petition the federal government to triple the number of Section 8 vouchers.

Because we Americans have the maturity and attention spans of toddlers, the Right can always count on progressive policies (mental health care, education, anti-poverty measures) taking too long to solve the problems (crime, drugs, homelessness) that a lack of said policies cause. In other words, we know how to reduce crime, drug use, and homelessness, but it takes a lot of time and attention to do so. Right-wing "lock 'em up" policies appeal to the toddlers voters because they seem immediate and decisive, even though overwhelming evidence shows they fail in the long run. The lack of voter turnout in San Francisco yesterday contributed to Boudin's loss, by some accounts.

I suspect Boudin's problems went a lot deeper than just advocating progressive, long-range solutions to crime and homelessness. It seems a lot like he had a tin ear and a rigidity of thought (i.e., arrogance) that pissed off his natural allies. We have the same situation here in Chicago, where Mayor Lori Lightfoot—whom I supported—has done everything in her power to ensure she only serves a single term, mainly by crapping on her friends. For example, in Chicago, it's hard to lose both the Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public Schools, but Lightfoot achieved that elusive goal last year. It looks a lot like Boudin took a similar approach to office, with expected results.

American Airlines brings the HEAT

The most interesting (to me) story this afternoon comes from Cranky Flier: American Airlines has a new software tool that can, under specific circumstances, reduce weather-related cancellations by 80% and missed connections by 60%. Nice.

In other news:

And finally, as Lake Michigan water levels decline from their record levels in 2020, the receding water has exposed all the work the city and state need to do to repair our beaches.

Mikkeller Bar, San Francisco

Welcome to an extra stop on the Brews and Choos project.

Brewery: Mikkeler Bar, 34 Mason St., San Francisco
Train line: BART, Powell
Time from Chicago: about 4½ hours by air
Distance from station: 200 m

While in San Francisco last weekend, I happened across a brewpub that would fit the Brews & Choos ethos perfectly, were it in Chicago. The Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco serves a variety of craft beer, mostly their own Danish brews, but also some American varieties.

I tried three beers, the Weldwerks Mosaic Extra Extra Juicy Bits (DIPA, 8.6%), Mikkeller's Hop Opera NEDIPA (9%), and Mikkeller's Windy Hill (NEIPA, 7%). Of the three, I liked the Windy Hill enough to have a second.

It's an interesting place with a vibe that I assume came from a collision between Denmark and Northern California. It also has some deeply weird elements, like this, which rumor says came from the building's previous owner, presumably after he no longer needed it:

I'm glad I stopped in. Pity, though, that not a lot of breweries in the Bay Area would fit the Brews & Choos Project. But hey, it was a fun surprise.

Beer garden? No
Dogs OK? No
Televisions? None
Serves food? Full menu
Would hang out with a book? Yes
Would hang out with friends? Yes
Would go back? Yes

California

I popped out to San Francisco this past weekend, then had a ton of things to work on today that precluded posting any of these photos.

So, from south to north order, starting with Moss Beach, including a WWII-era anti-aircraft bunker on the left:

Just a short way from there is what used to be a scary section of the Pacific Coast Highway, now a bike trail:

The Powell end of the Powell & Mason cable car, at Market St:

The Ferry Building:

Looking up California St. from Sansomme:

Transamerica Pyramid:

And the MUNI F line at its terminus in North Beach:

The sun did come out

Chicago actually had clear skies and lovely spring weather today. That said, I'm in San Francisco this weekend, where the weather is almost exactly the same (12°C and clear).

Posting will be sporadic until Tuesday.

Ah, spring

Winter officially has another week and a half to run, but we got a real taste of spring in all its ridiculousness this week:

Yesterday the temperature got up to 13°C at O'Hare, up from the -10°C we had Monday morning. It's heading down to -11°C overnight, then up to 7°C on Sunday. (Just wait until I post the graph for the entire week.)

Welcome to Chicago in spring.

Elsewhere:

  • Republicans in New York and Illinois have a moan about the redistricting processes in those states that will result in heavily-skewed Democratic legislatures and House delegations, even while acknowledging that we've agreed to put down our gun when they put down theirs.
  • The pillowmonger we all know and love, who rails on about unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrants to our country, got all pissy with Canada when they kicked him out for being an unauthorized, disease-carrying immigrant.
  • The pillowmonger's friend the XPOTUS had a no good, very bad, rotten week that he totally deserved.
  • Voters roundly ejected the president and vice president (plus another divisive member) of the San Francisco School Board that the Editor in Chief of Mother Jones says was for incompetence, not politics.
  • Alaska Airlines has a new subscription deal for California that could become more common with other carriers if it takes off.

Finally, if you're in Chicago and want to hear a free Apollo Chorus concert tonight, leave a note in the comments. We perform at Harris Theater at 8pm.

End of a busy day

Some of these will actually have to wait until tomorrow morning:

And now, I will feed the dog.

That's why my hotel bill is so low

I forgot how quiet San Francisco's financial district is on weekend mornings. And I forgot to factor in California's lagging re-opening in general. Of the places Yelp said would be open for a quick breakfast takeaway this morning, two had ended weekend hours, one was permanently closed (or at least hibernating through the pandemic), and one was delightful. Il Canto Cafe, on Sacramento between Battery and Sansomme, whipped up a lovely egg sandwich and (too-large) coffee in just five minutes.

But seriously, the financial district on a foggy Sunday morning gives me the creeps.

In other news, my local El station closed today and won't reopen until 2025. Good thing there's another station only two blocks away.