San Francisco: America’s homegrown anarchic totalitarianism

A quick, and personal, history of San Francisco’s decline from the 1960s to the present

I was born and grew up in San Francisco.  My very earliest memories of the City just predate the advent of the hippies.  At that time, the City was a solid amalgam of working class people, middle class people, and a nice handful of the very, very rich.  Barring the inevitable slums (and all cities have them), San Francisco was a well-maintained, fairly safe place.  Trips downtown (usually triggered by a visit to the doctor in the medical building at 450 Sutter) always ended with a visit to the beautiful City of Paris department store to admire the rotunda (which you can still see in the new Nieman Marcus on the same site), a stop at the marble bathrooms in I. Magnin’s (where Macy’s stands now), and treats at Blum’s Restaurant.  Women and men still wore hats in public places, and the women usually wore gloves too.  The sidewalks were clean, and there were no beggars.

I remember, too, when the hippies came along.  Initially, at least from a child’s point of view, it was kind of fun.  During the Summer of Love in 1967, colorfully dressed young people would be dancing in Golden Gate Park, waving banners, blowing bubbles and handing out flowers to all who passed by.  Of course, when they left the Park at the end of these pretty love-ins, the grass was torn to shreds, the flower beds were destroyed, and a few overdosed teens always lay scattered in the detritus left behind.  Soon, though, the magic (such as it was) vanished, and all that was left behind was the miserable slum that was the Haight Ashbury.

Because San Francisco was notorious for her hippies, whenever out-of-town friends came to visit, they’d insist on a tour of the Haight.  As a child, therefore, in the late 1960s/early 1970s, I often found myself in that blighted neighborhood.  The streets were filthy, covered with a disgusting mixture of garbage, urine and feces.  Collapsed on the sidewalks, holding up the walls, were the drug addicts — stringy-haired, bleary eyed and smelly.  Because sidewalks are hard and cold, a lot of the druggies would migrate to the green strip of the Panhandle or into Golden Gate Park itself.  While the Panhandle quickly became off limits for us children, we still went to the Park quite often — but were always carefully warned about needles in the grass and bums in the bushes.

The hippies weren’t just an aberration.  They were the beginning of a deep rot that set into the City.  Some of them remained as anchors for the homeless who still pepper San Francisco’s streets, making those streets unsafe or just very, very unpleasant for ordinary people.  Others reformed their lifestyles, but kept their Leftist, SDS influenced politics.  They grew up, got jobs, bought homes, and became people of influence in the City.  Their influence wasn’t immediately obvious.  During the 1970s, the City just drifted along.  Self-realization and self-actualization and general self-involvement hit the middle class with a bang, with the result that everyone was running around seeking his bliss, pausing only periodically to do some navel gazing.

The City’s gays, contrary to the film Milk, weren’t in a perpetual state of political activism during the 1970s.  Instead, they were glorying in the hedonism that was part-and-parcel of escaping the dark closet in which they’d lived for so many years.  I can’t say that I blame them — it was a giddy feeling to be free to express a long-hidden sexuality — but the results were deleterious.  It’s not healthy for a City to have a neighborhood that’s dedicated to sex, a rather obvious principle that is entirely separate from the fact that the Castro and its myriad bathhouses proved to be perfect Petri dishes for a burgeoning fatal disease that would soon sweep the world.

I was gone from San Francisco during much of the early and mid-1980s, returning to the City only in the late 1980s.  Throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, I was living a wonderfully self-absorbed yuppie lifestyle, but I still managed to figure out that several things had changed since I’d last lived in San Francisco.  The most obvious change was the presence of homeless people, not just in the Haight and in Golden Gate Park, but everywhere.  The City was no longer making any effort whatsoever to control the homeless problem.

A walk down Montgomery Street, the main artery in San Francisco’s business district, meant one was perpetually under siege from panhandlers, most of them odoriferous and many of them crawling with lice and fleas.  Many, if not all, were obviously mentally ill or deeply in thrall to drugs or alcohol.  I couldn’t blame them for being where they were.  The City’s temperate climate and unenforced vagrancy laws made San Francisco a natural environment for such people.

As for me, I’ve always thought it’s the hallmark of a civilized society that it doesn’t leave its sick and deranged people begging on sidewalks and sleeping in doorways.  The ACLU, however, begs to differ.  And yes, I know that in the 1950s and 1960s, when the idea first came to de-institutionalize the inebriate homes and insane asylums that were once part of the American landscape, it was an unholy alliance of both the Left and the Right that led the charge.  In the years since, however, as the damage to urban areas from de-institutionalization has become clear, the ACLU has come to own the issue, and has routinely insisted that America must allow the helpless insane to live in the street and grub in the garbage.  Apparently Leftist civil rights include ensuring that those least able to care for themselves get no help from the rest of us.

The City had also lost what limited control it once had over the worst neighborhoods in town.  Nowhere was this more apparent to me than in the area surrounding the venerable Cow Palace.  Admittedly, that area was never a very nice one, but I remember as a child going frequently to events at the Cow Palace, going to gymnastic meets at the neighborhood schools, dining on delicious Middle Eastern food at a family-owned restaurant, and visiting people’s houses in the area.  Although I didn’t have the vocabulary at the time, looking back I would characterize the neighborhood as lower working class.  By the late 1980s, it was just plain scary, with the housing projects dominating and blighting the area.  (The worst of those housing projects, incidentally, became so unsustainable that the City eventually destroyed them in an effort at urban renewal.  Those that remain are still appalling.)

By the late 1990s, I had left San Francisco for the Marin suburbs, and I’ve never looked back.  Marin is ridiculously overpriced, but it’s also beautiful, exquisitely well-maintained and very safe. Although separated from the City by only 12 miles and one bridge, it is another world.  The people here may be politically liberal (voting overwhelmingly Democratic), but they’re hardheaded, NIMBY-esque pragmatists when it comes to preserving their own expensive lifestyles.

For the first decade of my Marin life, my visits to the City were very targeted because of the children:  I pretty much went only to Golden Gate Park and the Marina District.  The Marina District has always been lovely, remaining peculiarly untouched by the City’s ongoing turmoil (perhaps because large parts of it have been under Federal control).  There are few things nicer than walking from the Marina waterfront to Fort Point.  Also during those years, Golden Gate Park, while unpleasant around the fringes, underwent a renaissance at its center that begin with a completely rebuilt De Young Museum, and ended with a completely rebuilt Academy of Sciences.  At times, the City, as Herb Caen would say, still knows how.

San Francisco establishes itself as the cutting edge city of America’s homegrown anarchic totalitarianism

As we enter the second decade of the 21st Century, I find myself in the City more and more often.  I don’t visit the well-maintained spots that still charm tourists, though.  Instead, my children’s activities take me to parts of town other than the little Potemkin neighborhoods, neatly preserved for the tourists or the affluent liberals concerned with preserving lovely enclaves for themselves.  On these journeys, consistently, I am appalled by what I see.  The City has morphed into a crazy combination of anarchy and Leftist totalitarianism, all neatly wrapped into a package called “political correctness.”  This matters, not just because we’re witnessing the death of what used to be one of the most beautiful, desirable cities in the world, but because it perfectly represents the American Leftist paradigm.  In other words, San Francisco is the future of American Leftism, and it’s a very scary future indeed.

Before I go further, it’s useful to define some of the terms I’ll use here, particularly as they apply to San Francisco.  San Francisco would characterize itself as a “liberal” city.  “Liberal,” of course, is a misnomer.  Modern liberalism completely rejects the notion of individual freedom that is inherent in the linguistic root of the term (from the Latin līberālis, from līber, free).  Instead, today’s liberalism is a socialist movement that is predicated on placing all power in government.  And when all power resides in the government, you end up with totalitarianism or, as some people call it, fascism.

People who aren’t paying attention to what’s going on in the U.S. today think of totalitarianism solely in terms of Nazi Europe, Fascist Italy or, if they’re being honest, Soviet Eastern Europe.   If you play a word association game with most Americans, especially American liberals, and feed them the words totalitarian or fascist, they’ll come back with references to concentration camps, gulags, Gestapo and KGB agents.

Jonah Goldberg, however, in his splendid book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, figured out that modern western totalitarianism, of the kind practiced by Western European and American progressives/liberals has a more maternal cast than that practiced in Germany, the Soviet Union, China, or other non-Western countries cursed by all-powerful governments.

Unlike their Asian, Latin American or Eastern European counterparts, modern Western socialist governments aren’t going to round us up and shoot us.  Instead, they’re going to love us to death.  They’ll control what we buy, what we eat, how we get our health care, how we educate our children, what we watch on TV, what light bulbs we screw in, what cars we drive, what phones we use, what shopping bags we use, etc., all with the most beneficent of intentions.  We won’t be murdered by gun toting government-funded thugs in concentration camps.  Instead, we’ll just be infantilized to the point where we’re incapable of functioning without a Nanny state at our backs — and our fronts and our sides, and wherever else the State can insert itself into a citizen’s life.  (By the way, if you want to know what that will look like, just cast your mind back to images of Hurricane Katrina.  The self-reliant middle class sat on their porches with shotguns, protecting their families and homes.  The welfare classes, destroyed not by their race but by their decades-long dependence on government handouts, were incapable of even moving off the side of the road.)

The one thing that Jonah Goldberg’s book misses is the fact that the New Age, crystal-gazing American socialist utopia does not allow itself to control all people within its political borders.  Instead, in the name of political correctness, American socialist cities have a two-tiered system:  law-abiding citizens are on the receiving end of heavy-handed government control, while politically correct protected victim classes are removed from any controls whatsoever.  The result is the worst of all possible worlds, with law abiding citizens beaten down both by their own government and by those whom the government allows to roam free.  San Francisco provides a perfect example of this Western socialist dynamic.

San Francisco’s intense hostility to capitalism

Some of the contrasts between intense government control versus anarchy are very obvious in San Francisco.  On the control side, the City’s mandates pry into every area of business and even personal life.  At a macro level, the City is very, very hostile to business.  It has its own minimum wage law (SF Admin. Code, Secs. 12P, 12R, & Appx. 68), which controls anyone doing business in or with the City of San Francisco.  The City apparently feels it’s not a big enough burden on businesses to have the feds set wages too.  The minimum wage laws are great for those who can get jobs; but lousy for those who discover that, as a result of the hostile environment, there are fewer businesses around to provide jobs.

San Francisco has long had stringent rent control laws (SF Admin. Code, Sec. 37.1).  This is one of those things that benefits renters in the short term, by forcing below market rates for rental property, but that is a disaster in the long term.  Because it means that landlords cannot make reasonable money on property, cannot alienate property, and cannot evict tenants, there is no incentive to be a landlord or, if one is a landlord, to maintain the property beyond the bare minimum.  By interfering in the marketplace, San Francisco has ensured that there are fewer properties available, and that those available are minimally maintained.  It’s therefore lousy to be either a landlord or a tenant in the City.

San Francisco doesn’t just stick its liberal nose into the real estate market.  In the name of political correctness, it also makes doing business in and with the City very, very expensive.  For example, in its endless effort to promote business that are owned by women and minorities, the City mandates that women and minority owned businesses, when bidding for City work, get the benefit of a special discount in the bidding process (SF Admin. Code, Sec. 12D.A.)  While this might have made sense as a short term incentive to allow new businesses to break into a field that had become limited to a few permanent, old-time contractors, it’s now become a permanent and costly boondoggle, funding politically protected businesses on the San Francisco taxpayers’ collective backs.

San Francisco’s need to control its law-abiding citizens

The City also likes to make sure that its residents are environmentally pure.  In 2007, the City banned plastic shopping bags, a sop to environmentalists, but a burden to ordinary people:

“We need to get rid of a hell of a lot of this stuff,” Ora Gosey, 56, said outside an Albertsons in the Western Addition. As the retiree spoke, she inched away from a case of grape soda she had placed on the ground as if it didn’t belong to her. It was double-bagged in plastic.

“I needed something,” she admitted, “because it’s so heavy.”

Plastic checkout bags are pretty convenient, Gosey and others said. You can carry them easily down the sidewalk or on a bus, and they’re less prone to ripping than paper. At home, they come in handy for packing trash. And in the park, they’re good to have when you walk the dog.

According to the Film and Bag Federation, a plastics industry group, the bags can also be used to keep things dry in a canoe, make Christmas wreaths and kites, and assist in the nearly impossible task of putting on a wetsuit.

I know that I, personally, never, never throw away those plastic bags.  They have more uses in my household than I can count.  If I stop getting them free from stores, I’ll just have to go out and buy heavier, less environmentally-friendly plastic bags to use for the same purpose.  And sadly, that may be my future too, since Marin is planning on banning both plastic and paper bags.  I’ll soon have to become one of those crazy Marin bag ladies who marches into a grocery store carrying an armful of mismatched, costly, inconvenient bags of my own, all of which I have to remember to return to my car once I unload my groceries.  Feh!  I don’t mind it when serious-minded conservationists, whether liberal or conservative, do this because they want to.  I just don’t want to be forced to do so.

The City reserves special animus for smokers.  Now, I have to confess here that I loath the smell of cigarette smoke.  I don’t have a problem with a person making the decision to smoke, although I think it’s a foolish decision, both in terms of expense and health, but I’m still enough of a libertarian to allow people to make their own bad decisions.  The problem with cigarettes, though, is that the smoke doesn’t stay near the smoker.  If I’m in a room with you, and you’re smoking, I suddenly find myself enveloped in that foul smelling stuff, which makes me crazy.  Even when you leave the room, I can’t get rid of the smell, which has permeated my clothes, my hair and my skin.  I therefore don’t have a problem with San Francisco’s original smoking ban, which banned smoking in the workplace.  (SF Admin. Code, Appx. 8.)  The problem is that the Nanny City, not content with protecting me from your smoke (which I find reasonable), is now intent on protecting you from your smoke, which I find unreasonably intrusive.  Thus, a proposed new law would shut down smoking in the great outdoors too (among other venues within the City’s borders):

San Franciscans would see a bevy of more “no smoking” signs in The City if legislation introduced Tuesday is approved.

As The Examiner reported in November, Supervisor Eric Mar reignited the stalled legislation that would forbid smoking in a slew of new settings, adding to existing bans in bars, restaurants, parks, transit stops and taxis.

The bill would expand no-smoking zones to include farmers’ markets, outdoor seating areas of restaurants, cafes and coffee shops, and common areas of multiunit housing complexes.

Smokers would have to light up farther away from entrances, exits, windows and vents of all buildings. And smoking would only be allowed at the curb of sidewalks, streets and alleys. If there is no curb, smoking would be prohibited within 15 feet of entrances or exits, according to the bill.

Smokers also would have to be at least 20 feet from transit shelters, boarding areas and ticket lines, including those for cable cars.

The legislation would ban smoking while waiting in lines at ATMs, theaters, athletic events, concert venues and cab stands.

Another way in which the City makes life difficult for the law abiding is parking.  It costs two dollars an hour to park at a downtown meter, which means carrying around a lot of quarters.  The high cost is necessitated, in part, by the fact that the City has handed out so many handicapped parking waivers, many meters make no money at all.

As it happens, the insanely expensive meters are the least of the parking problem.  The City is also hell on wheels for parking because of all the signs.  I’ve driven down blocks that have six or seven different parking control signs per block.  Clipping along at 25 or 30 miles per hour, trying to read all the signs, it’s impossible to tell whether you’re going to be barred from parking by the sign limiting parking to residents, the sign limiting parking to businesses, the sign limiting parking to certain hours of the day or night, or the sign limiting parking to certain days of the week because of street cleaning.  Decoding the signs might eventually tell you that it’s okay to park on the northern end of the block, but woe betide you if, at the wrong hour of the day, you park at the southern end.  And all this doesn’t even count the signs hidden in untrimmed trees, so that you have to guess as to what they say.

As part of its relentless drive to purify itself into a “liberal” paradise, the City also keeps trying to outlaw guns (SF Admin. Code, Appx. 73), ban the Blue Angels, bar the military from San Francisco schools (SF Admin. Code, Appx. 74), shut down JROTC (although a few stalwarts have managed to hold the line), impeach Republican administrations (SF Admin. Code, Appx. 76), and generally work to shut down avenues of protection or expression for any but the most liberal residents.

San Francisco extends special protections to law-breakers

While piling law after law after law onto the already law-abiding, San Francisco goes out of its way to protect the law breaking.  It refuses to enforce laws against marijuana (SF Admin. Code sec. 12X), a bit of civil disobedience by the city that ensures that every drug dealer within miles views San Francisco as a sort of commercial Mecca.  Whether one believes anti-drug laws are a good thing or a bad thing, I think all reasonable people recognize that, when a single city carves itself out as a dealer’s paradise, it’s setting itself up for drug usage problems of a more serious kind.  The same guy who comes here peddling pot isn’t going to leave his harder drugs far behind, since he knows that the wise police officer will ignore everything rather than get into a politically correct wrangle.

More seriously, San Francisco refuses to enforce federal immigration laws.  It has classed itself as an official “City and County of Refuge.”  (SF Admin. Code, sec. 12H.)  The practical effect of this is that, in the City’s own words,

No department, agency, commission, officer or employee of the City and County of San Francisco shall use any City funds or resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law or to gather or disseminate information regarding the immigration status of individuals in the City and County of San Francisco unless such assistance is required by federal or State statute, regulation or court decision.  (Sec. 12H.2.)

The City has effectively announced to the world that anyone whose first act upon entering America is to break American law is welcome in San Francisco.  As with the City’s refusal to enforce drug laws, people whose crimes go beyond “merely” entering the country illegally know that they are also welcome in San Francisco.  Anyone with half a brain (meaning no one on the SF Board of Stupidvisors) could have figured out that this sanctuary policy would end in tragedy.  The latest, and most horrible example, of the inevitable tragedy occurred when Edwin Ramos, who came to San Francisco illegally from El Salvador, committed a gangland murder against a father and his two sons, Anthony Bologna, 48, Michael Bologna, 20, and Matthew Bologna, 16, all three of whom were unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at Ramos’ time.  The real horror wasn’t even Ramos’ illegal status.  It was that the City knew about his illegal status and his criminal propensities, but did nothing because of the Sanctuary Law:

The case prompted public outcry after it emerged that Ramos was convicted of two gang-related felonies when he was 17, but local officials did not contact federal agencies to determine his immigration status.

The Bologna family — or, I should say, what’s left of it after Ramos’ massacre — is suing.  I wish them luck, but even a lawsuit won’t change the City’s progressive mindset, one that, as a matter of political ideology, elevates lawbreakers over the law-abiding.

When San Francisco does have laws aimed at making life better for the ordinary citizen, it ignores them.  Although it has an official ban against aggressive solicitation (SF Admin. Code, Appx. 25, 69, which the voters forced on the City), that ban is seldom enforced, and the failure to enforce occurs entirely for PC reasons.  For example, on an annual basis the local paper reports about the Hell that is Haight Ashbury, a miserable situation that results, in large part, because of the aggressive homeless:

Haight-Ashbury may be its own worst enemy. The neighborhood that hosted the Summer of Love 40 years ago has developed a nasty edge. Sleepy stoner panhandlers have given way to aggressive street punks who stand in the path of pedestrians and demand payment. Park Station police Capt. Teresa Barrett suggests watching “Haight Street” on YouTube to see the mind-set. One kid says if you have the money to shop on Haight, you’d damn well better kick in $20.

The problem with the Haight isn’t lack of funds, or lack of laws.  Instead, the neighborhood is besieged because of the “liberals” who have bought into the whole root cause ideology when it comes to crime.  These anarchic nanny staters are certain that the bad behaviors that distress the Haight’s residents and visitors alike are a result of the malefactors’ victim status, and have nothing to do with the fact that the City puts no brakes on crime and brutality:

But the city – particularly Haight-Ashbury – has clung to its image as understanding and tolerant. Attempts to install a sit/lie law that would prohibit camping on the sidewalk for hours at a time have gone nowhere. Too mean, too restrictive, critics say.

This kind of urban horror story isn’t limited to the Haight.  Golden Gate Park, which also never recovered from the Summer of Love, is periodically in the papers too, again because the Liberals in the City, unable to break away from the theory that the homeless are all victims who just need to be left alone,  just can’t bear to get tough on vagrancy, begging, and out-and-out crime.  Sure, there are the periodic crackdowns when things become too terrible to contemplate, but then the liberal cycle of letting “victim classes” run the show begins all over again.

Because the City relentlessly defines the drug addicts, alcoholics, and crazy people as victims who can’t be touched, these people live on the streets in filth, eating out of garbage cans, terrorizing ordinary citizens.  Whether riding BART, walking down Montgomery Street, trying to catch a show at the Orpheum on Market Street, visiting the public library, going to City Hall, or going to Costco, the law-abiding, taxpaying Average Joe is assaulted by smells, disease, aggressive begging and, sometimes, actual assaults.  Still, in liberal eyes, it’s the perpetrators, not the solid citizens, who are defined as victim.

San Francisco ignores existing decency laws to protect sexual “victim classes”

The last thing in my litany of complaints about San Francisco’s reverence for law breakers and burdens on law abiders is the special status it accords licentious behavior.  In theory, the City has an obligation to enforce laws supporting public decency.  These are the laws that ban public nudity and public sex acts.  In fact, because the violations of these laws are routinely committed by gay men, the City turns a blind eye to them.  In the City, lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgendered individuals are a protected class, and that means that they get to break laws with impunity.  Incidentally, what follows is not meant to be a tirade against homosexuality.  The fact is that most of San Francisco’s gays are not running around naked, peeing in the streets (and on each other), or having sex in public.  Only a small percentage are doing so — but the kicker is that they do so because the City lets them!  This is, therefore, a tirade against a City that refuses to enforce public decency laws because of political correctness.

I’m not going to pollute this post with pictures of the truly appalling orgies that routinely take place in San Francisco’s streets.  Zombie has created long photo essays showing the Folsom Street Fair, and the Dore Up Your Alley Fair, both of which involve, not just nudity, but some perverse sexual practices I bet some of you haven’t even heard of — and all of them take place out in the open, on public streets.  The police are present (Zombie documents them), but it is obvious that they are under orders not to interfere.

It is possible (although difficult) to argue that two street fairs, which take place in a limited number of blocks in a carefully defined neighborhood should be ignored.  It’s much more difficult to ignore public licentiousness that takes over a long-standing San Francisco tradition, and that drags nudity and bizarre sexual practices right into Golden Gate Park.  Last year, my family went to see the crowd at the San Francisco Bay to Breakers race — a race that was started 96 years ago to commemorate the San Francisco Earthquake and that, for many years, was a fairly straightforward race, starting at the Bay, traversing the City (including Golden Gate Park), and ending at the Pacific.  About a decade ago, it became an occasion at which San Franciscans celebrate their joie de vivre, with many of them turning the event into a giant costume party.  Having heard about the fun costumes, my husband and I thought it would be fun to take the kids.  Boy, were we wrong!

What’s interesting about San Franciscans is that, when they get into costume, so many of them opt, not for charm or cleverness, but for perversion. Of course that doesn’t go for 100% of the race’s participants. It probably applies to only about 3% of them — but 3% of 100,000 is still about 3,000 people parading through San Francisco’s streets and parks celebrating their peculiar sexual fantasies.

That’s why, within seconds of entering Golden Gate Park, my children were confronted with the fascinating spectacle of an aged gentleman who had wrapped rings around himself, hugely inflating his scrotum, which he then proceeded to shake at the crowd. In a normal environment, he would have been arrested. Here, he was just part of the scenery.

This man wasn’t the only naked one. There were lots of naked people. Probably 90% of them had embarrassingly ugly bodies. Why is it always those with the most avoirdupois, the most pendulous breasts, the most bizarrely tufted body hair, the most mottled skin, and the smallest penises who feel this peculiar compulsion to parade around well-attended public spots in the altogether?

Was it any surprise then, that it was these exhibitionists, despite the vast array of porta-potties, who also felt the irresistible compulsion to pee in the bushes?

There was also a lot of drinking, lots and lots.

So, in the space of a few very painful minutes, we were confronted with public nudity, public urination, and public drunkenness — and the cops did nothing.

I don’t blame the San Francisco police officers for doing nothing.  Most of them, I know, are family people who probably find the spectacle of public nakedness, drunkenness and urination as off-putting as you and I do.  The fact is that they do nothing because they are instructed to stand aside and let politically correct classes — in this case, people who get a kick out of deviant exhibitionism — do their own thing without fear of civil retribution.  The fact that ordinary people are assaulted by the sights and the filth is irrelevant because, in the New Age, crystal gazing, politically correct Progressive world of American Leftism, ordinary people count for nothing.  They exist to be taxed and controlled, so that the others can live free.


This has been a really long post — the longest, I think, that I have ever written.  I write it as a tocsin, warning Americans that there is nothing benign about American Leftism, and that it is even more dangerous than the nanny state some people seem willing to accept as the price of living in the modern world.  Because American leftists are as committed to elevating the rights of the criminals, the crazies and the perverts as they are to taxing, quashing and directing the middle and working classes, we can anticipate the worst of all possible worlds:  an America in which ordinary people live under totalitarian control and socialist taxation, while the worst elements in every society are allowed to run rampant.

Keep this in mind as you head to the polling place in 2010.

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  • Charles Martel

    Book, I think you’ve written one of the great spot-on critiques of what has happened to a once great city. I certainly have nothing to add—over the past 42 years I’ve seen happen exactly what you’ve described.

    But it’s important for other readers here to understand why you’ve written such a long piece. Indeed, it’s the longest I’ve ever seen you write.

    The reason why it’s so long is because it’s a lament. You, like me and so many others, really did fall hard in love with San Francisco, and watching what the lowlifes and the delusional have done to her is a wrenching thing. It demands an indictment, and I think you’ve delivered one.

    Frankly, I don’t hold out much hope for my beloved city. It has become a classic third world pit, populated by the obliviously wealthy and the sexually bent, and the poor, who are either cosseted souls like the drug addled or exploited, like the illegals who keep the houses and restaurants of the rich well tended.

    There simply isn’t anything on the horizon that will save it. With a three-to-one ratio of Democrats to Republicans, the city is doomed to repeat the kind of behavior that somebody observed is best defined as doing the same stupid thing over and over again and expecting it to—at long last—work. Liberals would rather live chin-deep in feces than admit that they’ve been wrong. (On some streets not that far from Nob Hill, you can wade ankle-deep in feces. What the hell, it’s a start, no?)

    And yet. . .

    I go there whenever I have a halfway plausible reason. Combine the light, the cool air, the topography, the architecture, and the energy on the streets, especially in the Chinese neighborhoods where people are too poor and too busy to afford posing in sidewalk cafes, and I’m hooked. Again and again.


  • Earl

    I was born in the City (1947), lived in it and within 100 miles of it for more than 50 of my 62 years.  Your piece is accurate and pretty much matches my experience.  One thing I’d add is that the sexual thing started earlier than you seem to indicate — in 1967, my  mother and I were treated with open hostility and then scared away when we attempted to walk on the trails at Land’s End.  This is where the former auto road (closed both then and now, although I remember driving it with my grandfather as a small child) runs.  There were pairs of males in the bushes, and some followed us as we walked – never coming to the trail, just running through the brush on one or both sides – very spooky.
    Through the ’80s and ’90s, we were often in S.F., but only at the theater, Ocean Beach, the Zoo, Fort Funston, the Academy of Sciences, Sutro’s, Candlestick and Pac Bell, etc.  We knew the safe places, and stayed away from the rest.  What a shame!
    This past summer, Gail and I were in Paris, in a small hotel near Place Clichy ( – we spent an entire day walking in Paris…almost 13 miles between 8:00 a.m. and after midnight…and we NEVER felt afraid.  There was the smell of urine here and there, especially on the walkways near the Seine, but never a threat – a LONG way from our experience in our very own City…San Francisco.
    If I detested the left for nothing else, the wreck of a once-great city (and state) would be enough to fuel my ire.  Take it BACK!

  • Leah

    Both Detroit and San Francisco are examples the devastation of liberalism.

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  • Lulu11

    So timely. I just finished watching Steven Crowder on pajamasmedia who did a report on how Detroit isalso  a city ruined by liberal politics- just as you described here- though without hippies and public gay sex.

    The Left believes itself to be tolerant and helping the downtrodden though their social engineering creates poverty and misery instead. I’d love to see more examples of how these social experiements have fared in actual decades long run liberal towns.

  • Wolf Howling

    Hmmm, I think you can add Baltimore to the list of cities destroyed by leftism also.  Alas, I love the city where I grew up, but I will never go back but for the rare visit.

    Well, no need for me to submit an article for the next watcher’s competition.  What a tour d’force.  An exceptional article/post Ms. BWR.  My hat is off to you.

    I’ve visited San Fran a number of times and did some TDY at The Presido.  I stayed in the touristy parts of the city every time and have always been in love with the city.  Great food, great views, moderate climate . . . . sourdough bread, Anchor Steam beer and mimes (all of whom were fortunate after half an hour of their schtick that I was unarmed).   

    I never saw its seemier side.  I had read about, though had never, until now, understood its history nor the depth of the rot.  Thanks for the education. 


    Quite a eulogy.

  • Wolf Howling

    One other point of interest.  Doug Ross did a post some time ago looking at the ten most poverty stricken cities in America.  They all shared a common thread – each has been governed by Democrats for an unbroken string of 25 years or more.

  • Lulu11

    An excellent analysis. We also have a mayor who defied the law and  the will of the people of the state of Califienia and issued marriage licenses to gays.

  • Right Truth

    Great article, I’m so glad you took the time to write it.  Makes me glad I don’t live in San Francisco or any other city on the road to becoming anything like San Francisco.
    We chose years ago NOT to live is such places, not to live in big cities period.  We can drive an hour or two and get all the culture we need while living a quiet life in a small town.  We can still see a Nativity scene on the courthouse square.  Children meet at the courthouse flag pole to pray for the nation.  We still say prayer at ballgames.
    Local Wal-Mart offers the cloth bags but I don’t know anyone who has purchased them.  They tried putting Spanish labels on items in the meat counter and customers rebelled to the point the labels were removed.
    I expect as the years pass that things will gradually change, but for now I’m thrilled to be where we are.
    Thanks for sharing and making me see how very lucky my hubby and I are to live where we do.
    Happy New Year!

  • spiff580

    Good post.  This only reinforces why I don’t take my family to SF.  Sacramento is heading that way too.  I hate going downtown, as you are hit up by panhandlers at least once every block; the streets are dirty and smell; light rail is like a circus, etc.  It’s not as bad as SF (yet), but they sure aren’t learning anything from the lesson of how miserable SF is for the average person.
    On a side note, according to my wife, our local Wal-Mart (Citrus Heights) is no longer offering plastic and/or paper bags.  I guess you have to buy their crappy blue bags.  Don’t you love it when private businesses reinforce crappy trends by a powerful liberal special interest? Once not to love, now Wal-Mart doesn’t have to spring for the bags while at the same time forcing people who chose to shop there to buy their crappy expensive bags.  It’s only a matter of time before all shops follow suit.  And we didn’t even have to pass an ordinance to get that.
    Once again, the voters in this state are getting what they voted for, whether they want it or not.  Like I said, it would be amusing if it didn’t also impact me.
    Oh, the one problem I see in your assessment, regarding how the bums, druggies, criminals and laws all punish the average person… well, those “average people” are the same dim-bulbs that keep reelecting the city council, mayors, etc… for the city.  They have allowed this to happen by either actively voting for it or not participating in the process at all.  At least that is my take.




  • yara

    I once thought of New Orleans and Lousiana as the US’s only third-world members.  I can see I need to rethink that.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Yara, it’s a growing trend among Democrat/Left strongholds. Also include Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and…Chicago, which I am convinced has peaked and will now go into a slide.
    BTW, Book, the Chicago government sold its parking meter business to a private company with a 75-year lease. The company expects to recoup its investment in less-than 10 years. However, they have jacked-up the meter rates to $4.25 (17 quarters) per hour. Not surprisingly, very few people park  on the street anymore and one has to wonder if the meter company will ever recoup its investment. Eventually rates will come down as the laws of price – demand kick in.

  • BrianE

    I wonder how a city like Seattle, similar to San Francisco in many respects, has avoided this fall from grace?

    Seattle certainly shares the liberal pablum of compassion, which is really just another way of  saying enablement of addictions.

    Is it the climate? While Seattle is temperate, it does very occasionally snow, which makes permanent outdoor living less than attractive.

    Was it Scott McKenzie? Did the drug-induced coma of the 60’s slowly spread and envelop the city?

    Did the decline accelerate when our liberal friends emptied mental hospitals in a vain attempt at absolution for their own decadence?

    Or is San Francisco just the shining beacon on the hill, the symbolic Mecca to Peversity Diversity, that must be preserved at all costs?

    It is a shame. It’s such a beautiful city.

  • pst314

    “Although it has an official ban against aggressive solicitation…which the voters forced on the City, that ban is seldom enforced, and the failure to enforce occurs entirely for PC reasons.”
    I have read that at least part of the problem is due to liberal law firms which aggressively defend even the most badly-behaved bums. (Seems fair that to say that they perverted “pro bono” into “pro malo”.)

  • highlander

    Your point about the banning of plastic bags struck me particularly since I had just heard of a fellow in India who invented a process for converting waste plastic from landfills  into a material which can be used to surface roadways.  It’s 5% more expensive than asphalt, but it lasts 30% longer and is not washed away by the monsoon rains.
    So much depends on mindset, doesn’t it?  One mindset views waste plastic as a problem to be controlled, and the result is a plethora of restrictive and inconvenient regulations.  Another mindset sees it as an opportunity, and the result is a better surface for highways — and less plastic in landfills to boot.

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    Also include Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia and…Chicago
    I can attest to the demise of Philadelphia and often thought they should post a sign at the city limits –  Warning: Enter at your own risk!
    Philly has the largest city park in the world and each neighborhood that adjoins it is a combat zone. I’d enter the park only in a tank with turrets.

  • gpc31

    Daniel Patrick Moynihan had it right many years ago:  defining deviancy down.  What was once shocking is now normal.   With a big push from a corrupt political culture.
    Yes, the state has no conscience.  (Love that line, BW).

  • twilz

    Book, you’ve produced the definitive reference work for those explaining to relatively normal people why we, first, left San Francisco and why we, second,  left California. This article will replace my usual explanation: “Read one or two articles by Mark Morford.”

  • Mosonny

    A really sad but wonderfully written piece, Book.
    Every big city in America is pretty much going in the same direction, though the homeless problem IS more significant in SF because of the flouting of all laws and sanity, combined with the mild climate. 

    But if one drives through any largish city in America, the rot is evident.  It’s not just the 10 cities that Doug Ross pointed out, but it’s almost every city of any size…they’ve been controlled by Dems and the illiberal “liberal” disease.  ACORN is widespread in my neck of the woods, Missouri, and St. Louis City and Kansas City, MO have large areas of blight.  I went to school in Kansas City 30 years ago, and the Country Club Plaza, by some definitions the first shopping “mall” in America, was where I went all the time;  it was, and still is, a gorgeous place, done up in faux Spanish architecture.  But guards were in the stores, and metal detectors, and characters walking around that scared me, when we visited a few months back.  It was NOT the same place, though the Kansas state suburbs were now thriving. 

    East St. Louis is a poster city for Dem rot.  It’s had nothing but corrupt government for as long as anyone can remember.  St. Louis City has areas of great beauty, but most of it is now just urban blight. 

    I’ve driven through Dayton and Columbus and Cincinnati, OH, in the past year, Louisville, KY…all have beautiful buildings, but the rot is there, visible from the highways.  San Fran may have its unique problems, may be the worst of the bunch, but America is reaping the pain of many, many years of liberalism’s disastrous policies, such as welfare and the “War on Poverty”, which has cost billions, and didn’t fix poverty and may have made it worse.


    But guards were in the stores, and metal detectors, and characters walking around that scared me
    If only we could get our airports to this level of security.

  • BrianE

    Didn’t San Francisco give cash to indigents some time ago?

    A ‘Cash for Druggers’ program?

    That would certainly add to the homeless problem. Word gets around ya’ know.

  • arthyland

    Your wonderful, but sad history of The City, aka Baghdad by the Bay, accurately describes the City back when, and what it came to be.  Although there is never a single turning point in time, I would vote the closest to that point being that of the run-up to the succession of Joseph Alioto as mayor.  When Alioto was in charge, and in charge he was, it was sort of a Mayor Daley West:  the streetcars ran on time and the streets were clean and mostly free of miscreants (because a posse of his relatives enforced, cleaned and worked everywhere and in every department).  He had a gift of gab, knew and loved the City, was a representative of one of the most historic of traditions–the Italian native–and was willing to debate anyone from Herb Caen to the man on the street.  He was Mr. San Francisco at a time when it was still very magic.

    However, the cronyism that was rampant with Alioto began to be too much even for San Franciso, and a conservative element sprang up, even resulting with some Republican city councilmen, including John Barbagelata, who opposed Moscone in ‘77, and a man named Dan White.   Democrat Diane Feinstein was relatively conservative back then 

    But just before the tragic history caused by White’s murder of Moscone and Milk, there was Jim Jones, the City’s unelected kingpin of  grassroots liberalism.  There were very few liberal politicians, including Moscone, Willy Brown, and a younger Nancy Pelosi, who did not want to have their picture taken with Jim Jones, who could and did deliver votes automatically.  So, when the KoolAid event took place, which dramatically highlighted the corrosive, strange nature of a major base of San Francisco liberalism, the result bolstered a rising tide of conservatism.  San Francisco and N. California liberal politics seemed on the verge of possible extinction, something never dreamed of before.  And conservative Dan White, who had resigned from the city council, decided he wanted back in after a week or two of thinking about it, went into Mayor Moscone’s office to ask to be reappointed, was refused, and took the ultimate revenge.

    The murders (by a political conservative) of Moscone and Milk reversed the course of a political landscape that had just been finally set only weeks before.  The Liberal establishment was revived just when it was considered possibly dying.  George Moscone and Harvey Milk became instant martyrs for its causes,  and Jim Jones was totally forgotten, taken from the front pages as if it never had any relationship to San Francisco.

    The City never had a chance to reverse its slide into unimpeded tolerance.  Its rare opportunity to become more politically balanced was killed with Moscone and Milk.

    I worked in San Francisco before and during these times.  I saw, heard, felt, smelled and observed all the above, and to this day describe to others how events can and certainly do overtake the issues of the day, year or generation.  They can alter the political landscape at any moment, and as I think back to those days, I ponder what might have happened if White had just walked out of that office.  But he didn’t.

  • Lulu11

    Rent control is another well-intentioned program that leads to abuse and urban decay. When I lived in Manhattan landlords were walking away from buildings becasue they were paid rents that were absurdly low- $150 for example for an apartment that at market rate would have rented for more than $1000. So, people kept apartments long after they moved out, never wanting to give up a valuable below market low rent and subletting and retaining the profits for themselves. Thus  landlords went broke and shrewd (and not poor) tenants illegally reaped in money. Some landlords attempted to push out all tenants of a building in order to renovate and ultimately to get a market- rate rent. This took years but lead to anxiety for tenants and suffering all around.

    I personally lived in a rent control apartment 20 years ago in Santa Monica. (that’s all there was there) In order to get into my building I was told forthrightly by the manager that I had to pay a cash bribe. Period. So, managers profited, “evil” landlords didn’t, but they also didn’t paint, re-carpet or do anything else.

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  • ArmChairinsin

    As a San Franciscan, I find this article to be sad, but accurate testimony.   If I may interject a small nitpick: while abutting the City border, the Cow Palace actually stands in Daly City; thus, the blight of the neighboring environs are not to be blamed explicitly upon San Francisco, though, given your depressing litany,  it is very tempting and, perhaps, deserving to do so.

  • sactosteve

    I am glad that others see the city for the cesspool it  is, and how it got that way.  I refuse to go to SF due to the conditions and the politics. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.  Grew up in the bay area, when I was  small the neighorhood kids would take the bus from Oakland to Candelstick for Giants games. Our parents let us and we felt safe. No more. 
        Live in Sacramento now, and agree with Spiff580 about the decline of this city.  I dont like to go downtown due to the bums on the street. The homeless advocates in this town scare the city mothers so much that they will not do anything about the bums . We are headed down the same road as SF. 
      I as a cop in Sacto and had a regular drunk who would disappear for a month or so everyother month. I asked him where he went and he said SF. He would take the bus to SF where the city would give him a voucher for a room and money for food. He would stay there until it ran out, come back to Sacto, get drunk and go to the detox facility and live there for a month or two. Our tax dollars at work!
     Sacramento has gotten so bad that our Gov (his office) actually got a restraining order against a downtown mental because she came to his office so many times causing problems. CHP regularly arrested her for coming on the capitol grounds.  Its a shame were headed down the  same road as SF

  • spiff580

    @Sactosteve:  I just recently started working downtown again and it is far dirtier than I remeber it being 5+ years ago.  K-Street Mall and Westfield Mall (Sp?) are both rundown, dirtier and infested with thugs and bums.  I think lightrail has only made it worse.  What I find ironic is the city keeps trying to “revitalize” downtown with  new construction, etc., but wont do anything about the crime, thugs and bums that make it miserable for law abiding citizens.  Espicially, when you consider alternative shopping/entertainment options like Galleria and Ardern Malls are only minutes away.  Really sad.

    BTW; thanks for serving in Sac PD; I know that is a thankless job at  times.  My family appreciates what you guys do.


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  • MicheleMG

    I’m a fifth generation San Franciscan who also grew up in the City.  My experiences as the child of young parents who spent many weekend days on Hippie hill, have made me the more conservative person I am today. Like one of my many friends who also grew up in ’70s San Francisco said: “We’re probably the first generation more conservative than our parents’ generation.”
    Born in 1964, I saw and felt the city and the culture change from my early childhood to the end of the decade. I felt the innocence fading. All the changes were unsettling to my sister and me. We went from having doting parents to having parents who acted like children. My dad changed  from a crew cut and tie wearing guy who loved to spend time with us, into a long-haired guy in torn jeans and a Fu-manchu mustache; my mom went from stay-at-home mom in a flip hair-do and Mary Tyler Moore Capris to partying in mini skirts and braless.
    And all of my parents’ friends seemed to be loosing it, too. No longer were they “hung up” on what their parents’ generation expected of them. They freed themselves to experience whatever they wanted – nudity, drugs, hippie dancing… it was all overwhelming from my view as a child.
    Fortunately, I had my grandparents – working class people in the Sunset District who lived, unlike my parents, stable lives. My best memories are of weekends at their house, playing in Stern Grove, roller skating on the hilly streets, going to playland at the Beach and the zoo.
    Sadly, my muni maintenance supervisor Grandpa and my housewife Grandma would never be able to raise three kids in the city today. It’s no longer affordable for a family with one working parent.
    But then it’s no longer the city of my mother’s childhood. Or the one I got just a glimpse of before it changed.

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