The “Tenderloin Business Coalition,” which consists of 135 businesses and property owners in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, has demanded tax refunds for 2022 after dealing with a wave of rampant crime, homelessness, and drug use that has financially hurt the neighborhood, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
An openly illicit drug trade has driven frightened customers from taxpaying neighborhood businesses, leaving the district located in the city’s downtown area on the verge of collapse, said the business association.
This is not the first community association to demand action from city hall.
Districts in San Francisco Demand Action Against Vagrant Behavior
Back in August, businesses in the Castro district also threatened to withhold paying taxes if their demands for improved street conditions were not met.
Castro district merchants had been complaining to city officials for years about mentally ill homeless people with drug addictions devastating their businesses.
The Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to city hall on Aug. 8, urging officials to “take action,” as the area was “struggling.”
They wrote that vagrants living on the streets “regularly experience psychotic episodes” and have vandalized storefronts and harassed business owners, employees, residents, and tourists.
“If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” Dave Karraker, the association’s co-leader, told The San Francisco Chronicle.
Mayor London Breed pledged in September to send more police to the Castro district in response.
Local Business Owners Fed Up With City Hall’s Weak Response
Meanwhile, in a petition to Breed, the Tenderloin petition signers demanded “a full and complete refund of all sales tax and property taxes paid to the City of San Francisco in the fiscal year 2022” after city authorities allegedly abandoned their responsibility to protect its citizens, reported The San Francisco Chronicle.
“The city has abandoned its commitment to provide a baseline of safety in the neighborhood, thus significant effort and investments made by the business owners and property owners to keep their blocks safe and clean have come to nothing. It is clear the state of the neighborhood is declining. We represent that this is a violation of the City’s implicit bargain with the taxpayer: pay your taxes and the city will ensure safe streets,” the business coalition wrote.
“The neighborhood is not safe because the streets are controlled by drug dealers. Drug dealers operate in very clear and obvious ways to any rational observer. … They prey on residents, openly steal from Tenderloin businesses, they intimidate and extort passersby and all of this behavior goes unchecked by law enforcement,” the group explained.
“Our customers are unwilling to enter the neighborhood to patronize our businesses,” the petition added.
“The result is a catastrophic loss of revenue for the small businesses that are vital to the health and safety of the neighborhood. Due to this untenable situation, businesses are closing and there is a real and palpable fear that the neighborhood is now on the verge of collapse,” they warned.
The Tenderloin Business Coalition has demanded an immediate crackdown on the drug dealers who have invaded the Tenderloin by applying “ongoing and rigorous law enforcement” and a meeting with Breed within the week to hear her “plan to take back the streets from the drug dealers and produce permanent results.”
Mayor Promises to Address Homelessness and Drug Addict Crisis
The mayor was forced to declare a state of emergency in 2021 over the rampant drug use in the Tenderloin.
“Mayor Breed has been clear on our need to end open air drug dealing in the Tenderloin,” the mayor’s office told NBC Bay Area.
“The mayor knows this is challenging work, and she is partnering with the district attorney, who is focused on bringing prosecutions and supporting the police department to make the arrests.”
The mayor has promised to alleviate San Francisco’s overwhelmed 911 call system regarding low-level homeless incidents by deploying community workers, instead of the police, to handle the response.
Breed said that the city is also hamstrung by legal limitations that prevent mentally disturbed people from being put under court-ordered treatment.
She said that the city will utilize a newly created state program called “Care Court,” which would force them to get help along with the backing of the local counties, starting in 2023.
Tenderloin business owner Chai Saechao told NBC Bay Area that he was looking forward to celebrating the five-year anniversary of his store, “Plant Therapy,” next year.
However, he said that it was harder to stay in business in the district, making him worried.
“A lot of businesses have closed down and you know, the best restaurants have closed down. So, it’s very sad to see,” Saechao said.