Here’s S.F.’s plan to make streets safer downtown this holiday season

Here’s S.F.’s plan to make streets safer downtown this holiday season

San Francisco will pour millions into adding up to 150
by December to downtown train stations, streets and other neighborhoods on top of more than 250 already flooding street corners, as the city continues its push to make visitors, workers and residents feel safer ahead of the holiday shopping season.

Mayor London Breed will pump the money into more unarmed ambassadors and attendants employed by police and nonprofits to help passersby and people in need, keep sidewalks clear of people camping or using drugs and respond to lower-level complaints. Ambassadors will take to the streets of SoMa, the Mission, the Tenderloin and other downtown areas, with a focus on BART and Muni stations as well as city-run parking garages.

estimated $8.5 million
infusion of funds comes on top of $26.3 million budgeted for this fiscal year to support ambassadors from nonprofit
Urban Alchemy, who wear distinctive uniforms with a green eye on the back, and neon-orange-clad Welcome Ambassadors. The city will pull the additional investment from other parts of the budget.

Officials want to make people feel safe again downtown after the pandemic left the financial district a ghost town and highlighted street conditions, with people sleeping on sidewalks, dealing or using drugs, or visibly struggling with mental illness. Investment will also go to the Mission after Supervisor Hillary Ronen pleaded for more support for what she calls
unacceptable street conditions. Officials hope to free up police officers for more serious calls for service as the city struggles to fill hundreds of vacancies in the Police Department.

San Francisco is making the significant investment as it tries to lure back shoppers, tourists and office workers and speed up a sluggish post-pandemic economic recovery. Security firm
Kastle Systems
tracked only 42% of office workers in the tech-heavy city back to in-person work,
agging behind other major cities, and
Breed acknowledged
last week that her administration needs to look to other industries beyond tech — such as biotech — to fill empty offices. San Francisco’s
$14 billion
budget depends on taxes and revenue pouring into downtown, and city officials worry about future budget cuts to services as a result.

To entice people to return, though, local leaders must overcome the public’s fears that downtown and the public transit to get there are unsafe and unclean.