San Francisco’s ‘doom loop’ route really does give people a front row seat to the city’s descent into homelessness, drug use and urban decay.
Spurred by a local joker who has organized a tour of the California city’s most blighted areas, The Post walked the proposed route to see if the “worst of San Francisco” really was on offer.
Community activist JJ Smith generously acted as an ad-hoc tour guide for the “landmarks” on a 1.5-mile trip, which took in City Hall, Union Square, Mid-Market and the Tenderloin District — areas where a one bedroom apartment typically retails for $750,000 and upward.
The once bustling areas of Market Street and Union Square were homes to such esteemed stores as Nordstrom Rack and Old Navy until they recently left.
Floors and floors of completely vacant space in various storefronts are visible from the street, save a few lonely mannequins staring forlornly from windows.
Since January 2020, half of retailers have fled the downtown area because of sagging sales and lack of foot traffic and tourism. Of those that are left, even Ross Dress for Less now sports “enhanced security” in the form of bag checks and security guards stationed at all exits.
Market was also one of the only places along the route a couple of bored looking cops could be spied ambling along.
Homeless individuals have moved in to take advantage of the empty shell and sleep in front of the vacant shops, erecting a tent city on the sidewalk for most of the street.
Ironically, some encampments are in front of boarded blocks which used to be affordable apartments, now earmarked for destruction. Open drug use is commonplace at all hours, according to JJ, and people could be heard rustling and shuffling inside the tents just feet from the blaring mid-afternoon traffic.
Soon joining the urban emptiness could be the four-star Hilton San Francisco Union Square, where rooms are $450-a-night, and the Hilton Parc 55 hotel, where rooms are a little cheaper at $150-a-night. Their owner announced in June it would stop paying a $725m loan, which could potentially leave more than 3,000 rooms empty, although they were both still operational this week.
Crime has gotten so bad in the downtown area employees who work at the nearby Nancy Pelosi Federal Building were recently ordered to stay away and work from home “for the unforeseeable future”.
The building is a stone’s throw from the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Hyde Street in the Tenderloin District, a hot-bed of drug deals once the sun goes down.
On any given night, dozens of individuals can be found shooting up or smoking fentanyl-laced drug concoctions from foil, JJ explained.
Smith said he has personally provided Narcan — which reverses opioid overdoses — to at least 50 people. Unfortunately, some of them could not be saved.
“It’s hard and really, it just makes me feel so sad,” Smith said.
“It’s gotten so bad that I stash Narcan on the streets when I walk my route. If I walk down the street, I know I stashed one near the store. And if I go down the other side, I know I have one in the next corner. I stash it all over for easy access because that’s how bad it gets around here.”
Smith said he saw officials with the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office recently take three bodies from one building where overdoses frequently occur. Multiple overdoses in just a span of hours are becoming ever more common, Smith said.
Many of the homeless addicts who collapse on the sidewalk overnight stay there until cleanup crews from local non-profits clear the streets every morning from 5 to 7 a.m.
In one video Smith showed The Post, which he shot, crew members from non-profit Urban Alchemy asked the addicts to pick up their belongings and stop using drugs as they try to sweep the sidewalk.
The video also showed Smith trying to wake up a man so high on drugs that he couldn’t open his eyes or move while being shaken.
“Come on fellas, it’s time,” said one worker holding a broom who tried to wake up a man passed out on drugs.
It’s a vicious cycle that keeps the doom loop going.
“They clean up the place early in the morning so people who have kids can walk around and take them to school, but once it gets dark, [the addicts] come right back, take drugs and pass out until the morning,” Smith said. “It never ends.”
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