San Francisco Takes a Sharp Right Turn 

BiniClick /
BiniClick /

San Francisco’s Mayor, London Breed, is desperate to retain her role. She has abandoned some of the insane progressive policies that earned her the spot in 2018. While San Francisco is a city of liberals and progressive dreams, Breed has been openly criticized for her policies since her election.  

Breed supports “harm reduction strategies” for drug users, including safe injection sites and naloxone distribution. However, these policies encourage drug use and worsen public safety concerns. 

Breed limited use-of-force policies and increased law enforcement oversight. Yet, some critics believe her reforms fall short of addressing “systemic issues of police brutality and racial bias.” Meanwhile, crime is escalating out of control in her once-respected city. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Breed passed broad mask mandates and vaccine requirements, leading to accusations of overreaching and infringing personal freedoms. 

Breed also believes in climate change, supporting policies to reduce carbon emissions that place overwhelming financial burdens on businesses and residents. 

Her focus on homelessness and housing affordability, implementing policies like opening Navigation Centers and increasing funding for affordable housing, hasn’t effectively reduced homelessness and has led to tent encampments and street disorder. 

But Breed, facing a bitter reelection fight, has abandoned a few of those progressive policies in favor of a more centrist approach to the issues plaguing her city. Her sudden conservative strategies happen to coincide with her low approval ratings and the challenges from her two moderate opponents: former interim Mayor Mark Farrell and Daniel Lurie, heir to the Levi Strauss fortune. 

In a remarkable lurch to the right, voters came out to support three policies Breed put on the ballot Tuesday – screening welfare recipients for drug use, waiving taxes for developers seeking to turn vacant office buildings into housing, and expanding the authority for San Fransisco cops to use surveillance video and drones. 

San Francisco’s current policy on car chases, last overhauled in 2013, imposes limits on police pursuits. Officers may only initiate a chase if the suspect is suspected of committing a violent felony or if there is a reasonable belief that the individual poses an immediate risk to public safety. Proposition E restores the rights of police to pursue individuals based on reasonable suspicion of a felony or violent misdemeanor, allows the use of drones during pursuits, and provides greater flexibility using security cameras and other surveillance tactics. 

Her most controversial move, however, is to require drug testing for welfare recipients. Imposing conditions on financial aid for low-income individuals would once have been considered political suicide for any San Fransisco Democrat. Historically, the city’s progressive activists prefer to limit police and prosecutorial powers, advocating for addiction treatments over punitive measures.

But climate change is in the air in San Fransisco, at least politically. In 2022, San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin and school board members, accusing them of prioritizing progressive agendas during the prolonged city-wide pandemic closures.  

For Breed, the challenge lies in persuading voters that San Francisco has moved past its pandemic-era decline, characterized by its open-air drug markets and laughable stance on shoplifting. She contends that reported thefts, in particular, have decreased over the last six months due to increased enforcement efforts by the police department, aided by state and federal agencies she called upon for assistance.  

Breed also emphasizes that the number of homeless encampments has declined as the city intensifies sidewalk clean-ups, and a surge in artificial intelligence is attracting tech investors back to the City of Love.  

But the facts tell a different story. The city recorded a record 806 deaths from drug overdoses last year, and with Macy’s announcement that it’s closing its Union Square location, retailers continue to abandon downtown San Fransisco. It’s a bleak future for San Fransisco unless Breed magically turns it around for her constituents, something she hopes to do by embracing a more conservative approach. 

Despite appearances that her political transformation is motivated by the desire to win in 2024, Breed denies that her reelection campaign drove her adjustments to crime and drug policies. Over the weekend, Breed became emotional while recalling the memory of her younger sister, who passed away from a drug overdose in 2006. She argued that compassionate responses to the crisis have “unfortunately resulted in more deaths” on the streets. 

While Breed may be charting a path for leaders in other struggling Democratic cities to enact practical and meaningful changes, her political prospects do not hinge on the decisions made by other cities. Breed owns the failures of San Fransisco, where conservatism and commonsense go to die, but she’s not giving up without a fight. Hold onto your drinks and loose objects – the City by the Bay is veering suddenly and boldly to the right.