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Journalist goes on quest to debunk blue city’s bad reputation, instead writes about it ‘spiraling’ out of control


Daily Caller News Foundation

A journalist and San Francisco resident set out to debunk the frequent stories portraying the city as dangerous and largely abandoned, but her investigation led her to write a piece revealing how the city is “spiraling” out of control.

Elizabeth Weil detailed the crime, homelessness and human misery on display in San Francisco compared to the city’s pre-pandemic prosperity in a Wednesday article in New York Magazine. Her story included an apology to her fellow San Francisco residents for contributing to the barrage of stories about the city’s collapse.

“I’m sorry. I know … There’s always some story in the east-coast press about how our city is dying,” she wrote. “When I set out reporting, I wanted to write a debunking-the-doom piece myself. Yet to live in San Francisco right now, to watch its streets, is to realize that no one will catch you if you fall.”

San Francisco has seen an explosion in homelessness which worsened considerably during the pandemic; its homeless population ballooned from 12,249 to 19,086 between 2016 and 2020, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, citing city government data. The city has also struggled with rampant crime, open drug use and brazen organized shoplifting which has forced many retailers in the city to close up shop.

The tech industry the city was once known for has made massive layoffs and drastically cut back on office space in San Francisco since 2020, and among tech CEOs, “everyone with brains” has left, Weil wrote. CashApp founder Bob Lee had moved to Miami, but was stabbed to death while visiting San Francisco in April.

The mass exodus of workers from city centers and the ensuing collapse of downtowns was dubbed a “doom loop” by NYU finance professor Arpit Gupta, according to NY Magazine, and San Francisco may be seeing the worst loop: while cell phone activity in downtown New York is 75% of what it was pre-pandemic, it’s only 32% in San Francisco.

As workers have abandoned downtown San Francisco, crime and rampant homelessness have emerged, and the city no longer has an eye towards fixing its problems, according to Weil. A security guard told Weil the high end stores he worked for did not want him to attempt to stop shoplifters, described “junkies” roaming the streets and their bodies rotting in plain view and said one store he worked for asked him to refer to a man he removed from the premises for smoking fentanyl as “an unhoused guest.”

Weil also described frequent run-ins with homeless people, many of whom struggle with substance abuse and mental problems, who would behave erratically and scream obscenities on public transportation.

“The social contract had ruptured, and we’d ceased to believe we could fix it. The city often seemed to operate like an incompetent parent, confusing compassion and permissiveness, unable to maintain boundaries, producing the exact opposite result of what it claimed to want,” Weil wrote.

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Republished with permission from Daily Caller News Foundation

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