Drug dealing, defecation, debris: SF street causing 'chaos' for homeowners, businesses

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Saturday, June 24, 2023
Drug dealing, defecation: SF street causing 'chaos' for homeowners
Drug dealing, defecation, mayhem - that's what the homeowners and business owners are dealing with on San Francisco's Van Ness Ave. and Willow St.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The activity happening along a narrow, one-way street in San Francisco is causing major problems for homeowners and businesses. They say years of complaints over drug dealing, public defecation and substance use are falling on deaf ears.

It's hard to believe, driving through the areas of Van Ness Avenue and Willow Street we're just blocks from City Hall.

"It has been very, very frustrating that we as residents have to witness this chaos every single day," says one resident of a nearby condo complex.

Tent after tent, open drug dealing, drug use and a whole host of other safety issues - are what residents of one luxury condo complex say they have been dealing with for years, despite reporting to 311 regularly.

A woman who asked we identify her only as "J," says, "A lot of my neighbors have been doing so. They never get back to us. They just close the ticket without doing anything. I do feel hopeless."

Residents have been documenting the activity for years and one video shows a woman exclaiming a man outside her building "throwing knives" around.

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An employee of a restaurant at Willow and Van Ness showed us the bars installed on the front doors after repeated problems.

"I am calling the police every day. Every single day is the same thing - nothing changes!" exclaims Ashley Yildiz.

ABC7 News reached out to the Department of Emergency Management, asking what was being done with Willow Street. The department sent the following statement:

"San Francisco continues to outreach to people experiencing homelessness in various parts of the City. In 2023, City staff has conducted outreach and cleaning on Willow Street on 8 occasions, City staff engaged with a total of 94 individuals, of which 31 accepted offers to shelters, 5 already had housing, 41 declined offers of shelter, and 17 individuals chose not to disclose their personal information for additional help."

"San Francisco's efforts are focused on providing services and resources to people who are unhoused while ensuring public streets are clean, safe, and accessible. Services and resources include access to shelter, medical and behavioral health services, and referrals to substance abuse resources."

The city attorney's office sent back a statement saying essentially, in part, there's only so much they can do, citing a preliminary injunction order from the District Court prohibiting enforcement of laws against sitting, lying or sleeping on public property against "involuntary homeless individuals."

However, the city can offer services to the unhoused, and law enforcement can take action. But as long as the homeless aren't obstructing public right of way, they can remain in place.

Which is why shortly after ABC7 News witnessed a street cleaning effort Friday morning, the unhoused population was back. Something Yildiz noticed as well.

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"Like one hour, after two hours, they come back," she says.

Residents also say they've been reaching out to their Supervisor Dean Preston, who sent me this statement, stating in part: "He's lobbying for community ambassadors for the area... and 300 neighbors have already signed a petition demanding the mayor fix things fast.

As for "J" who bought her condo in 2014 when the surroundings looked clean and clear, she and her family have been trying to leave.

"In 2022, we tried to sell our unit but we couldn't sell it."

She says change needs to happen soon, not only for her family but for the city as a whole.

"It used to be very popular place for people who want to live in the city in this beautiful condo, but no it's not the same anymore."

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