First, Whole Foods closed and now Starbucks is shuttering a slew of locations in San Francisco.
Starbucks didn’t mention crime in its official reason for leaving the City by the Bay.
“There are several factors Starbucks considers when tasked with the tough decision of closing a store, but it is all part of ensuring a healthy store portfolio,” Jessica Borton, Starbucks’ regional vice president for Northern California, said in a statement to district managers.
That corporate-speak doesn’t say much, but it’s hard not to think that crime and the city’s deteriorating street conditions didn’t play a major factor in this wide-scale shutdown. Starbucks has been known to jump into woke causes, then dodge woke consequences. It’s not surprising to see the coffee chain go mum on the crime issue.
Starbucks is just one of many large chains that have downsized or outright fled San Francisco in the past few years. It seems like the trend is accelerating as customers flee once-thriving business areas. Retail outlets have been pulverized by organized crime.
A CNN reporter went to the Walgreens drugstore that’s been hit hardest in San Francisco. Nearly every item was under some kind of lock and key. She witnessed three thefts in her 30 minutes reporting at the store.
An investigation by the San Francisco Chronicle found that 97% of restaurants experienced vandalism in September. And if businesses don’t repair or clean up the vandalism—such as graffiti or a smashed window—they face a $500 fine from the city.
The problem began with a government policy, of course. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the city paused enforcement of graffiti removal. Now graffiti and other property crimes are out of control.
Another novel but serious crime problem also has struck the Bay Area: piracy.
“The open shoreline of the [Oakland-Alameda] estuary is littered with sunken wrecks and derelict, end-of-life vessels, and crime has risen to truly intolerable levels,” former harbor master Brock de Lappe said at a recent municipal meeting, Fox News reported.
Homeless encampments are being used as mini-pirate coves. Bands of thieves use small watercraft to raid houseboats and yachts in Bay Area harbors. These thieves often violently assault those aboard.
So, is there a plan to stop the pirates? Not really. In fact, the Oakland Police Department often won’t respond to calls.
One local resident, Steven Young, told CBS Bay Area last month that he called the police when thieves were stealing his boat.
“I told them, ‘Somebody’s on the boat; they’re moving it as we speak,’” Young recalled. “‘Can you just go down and impound it?’ The police gave us, ‘Well, do you have a police report?’ I said, ‘No, we just found it. It’s grounded; there’s people on it. Can you do anything?’ They said, ‘We can’t do anything. What you need to do is get a police report.’”
You add up all these negative factors in a toxic, crime-ridden environment and you get a city that, despite so many natural advantages, has a grim future. I’m no businessman, but I’d say higher costs, higher risks, and decreased sales aren’t exactly conducive to long-term success.
The reality is that more and more businesses simply will flee, leaving behind boarded-up buildings and an even greater perception that San Francisco is failing.
“The city’s office vacancy rate stood at around 30% as of last month while the population shrank by 40,000 residents,” the New York Post reported Wednesday.
The collapse of businesses in the city won’t be so good for socialists, either. How is San Francisco going to fund its loony reparations project, which would require more money than the entire budget of most states, when it has a budget deficit of $780 billion and growing?
San Francisco is pretty far gone, but there are some murmurs of discontent. Voters last year recalled rogue District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a Democrat. Mayor London Breed, also a Democrat, is at least starting to talk about crime, since it’s become impossible for even Bay Area media to dismiss or ignore.
But San Francisco has set itself on a dystopian, long-term trajectory, and it’s hard to imagine the city’s leaders making a dramatic about-face.
The reality is that the land of latte liberals has turned into a laughingstock.
Jarrett Stepman is a columnist for The Daily Signal, where this first appeared. He is also the author of the book “The War on History: The Conspiracy to Rewrite America’s Past.”