Once able to lay credible claim to the title ‘America’s most beautiful city’, since the pandemic it has degenerated into the poster child of American inner-city degradation, with iconic neighborhoods like the Tenderloin and South of Market swamped by the tented encampments of the homeless and the attendant rampant drug use, shootings, stabbings, ubiquitous street filth and general lawlessness, while city authorities and police have looked the other way.
Suddenly the squalor has gone – at least for now.
Streets and sidewalks were steam-cleaned, public spaces tarted up, police patrols multiplied. Public defecation ceased, needles no longer littered the streets. Legal impediments previously cited as a block to doing any of this mysteriously evaporated, like San Francisco fog when a strong sun comes up.
There is something hugely comical about all this, something distinctly third world for a city – for a country – which is meant to be one of the most sophisticated, prosperous, and high-tech on the globe.
For decades squalid capitals in developing nations carted off the poor and gave their street fronts a fresh lick of paint before visiting US presidents and other world leaders cast their eyes on them. The communist bloc was a dab hand at doing the same before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. And now San Francisco has joined their ranks.
Comical. But also pathetic.