Is San Francisco moving right?

(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Amid questions of whether or not San Francisco is headed for a doom loop there are also now questions of whether it’s headed to the right, politically speaking. I think the answer to that question is a qualified yes but the amount of progressive inertia in a place like San Francisco means it’s not always easy to see it.


Probably the clearest indication was the recall of Chesa Boudin. Suddenly it became clear SF voters were capable of seeing someone as too far to the left. The same was true for the recall of three members of the SF school board who’d made a point of focusing on woke symbolism over simple things like reopening schools.

Lately, Mayor London Breed has been sounding less like a progressive and more like a weary conservative fighting a very uphill battle. In May she announced police would resume arresting people for open drug use. She’s also been pushing for more freedom to deal with the homeless who set up tent camps on the city’s sidewalks. And on Monday she made it explicit. Homeless people will still be protected by the Boise decision but only if they are involuntarily homeless. In other words, if you decline an offer of shelter from the city, the city can remove you.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Monday that city workers will resume enforcing laws against sitting, lying or sleeping on public property against people who refuse shelter or are otherwise already sheltered.

In a memo, Breed cited a recent acknowledgment at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that a December 2022 injunction—which restricted city workers from moving or clearing homeless encampments—only applies to people who are “involuntarily homeless.” Those who refuse specific offers of shelter cannot be defined as such, the court acknowledged.

“To make sure our workers are supported and confident in their work with this change, over the next few weeks we will be reiterating and updating their training and making sure they understand what they can and cannot do,” wrote Breed. “In line with the injunction as clarified by the Ninth Circuit’s order, the City will soon begin to enforce laws prohibiting sitting, lying, or sleeping on public streets and sidewalks against voluntarily homeless individuals.”


These may seem like pretty basic, common sense approaches to problems in other parts of the country but in San Francisco this change is shocking. Instead of the far-left monoculture that SF is famous for, people on the left are being forced to defend their positions. Tuesday, about 100 people gathered to hear a discussion between Jennifer Friedenbach, Executive Director of the Coalition on the Homeless, and Adam Mesnick a small businessman who runs the BetterSoma account on X.

Mesnick, who uses his X account with 20,000-plus followers to post graphic pictures of people living on city streets in order to call for stricter policies on homelessness and drug use, defended his graphic posts as the reality of harm reduction in San Francisco…

Friedenbach said Mesnick’s posts dehumanized homeless people and those trying to solve the crisis.

“When we are taking photos, we have people sign a release,” she said. “We try to make sure the images are empowering and that they’re not going to end up hurting the people down the line. Images on social media stick with people for a long time and that can really be damaging when they’re trying to get work.”

The idea that you shouldn’t take photos of people stoned out of their minds on city sidewalks because it might hurt their recovery is pretty absurd. Friedenbach just doesn’t want people seeing what her organization is doing to the city.


Here’s a bit of the introduction from yesterday’s debate (2nd clip below):

Also yesterday, Mayor Breed announced all welfare recipients would have to pass a drug test. This was enough that Politico published a story today titled “A seismic shift to the right in San Francisco.”

The Democratic mayor is proposing the city require all recipients of county-funded welfare to undergo drug screening — and treatment, if needed — in order to be eligible for cash assistance.

Breed defended her proposal during a news conference at City Hall, where she talked about the need to make subsidies contingent on personal responsibility. Progressive critics were quick to compare her comments to Republican welfare policies.

“No more anything goes without accountability. No more handouts without accountability,” Breed said on Tuesday.

Breed really has been trying to do something about the city’s problems but there’s a political reason for tacking to the right as well. She’s now being challenged in the next election by Daniel Lurie, heir to the Levi Strauss fortune.


Lurie, speaking to supporters a few miles away in Potrero Hill, said he would seek to dramatically increase San Francisco’s police force. He vowed to “slam the door shut on the era of open-air drug markets and end the perception that lawlessness is an acceptable part of life in San Francisco.”

Clearly both Lurie and Breed think this message might have some appeal in San Francisco. That in itself is a sign that things are changing. There is such a thing as too far left and San Francisco is gradually figuring that out.

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