Leadership & The Fall of San Francisco

The economic doom loop appears to be descending on San Francisco with staggering speed with the closing of Nordstroms. I can not imagine how difficult it will be to keep the Financial District streets in a state of normalcy with Nordstroms gone on Market Street. Anthropology across the street from the Westfield Mall has also closed.

Nordstrom will not renew its lease in the Westfield Mall, citing decreased foot traffic and other challenges to the stretch of Market Street where it will also shutter a Nordstrom Rack location. — The Chronical

The other gloomy news is that hotel occupancy rates are below 50% in San Francisco. Every tourist I have spoken to has told me they were really overwhelmed by the situation here and would not be coming back. That leaves the entire South of Market to the homeless as this will not be a place where people can live, work and thrive.

What is happening in San Francisco is a humanitarian crisis on the streets, but it impacts all of us who live in the Bay Area. The public is a helpless witness to the crisis and we are not trained or equipped to deal with it. To say that I don’t feel safe is an understatement.

Yesterday, I was waiting to cross the street in front of Bloomingdales and a woman was screaming and asking myself and several other people for a light for her cigarette, then three men pulled up in a car and she banged on their window and told them she wanted to drive. They got out and were fighting in the street. I didn’t even wait for the light to change but ran across the street. The other three tourists followed me. I didn’t look back, but I can assure you that women should not be driving and that was the very least of the problem.

This incident coincided with the first day of the state’s deployment of the National Guard and California Highway Patrol to crack down on drug dealing.

So, far I’ve not seen any difference and many critics believe it won’t make a difference, and that these measures to fight drugs will only make the situation worse like the War on Drugs did.

City Leaders and Lack of Progress

Last August I heard London Bread speak in the park by my apartment. I was surprised that what she chose to talk about was how hard she worked to keep Levi here in San Francisco and she failed to address how she planned to clean up her filthy city. I remember thinking she doesn’t even know her audience as the people who run the shops nearby listened while she spoke about tax breaks for the giant retailer. Two women standing in front of her were wearing hairnets and aprons. I wanted to meet her, but I had a class to teach in Berkeley so I had to leave after she was done speaking. One of the things I tell my students in my Leadership classes is to know your audience. She needed to speak to the concerns of the people she represents. As hard as she is trying to solve the problems here she lacks leadership skills and the tools to make a difference.

San Francisco is a place of contradictions where you have an incredible amount of wealth alongside terrible deprivation and progressive left-wing values juxtaposed with extreme libertarianism. Like a lot of cities right now, San Francisco is facing severe problems with empty downtowns, cost of living, drug abuse, crime, and homelessness. — Wired

When Breed spoke to iWired she talked about laws that would require homeless people to accept services. In many cases, they refuse services as they prefer to stay on the street. The more I study this issue and see it played out across the state in places like Davis where three people have recently been stabbed I think this is a federal issue. The problems are too big for city governments to solve. We need a great leader in the White House to look at all of the cities that are struggling with crime, addiction, and mental health.

Nordstrom will remain open until the end of August, but I will likely be gone by then.

“The planned closure of Nordstrom underscores the deteriorating situation in downtown San Francisco,” said a mall spokesperson. “A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area.”

San Francisco on Forbes Best Cities for Young Professionals

The funny thing is that Forbes just listed San Francisco in the top 10 cities for young professionals. I don’t think they should recommend that young people move here when it is currently so crime and drug-infested.

Here’s the Statement from West Field Mall the company that owns the property for Nordstroms:

“The planned closure of Nordstrom underscores the deteriorating situation in downtown San Francisco. A growing number of retailers and businesses are leaving the area due to the unsafe conditions for customers, retailers, and employees, coupled with the fact that these significant issues are preventing an economic recovery of the area.

Westfield has actively engaged with City leaders for many years to express our serious concerns, which are shared by our customers and retailers. We have urged the City to find solutions to the key issues and lack of enforcement against rampant criminal activity.

The current environment is not sustainable for the community, or businesses, and we are hopeful the City will implement the changes that are so urgently needed.”

It looks like time is up for San Francisco. There are over 27 million square feet of vacant office space (about 28% vacancy, a 30-year high) in San Francisco, according to CBRE. If this weren’t bad enough 50% of current sublease space is set to expire in 2025. The city of San Francisco and its leaders have known this was a problem and they have been unable to solve it. Now here we are.

San Francisco needs great leadership possibly at the federal level where these problems can be solved not just for San Francisco, but for Portland, Seattle, and the other temperate coastal cities where homeless people congregate. Our children and the young professionals who flock to these cities for training, mentorship, and opportunities deserve so much better.

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