Castro businesses threaten to stop paying taxes if the city won’t do more to deal with crime and homelessness

Source: Hot Air

The Castro is famous as a gay neighborhood in the center of San Francisco, one that has been the scene of many protests over the decades. This month the Castro Merchant’s Association is demanding the city do more about the homeless drug addicts on the streets. The Association suggested some practical solutions to the problem but also included an or else in their letter to the city. If the situation doesn’t improve, business owners say they’ll resort to civil disobedience, i.e. they may stop paying taxes until the situation improves.

The Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to city officials on Aug. 8, urging them to “take action” because the neighborhood is “struggling.” In the letter, they said people living on the streets “regularly experience psychotic episodes” and have vandalized storefronts and harassed business owners, employees, residents and tourists.

“They need shelter and/or services and they need them immediately,” the merchants said. “Our community is struggling to recover from lost business revenue, from burglaries and never-ending vandalism/graffiti (often committed by unhoused persons) and we implore you to take action.”…

If their demands are not met, the association is threatening civil disobedience by potentially asking store owners to stop paying taxes and other city fees, said co-President Dave Karraker. He said the association hopes to form a coalition with other neighborhood groups by October to come up with a plan to demand stronger solutions from the city.

“If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” Karraker told The Chronicle on Tuesday. “You can’t have a vibrant, successful business corridor when you have people passed out high on drugs, littering your sidewalk. These people need to get help.”

People don’t pay taxes for their health. They pay them in expectation of receiving basic services like clean streets and crime prevention. If the quality of services has declined to the point where businesses are being forced to close down, why should they send their last dollar to the city that abandoned them? Fox2 spoke to Terrance Alan, the other co-president of the merchants association, and he was just as adamant that the city is not doing enough for his neighborhood.

Terrance Alan is co-president of the association and owner of Flore Dispensary and Cafe Flore.

He says many shops have been targeted by vandals and his businesses’ windows have been smashed 11 times. He says there are also several dozen people in the area who have been unhoused for years, some a decade or more.

“Every day we wake up and have to help people on the street. We have to clean up feces on the street. We have to clear our people from doorways, so we can open our businesses. It’s not fair,” said Alan…

“Sometimes they do get violent,” said Deen Nasher, the Castro Smoke Shop Manager. “The city does need to take care of these people, find a place for them to stay and help businesses. When we call, they come 30-40 minutes later. You know, the police department.”

Of course there’s no point in making a threat like this if you don’t at least put on a good show of being serious. But I suspect the businesses involved don’t really want a showdown with the city. What they want is to see something change before the status quo does more damage to their livelihoods and their neighborhood. And in San Francisco making a polite request for improvement doesn’t seem to get you very far these days. So this is the equivalent of shouting from the rooftops and, so far, it seems to be working. The letter is getting lots of media attention.

The city has already said no to the group’s requests that a small number of shelter beds be set aside for the homeless in the Castro. The city says it will be opening 1,000 new shelter beds in the next three months, creating enough space for everyone who needs it. Of course one of the problems in San Francisco and elsewhere on the west coast is the significant number of homeless people who aren’t interested in going to a shelter or other services being offered. The Merchant’s Association would like to see a plan for dealing with homeless addicts who insist on staying in the streets.

Here’s a local news report from KRON 4. According to this, 21% of Castro storefronts are already vacant and the Merchant’s Association is clearly worried it’s going to get worse unless something changes.

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