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Man fears drug market will return to his home after crisis zone curfew

Reese Isbell in his condo. | Jason Henry for The Standard

Reese Isbell was excited to move from Lower Nob Hill to what he thought was an up and coming neighborhood in San Francisco.

Buying the two-bedroom condo last year was a dream of home ownership realized for him and his husband.

Its SoMa location was close enough to transit and museums at Civic Center—but just far enough away not to be plagued with the same problems UN Plaza faces.

“It was under $1 million, which we wanted,” Isbell said. “We were excited to be part of an up-and-coming neighborhood. This building used to be a parking lot.”

But months after moving in, the corner of Minna and Seventh street outside of Isbell’s home was taken over by drug users and dealers.

A homeless encampment on the sidewalk along Minna Street in San Francisco, on December 14, 2022. | Jason Henry for The Standard

“Our corner was an open-air drug market,” said Isbell, who works at the city’s Department of Public Health and in a Governor Gavin Newsom appointed role as a public consumer advocate.

Emails seen by The Standard show Isbell raised the open-air drug scene concerns with police, the District Attorney’s Office, Mayor London Breed and his local supervisor, Matt Dorsey. They were contacted for comment.

Aerial view of Minna Street alongside a hotel on May 25, 2022. Shot from Reese Isbell’s apartment building. | Courtesy Reese Isbell

Isbell said police then stepped up patrols in the area after his outcries and the open-air drug scene left. SFPD have been contacted for comment.

But now he fears the problem will return after the Tenderloin Center safe drug use site shutdown in early December and UN Plaza will also now close earlier to “address harmful behavior.”

“They’re still around the UN Plaza, and the shutting down of the plaza makes me worried they’re going to come over here,” Isbell said.

Opponents of safe drug use sites in San Francisco say crime and other issues increased near the Tenderloin Center when it was open. However researchers working for DPH said the center had improved the area.

Reese Isbell on the roof of the building where he lives with his partner in San Francisco. | Jason Henry for The Standard

‘It was a nightmare’

From December last year to August 2022, Isbell said he would see roughly 30 people using drugs and several people he believes to be drug dealers on the corner outside his home every day. 

“It was a nightmare,” Isbell said, who added he would often have to tell them to move out of the way when they blocked his door.

In February, Victorria Moran-Hidalgo, a 16-year-old girl from Stanislaus County, died of a suspected drug overdose roughly a block from Isbell’s building.

A memorial for Victorria Moran-Hidalgo. | David Sjostedt/The Standard

“I’ve personally called the non-emergency police line three times today about this, and it’s only early afternoon. DO SOMETHING,” Isbell wrote in a May 25 email sent to several city officials and police.

Supervisor Dorsey’s aide Bryan Dahl said that his office met with Isbell, listened to his concerns, and contacted law enforcement about the area.

“It was just a meeting to hear concerns and then staff alerting police,” Dahl said.

Isbell said he believes that cops and security cannot be a long term fix. 

He believes the issue of drug use is systemic, and that the scene which unfolded on his doorstep was just a symptom of a bigger public health issue.

“Until something is done about people using and dying on the streets, there is a concern that the market will move in front of your building,” Isbell said.