Skip to main content

Is crime rising in San Francisco’s Mission Bay? Shooting deaths worry neighbors

A memorial with flowers and a framed photo against a dark doorway.
A memorial is set up for Aram Kennard, who was shot and killed on Jan. 14 a few blocks away from Oracle Park. | Source: Juliet Williams/The Standard

Gerardo Burgos and his wife, Paulina, were watching TV at their China Basin apartment just after midnight on Jan. 14 when they heard two loud pops.

The couple assumed it was fireworks since New Year’s Eve had just happened and initially thought nothing of it. But while walking his dog the next day, Burgos saw blood splattered on the sidewalk and medical bandages scattered on the ground just a couple blocks from their home near Oracle Park.

After searching on social media, Burgos realized the pops he and his wife had heard were gunshots that killed a man, 33-year-old Aram Kennard, and injured another.

The fatal shooting happened less than 10 days after 27-year-old Kevin Quintanilla was shot and killed outside Chase Center at 16th Street and Terry A. Francois Boulevard—less than a mile away.

“Until the two violent crimes, I felt safe here,” he said. “We are faced [with] a situation here where you ask yourself what you can do?”

The back-to-back killings have made some residents and visitors to the area feel uneasy about an apparent rise in violent crime.

A van labeled "EMERGENCY 911" parks near the illuminated Chase Center arena during dusk.
A San Francisco Police Department car parks in front of Chase Center on Feb. 23. Kevin Quintanilla, 27, was shot and killed outside the arena in January. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

San Francisco Police Department crime data shows homicides in the Southern Police District—which covers the southern portion of the Embarcadero and SoMa to Mission Bay—increased from three in 2022 to seven in 2023. Robberies in the area also rose slightly from 270 in 2022 to 308 in 2023, according to police data. So far, as of Feb. 18, there have been 33 robberies recorded in the area compared with 37 during the same period in 2023.

Property crime, however, is down so far this year, according to the data.

As of Feb. 18, there have been 97 incidents of theft, a 76% decrease from 407 incidents reported during the same period in 2023, according to the data. Burglaries are also down, with 52 incidents so far this year compared with 99 at this point in 2023.

Southern Station Capt. Luke Martin said police are continuing to investigate both shootings. Although the incidents happened just eight days apart, Martin said crime overall has been on a downward trend in the area.

“I can tell you that both incidents were unrelated and isolated incidents that aren’t typical of the Mission Bay neighborhood,” he said, adding that the shootings were still concerning and tragic. “I want our community to know that we take any and all crime very seriously and have directed our officers to increase patrols in the areas where the incidents had occurred.”

Martin said that because the incidents happened near the police station, officers have been instructed to patrol the two locations while coming and going from the station as frequently as possible.

Christopher Brooks moved to the area from South Carolina three years ago. He said that the recent shootings have prompted him to keep an eye on media reports and make sure he is aware of what areas he is walking around.

“Definitely, it is one of those things where you keep your head on a swivel, peeping on what’s on the news,” Brooks said. “If you stay within the law, nothing should happen to you, though, if you mind your p’s and q’s.”

Brooks said he doesn’t think the incidents give San Francisco a bad reputation but residents like himself should be cautious while out in the city.

“It’s like if you’re going way into the ocean, you have to respect the marine life that is there and be mindful,” he added. “Because you are out of your element.”

Seamus McDonagh, a pedicab driver and former professional boxer who fought Evander Holyfield in 1990, said he recently had a person pull out a knife on him while he was working the area.

“In this kind of work, you are outside with no backup,” McDonagh said. “You’re basically on your own. You have to be careful.”

McDonagh described the incident with the man who pulled a knife on him as a mix-up. He didn’t report the incident to the authorities.

“He was drinking, pulled out a pen knife and opened it up,” he said. “He lunged at me, but I was able to ride off.”

A city street at night with pedestrians crossing, illuminated buildings, and palm trees.
People walk near Luma Hotel San Francisco in Mission Bay on Feb. 23. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

But for Gerardo and Paulina Burgose, the shootings and recent break-ins in the neighborhood have left them on edge.

“It seems like there has been a pretty rapid increase in violent crime in the last month or so,” Gerardo Burgos said. “I think it is a little sad for us where we actually have to consider our safety.”

The couple moved to San Francisco over two years ago and have worked in the city for the better part of six years. They said they’ve had to change the times when they normally take their dog outside or go out to visit local establishments because they fear being victimized.

“I used to go alone on walks or take him out, sometimes past midnight,” Paulina Burgos said. “I’ve been a little more hesitant. I’ve been carrying pepper spray around because you never know.”

Before going out, the couple said, they take various precautions, such as considering what time they are outside and planning their routes to be in well-lit, more populated streets.

“If we go on a walk, I make sure I only carry my phone now and leave my wallet,” Gerardo said. “She takes pepper spray with her. We are hoping to never be facing that situation.”

The China Basin neighborhood is situated between Interstate 280 and the Interstate 80 Bay Bridge entrance—something the couple believes makes it easier for criminals to get in and out of the area.

According to the Burgoses, their apartment building has been broken into three times in the last six months. Police case numbers were not supplied.

In one case, Gerardo Burgos said he saw a man enter their building’s private garage when they left for work around 6 a.m.

“As it was closing, he snuck in,” he said. “I went around, came back in and called the cops. About 20 minutes later, they found him on the fifth floor.”

Police told the couple that the trespasser was a “nice guy” who cooperated with officers and was just looking for a place to charge his phone.

“These incidents raise our concern,” he said. “We are thinking of having kids very soon, and we are pretty set on moving away from the city because of that. You want to be able to raise your kids in a safe environment.”

Burgos said he didn’t feel concerned for his safety before in the same way he has recently. He doesn’t think enough residents or visitors have been made aware of the recent crimes.

Jerald Gonzalez, 32, of South San Francisco, said he was visiting local bars in the area, but he had not heard about the shootings in China Basin and by Chase Center.

“It doesn’t seem to be a place where you would expect something like that to happen,” Gonzalez told The Standard. “This area is one of those places that people will come to visit even when there isn’t a game at Oracle or Chase because of the views of the bay.”

He said that although the recent fatal shootings concern him, he plans to continue frequenting the area.

“It is one of those things where you just need to remind yourself to be aware of your surroundings,” Gonzalez said.

Farhan Khalid, who lives in the neighborhood, said he has observed numerous car break-ins around Oracle Park since the pandemic.

A street view with pedestrians, parked cars, and urban buildings leading to a stadium entrance.
People walk down Berry Street outside Oracle Park in San Francisco on Feb. 23. | Source: Estefany Gonzalez/The Standard

“It definitely is a hot spot for people bipping,” he said, using a slang term for car break-ins. “I’ve seen that a number of times in this area.”

Khalid also said he hadn’t heard about the shootings but that the incidents didn’t necessarily make him feel unsafe.

Gary Sanders, an unhoused man who said he frequently walks up and down Third Street, told The Standard that crime is nothing new to the area—instead, it’s the residents who are new to the neighborhood and seeing it up close.

“I mean, everything is newer here,” he said. “So it makes sense that people from a more affluent background, who can afford to live here, would be upset that these incidents happened so close.”

But Burgos said he and his wife, who work in tech and finance respectively, shouldn’t have to feel unsafe in their neighborhood, especially considering how expensive it is to live in the area. The couple pay over $3,000 per month in rent.

“The thing is, San Francisco is not cheap,” he said. “For what you are paying, you should be able to feel safe.”