Skip to main content

It’s not just the Tenderloin: San Francisco is pushing its mayhem into the Mission, too

Ayman Farahat argues that SF systematically pushes homeless encampments and sex trafficking to the Mission, while sparing upscale neighborhoods.

A group of people stand around an illuminated, colorful table map depicting San Francisco, engaged in discussion.
AI illustration by Clark Miller/The Standard

By Ayman Farahat

The Mission is home to over 45,000 San Franciscans and is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city, spanning languages, food, music and sports. It also has a disproportionate share of sex trafficking, fentanyl dealing and consumption, homeless encampments, litter, drunkenness, reckless driving, pimps and johns. 

While the Tenderloin gets most of the attention, a stroll from Jose Coronado Playground to Alioto Mini Park highlights that the Mission has also deteriorated into an anything-goes area. Our teenage son was accosted by sex workers, our visitors have been solicited by johns, we have found condoms on our doorsteps and we have had people defecate and urinate in front of our house. We no longer feel safe in our own neighborhood or walking down our streets.

What is ailing the Mission? Why are bad actors emboldened to consume alcohol and urinate on the sidewalk, but they don’t venture close to Bernal Heights Park or Glen Park? Why did Shotwell Street become the epicenter of sex trafficking? Why is it that every weekend at our neighborhood park, bad actors openly consume alcohol and urinate on the grounds where schoolchildren play on weekdays? Why is the sidewalk on Folsom Street blocked by encampments in violation of the Americans with Disability Act, while there is not a single encampment on Dolores Street?

The answer is a mix of decades-old city policy to push San Francisco’s problems to the Mission and the Tenderloin and not enough advocacy and support from elected officials for the people who live here. It’s an unholy marriage: a city that wants to hide its problems away from high-profile areas and Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who seems to care more about the sex workers than making our streets safe. 

When residents complain about conditions in the Mission, the boilerplate response is often that there is a lack of resources, especially police. The data tell a different story. Using, I discovered that crimes in the Mission were 17% less likely to lead to an arrest or citation than the same reported crimes in Noe Valley. Because both Noe Valley and the Mission are served by the same police station, this discrepancy cannot be attributed to a lack of resources. 

Public data also show the city has been systematically pushing its encampments to the Mission. Calls to 311 in the Mission for encampments increased by 27% after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in November compared with other parts of San Francisco. In the same period, calls for 311 in SoMa, where the conference was held, dropped by 33%

The clearing of downtown and pushing the encampment to the Mission in the run-up to APEC has an eerily resemblance to the policy of pushing sex trafficking out of the downtown to surrounding areas in preparation for the 1984 Democratic National Convention. Since APEC, the situation has been further exacerbated by Ronen’s policies that favor political ideology over the welfare and safety of constituents. A case in point is her disastrous decision to close Capp Street and push sex trafficking to narrower side streets. While her motivation is tied to residents’ complaints and subsequent media coverage, there is no doubt it has detrimentally affected neighboring streets. 

When hundreds of residents demanded safe streets and access to license plate readers, the supervisor used out-of-context privacy issues to try to impede the efforts. Voters in March approved expanding the use of license plate readers and other surveillance. It remains to be seen whether Mayor London Breed will follow through on her promises to install cameras in the area. 

What is the common theme? The city wants to push its problems to neighborhoods where residents are less likely to complain because of a lack of access to resources. This works for city leaders who can tell constituents in richer neighborhoods that they are making progress. But it doesn’t work for Mission residents who have been denied safe streets and forced to shoulder the city’s failures. 

The data show that this is not merely a loud group of opponents complaining but that Mission residents are victims of a systematic, decadeslong policy of pushing problems away from those who can complain toward those who can’t say no. The recent lawsuit against the city for treating certain communities as containment zones is a reminder that these policies inflict immeasurable harm on these communities. Half-baked measures that falsely claim to address poverty or inequality end up hurting the very people they claim to help. This is neither equitable nor compassionate. 

Ayman Farahat is a lifelong progressive and data scientist who lives in the Mission with his family. He helped organize the community to fight sex trafficking and is leading efforts to create safer streets.

We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our opinion articles. You can email us at Interested in submitting an opinion piece of your own? Review our submission guidelines.