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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 4/20/15

The Changing Climate of San Francisco Compassion: Has "The Sanctuary City" Acquired A Mean Reputation?

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Several hundred tech workers, homeless-service providers, politicians and other San Franciscans gathered Wednesday night with a goal of identifying solutions to one of the city's most vexing problems: homelessness.

The town hall was organized by Greg Gopman, the former CEO of tech company AngelHack who made headlines in December 2013 for a Facebook post deriding homeless people as "degenerates," likening them to hyenas and saying they shouldn't be in Mid-Market, where business people work. After being blasted online and in the media, Gopman studied the city's homelessness problem for a year and organized the town hall meeting to share ideas for solving it.

The last four years, San Francisco has seen a sprouting up of impossibly expensive condos (average: $1200-$1500 per square foot) and skyrocketing rentals (a good two-bedroom going for $4000 per month). The average house in tony Pacific Heights is now over $5 million.

Without a doubt, the newly-stationed tech industry is to blame: funded start-ups and large salaries have driven "quality of living" to a very high price. Long-time residents of San Francisco are not thrilled and the tech industry has some image-mending to do, namely in the community-based non -profits.

With a $75 million gift to the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation, the soon-to-be renovated SF hospital and its under-construction new building will be getting the name The Priscilla and Mark Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center. The Facebook CEO and his wife Priscilla Chan, who is currently a pediatric resident at UCSF, previously gave $25 million to the Ebola fight with an October gift to the Centers for Disease Control.

The SF mayor's office has given these new tech companies special tax breaks - with a catch: so many hours of community service.

"The neighborhood isn't welcoming [the tech companies] with open arms," said Dina Hilliard, executive director of the North of Market/Tenderloin Community Benefit District. "It isn't clear if these benefits are going to mitigate the impacts the companies have on the neighborhood. Hopefully these plans are a floor and not a ceiling."

So in this last effort, San Francisco may be depending upon the kindness of strangers: imported compassion, so to speak.

Will it work?

*Note that by 1986, over 60 AIDS-related agencies had sprung up while only Los Angeles [and its Episcopal Diocese] had come to the fore. The rest of the country was much slower to respond.

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Rev. Dan Vojir is has been writing/blogging on religion and politics for the better part of ten years. A former radio talk show host (Strictly Books €" Talk America Radio Network) and book publisher, Dan has connected with some of the most (more...)
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