About Us

Contact Us



by h. brown

The poor will always be with us.
— A disciple counseling Jesus Christ, Son of God (to some), that even he could not do anything about the homeless.

Ten ways to clear drunks, addicts & crazies off your front porch, with the help of Thomas Hobbes:

1. Keep the bars open 24 hours. Especially in bad neighborhoods.

2. Install those coffin-looking sleeping compartments (they looked like berths on an old Pullman train but more spartan & with plastic lids) — the units they used in Japan (maybe still do) in the 1950s & 1960s. The office workers would work sixteen hour days, then sleep in the coffins, and only go home on weekends. They kept these things at train stations & bus terminals & police stations, anywhere with 24-hour security.

3. In the Independent’s Old Town column (beautifully written by Matthew Brady) there was a description about how San Franciscans handled drunks during and after the Gold Rush period. Apparently, they had board sidewalks raised over the sometimes-muddy dirt streets. They simply hinged sections of the sidewalks & the bouncers and constables shoveled the inebriates on under to sleep it off.

4 & 5. Hammock & cocoon parks. The lightest traveler I ever met in my years on the road was clean & neat & had only a small knapsack. His bed was a small mesh hammock & his cover was one of those space blankets that fold up to be about the size of a gang bandanna. We could make areas in parks with steel posts suitable for hanging your hammock. Or drive metal eyehooks into the rock outcroppings along the coast & let them hang. That way they could be seen only from the sea or the bay. Put the parks next to …

6, 7 & 8. Combination Soilent Green / soap factory / suicide parlors.

9. Hunting licenses. Lots of De Young Museum contributors who would never shoot a lion or a tiger would leap at the chance to legally take out some lunatic who defiles their stoop or a particularly obnoxious panhandler. You’d probably be more than a little surprised at what a license to legally whack one of these critters would bring at an auction (or political fundraiser!)

10. For a small additional charge, the Department of Rec & Park will mount the rascal’s head on a handsome hardwood plaque. Imagine your friends’ jealousy when they realize it was you who bagged the local leech.

But really, folks …

Our homeless problem in San Francisco is simple. We are sitting on a small peninsula, in a Mediterranean climate in the richest city of the richest country in the world. Land costs more per square foot than anywhere on earth. There are so many reasons to want to live here. The city doesn’t care who you screw or what insane political views people your mental landscape. The city speaks most of the languages on earth. Most here believe the city has the smartest, most creative, varied & best-looking population on earth. You Can’t freeze here or die of heat stroke. And on. And on. We are, as they say, very high on the demand & very low on the supply curves vis-à-vis livable space. Naturally, the prices rise.

Attracted to the potential profits are every type of real estate predator. From the guy with the four-family flat who spends hundreds of hours trying to destroy rent-control & legalize unrestricted condo-conversion, to Walter Shorenstein , who has an entire clip of lawyers whose sole purpose is to increase his wealth by lowering the appraisals on his skyscrapers (done through Doris Ward’s office where the books are kept by Arthur Andersen) and getting back the few taxes he pays (done by approval of a 9-2 Board of Supervisors vote — Gonzalez & Daly dissenting) … to Vijay Patel who simply illegally tossed about 100 poor folks out of the West Cork Hotel & tried to make it into a tourist hotel. Small-time Patel, who pales before David Raynel’s efforts for Skyline Realty. Huge capital expenditures passed on to poor tenants through loopholes. Upgrade, buyouts. Studios doubling and tripling in rent. Ya getting it?

What happens is that the people who used to fill Tenderloin apartments with bunkbeds are out. As tighter leases and tighter security & oversight bring down the population of these buildings by the thousands … where they gonna go?

The best leave

Dancers, musicians, artists, poets, hippies, writers … gone by the thousands just since Willie Brown became mayor. For blacks it’s worse. They’ve been forced out by the tens of thousands. Those with energy & confidence & friends & family & skills & vision … they’ve moved on.

The worst wounded stay

The drunks & junkies you see all over the streets were always here. They just had a place to live & did their disgusting things indoors. The mental patients Reagan put out to pasture in the early 1980s used to be able to pay rent with their government checks & have enough left for toilet paper. No more. To the streets. What to do?

Jim Reid to the rescue

Almost every day you see an article in this paper or that about how Bank of America or some such entity has decided to help build more housing for “middle-income” people who “only” make $80k to $120k a year. They’re building out the available space in high-end living space. Almost nothing is being built for low income. The rich pull every string possible at City Hall & in the captive press to force through projects devoted to gentrification.

To the point.

Jim Reid, a hell of a builder, designer & political dilletante has designed, built & displayed across from City Hall, a modular mini efficiency-living unit for the homeless. For under $10,000 (last year’s prices) Reid put together a space with sleeping, shower & toilet & kitchen area. The whole thing is maybe 100 square feet. You look inside at all those new fixtures & it’s like stepping into a well-designed luxury camper unit. You could put hundreds of these things in the Armory on Mission. Three thousand of them for people now on the street would run $30 million with probably another$15 million for hook-ups. About what the mayor spends on special assistants (or whatever they’re calling them now). These units can certainly last until the city builds 50,000 living units for people who make $10k to $20k a year. We should have a moratorium on building any other price level of housing until those 50,000 units are completed.

Failing that

The board should be happy they didn’t let the Treasure Island Development people tear down the old Navy brig there. I don’t see the rich letting up on their pressure to take over all of the livable space here & build new housing only for the upscale. Therefore, more of the self-reliant, non-material-oriented population of San Francisco (its soul) will continue to leave and those who cannot will take to the streets where their very existence will become a criminal act. San Francisco will become the world’s first major “Gated City.”

I’m thirsty: sobone@juno.com