Why is 7th and Market Drug Scene Still Thriving?

by on May 20, 2024

SF’s Highly Visible Open Air Drug Markets Remain

7th and Market is a major San Francisco transit hub. It is a gateway to Mid-Market, SOMA, the Tenderloin, the Orpheum, ACT Strand, Golden Gate and Warfield Theaters, the Main Library, City Hall, the Asian Art Museum and other Civic Center buildings.

So why can’t the city close down 7th and Market’s massive open air evening drug market?

The lack of progress in ending mass drug activities as 7th Street crosses Market damages San Francisco’s image. The “evening” drug takeover now starts at 5pm. It continues into the early morning hours. Drug users and dealers are given free reign to surround the Proper Hotel.

I don’t understand why.

When I’ve asked SFPD officers about this ongoing drug operation they just shrug. They know it makes no sense but they don’t make the decisions on where and when they are deployed.

Chief Scott does.

Inconsistent With Nearby Progress

There has been progress nearby. Longstanding drug markets at the Pelosi Federal Building at 7th and Mission, on 8th Street between Market and Mission, and along Stephensen Alley have been closed. So that means one of three things.

First, the SFPD decided to shift drug activities in those areas to 7th and Market.

Second, the SFPD has higher staff priorities than protecting 7th and Market.

Third, the SFPD under Chief Scott lacks a successful strategy or plan for closing evening drug markets.

If people have other explanations I’d like to hear them.

A lot of people ask me when the Whole Foods at 8th and Market will reopen. It won’t so long as store executives see the evening drug scene less than a block away.

It’s Not Just 7th and Market

Last Saturday there were so many drug users/dealers on Ellis Street between Larkin and Hyde that sidewalks were blocked.  Roughly 40 drug users/dealers have found a home on that single block. The police made five daytime arrests there last Thursday but that’s the tip of the iceberg. Having successfully cleared the first block of Little Saigon, the SFPD has been unable to prevent that drug crowd from simply relocating around the corner.

Mayor Breed said at her campaign kickoff last Saturday that “her leading challengers — who she did not invoke by name — ‘want you to believe that this city is messed up” and are promoting the narrative ‘that this city has lost its way and San Francisco isn’t what it used to be.’ ”

I’d love to write about the closure of the 7th and Market drug market. And the permanent clearing of drug blocks on Ellis and Leavenworth in the Tenderloin as well as on the many problem blocks South of Market. It would also be great to write about the city and CCSF came together to sell the public nuisance promoting drug activities at its abandoned building on the 700 block of Eddy.

But if I wrote that these areas have returned to the way they used to be I would lose all credibility. There’s a difference between acknowledging bad realities and exaggerating them.

The mayor is right that San Francisco is an incredible city. Its positives should not be eclipsed by its problem areas.

But what distinguishes San Francisco’s drug scene from other cities is that it occurs in highly visible areas. Visible to tourists and non-drug users.

The most heavily trafficked Tenderloin streets are Hyde and Leavenworth. Thousands of cars drive down these streets each day. Drivers get a close view of drug activities on the 300 block of Hyde and on nearby corners. They see drug activities overwhelming the 100 block of Leavenworth.

They then reach conclusions about San Francisco.

The only real way to improve the city’s local international image is to close these highly visible drug markets. That’s the type of positive news all political factions will cheer.

Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw's latest book is Generation Priced Out: Who Gets to Live in the New Urban America. He is the author of four prior books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. He is also the author of The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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Filed under: Mid-Market / Tenderloin