Pier 14 and a City’s Priorities

Ignore the toxic gasbag Donald Trump.

Be outraged over his intentionally inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants and illegal immigration, but don’t let them confuse you with the facts in the case of the terrible gun murder of 32-year old Kathryn Steinle on San Francisco’s Pier 14, who crumpled to her death in her father’s arms.

I walked or rode my bike on Pier 14 nearly every single day for four years. I lived across the Street from the Pier, when I lived in the Gateway Apartments, facing the Embarcadero. In all that time, morning, noon and night, I never saw one SFPD beat cop walking on the Pier. But, I did encounter many menacing, mentally ill characters who could have easily mistaken me for a sea lion and decided I was a threat to them. Armed, they would have been dangerous.

In the four years I lived facing Pier 14, San Francisco’s mentally ill and substance-abusing homeless population skyrocketed and became increasingly aggressive.  Sue Bierman Park and Ferry Park off  Drumm and Washington Streets became urban encampments of cardboard boxes, makeshift tents, and shopping carts. When a children’s playground opened in Sue Bierman Park, I was relentless with local police and told them that if one of my granddaughters was threatened with violence, I would not be able to control my response. The SFPD response was swift and constant, and, for the first time, “community policing” came to SF.

I called the local SF precinct several times a week to report violations of the 8 pm Parks’ curfew, incessant screaming coming from folks in need of medication, and drug deals being done in the middle of the day. Woefully understaffed for a City of nearly 800,000 from the days of Mayor Gavin Newsom, the SFPD could only respond to emergency calls. Lack of cooperation from the DA’s office—under both Kamala Harris and George Gascon– left SF’s cops to play a game of catch and release, arresting repeat offenders 60 or 70 times, only to have the DA’s office release them, claiming that they didn’t have the resources to prosecute.

Early one evening, on my way to make the #1 Muni bus at the corner of Clay and Drumm Streets, I spotted at least a half-dozen disheveled looking men, hunched over a park bench, igniting something in bottles. Using my cellphone on the spot, I called the SFPD emergency line and strongly urged them to send over some police since “Molotov Cocktails” were being lighted.

“You’re calling us because they’re having cocktails in the park?” the dispatcher said.

“Not cocktails,” I shouted into my cellphone in my best Brooklyn accent. “Molotov Cocktails! Bombs.”

As it turned out, the men were lighting their make-shift Meth pipes, a common occurrence in Ferry Park, especially after the SF DA’s office eliminated San Francisco’s Narcotics Division.

“There’s just no support for law enforcement or public safety in this City,” a local police officer told me when he came to answer one of my calls.

“I’m further to the left than most of the people in this City,” I told the SFPD member. “But without public safety, there is no City. There is no civilized society.”

During that same four-year period of 2010-2014, property crimes in SF increased nearly 30 percent, and my bicycle—stolen from my third floor terrace—was one of those statistics. That theft was a tiny, yet tell-tale sign of a troubled town, as was the growing graffiti and grime on the inside of Muni buses.  Nobody cared. Whatever.

There’s lots of culpability to go around for Kathryn Steinle’s death, and it goes far beyond Mayor Ed Lee’s fingerpointing at the shameful actions of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, who finally proved himself unfit for public office. The Sheriff’s inexcusable negligence of duty, and the refusal of two successive Mayors and DAs to forcefully face San Francisco’s growing crime rate and deteriorating quality of life issues, have resulted in the tragic death of a young, vibrant daughter of all of us.

After a lifetime of living in New York, I learned to ignore the toxic, tasteless, temper tantrums of spoiled little rich boys, like Donald Trump.   Neither their politics, their pouting, nor their wealth, matters.

What does matter is the health and safety of everyday people who define a city by the life, work, vitality, energy and joy they bring to it. What SF doesn’t get, is that a “world-class” City can be both safe and respect individual freedoms, the foremost of which is life.

San Francisco needs to decide whether Kathryn Steinle’s life mattered.

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