Indeed, San Francisco’s “Doom Loop” route offers people a first-hand look at the city’s descent into homelessness, drug use and urban decay.
Prompted by a local journalist who organized a tour of the California city’s most devastated areas, The Post walked the proposed route to see if “San Francisco’s worst” was actually on offer.
Community activist JJ Smith acted generously as an ad hoc guide to the “sights” on a 1.5-mile trip that took in City Hall, Union Square, the Mid-Market and the Tenderloin District — areas where Typically, a one-bedroom apartment sells for $750,000 and up.
The once bustling Market Street and Union Square neighborhoods were home to prestigious stores like Nordstrom Rack and Old Navy until they recently abandoned them.
Save for a few solitary mannequins staring lonely out of the windows, floors and floors of completely empty space in various storefronts are visible from the street.
As of January 2020, half of retailers have moved out of downtown due to declining sales and lack of foot traffic and tourism. Of those that remain, even Ross Dress for Less now has “enhanced security” in the form of bag checks and security guards at all exits.
The market was also one of the few places along the route where you could spot a few bored-looking police officers.
Homeless people have moved in to take advantage of the empty shell and sleep in front of the vacant shops, setting up a tent city on the sidewalk for most of the street.
Ironically, some camps are in front of boarded up apartment blocks that used to house affordable housing and are now slated for demolition. Open drug use is rampant around the clock, according to JJ, and people could be heard rustling and shuffling inside the tents, just yards from the pounding afternoon traffic.
The urban void could soon be joined by the four-star Hilton San Francisco Union Square, where rooms are $450 a night, and the Hilton Parc 55 hotel, where rooms are slightly cheaper at $150 a night . Its owner announced in June it would stop paying a $725 million loan that could potentially leave more than 3,000 rooms vacant, though both were still operational this week.
Downtown crime has gotten so bad. Employees working at the nearby Nancy Pelosi Federal Building were recently ordered to stay away “indefinitely” and work from home.
The building is a stone’s throw from the corner of Golden Gate Avenue and Hyde Street in the Tenderloin District, a drug hotspot once the sun goes down.
Every night, dozens of people can be caught shooting up guns or smoking fentanyl-laced foil drug compounds, JJ said.
Smith said he personally administered Narcan — which reverses opioid overdoses — to at least 50 people. Unfortunately, some of them could not be saved.
“It’s hard and really, it just makes me so sad,” Smith said.
“It’s gotten so bad that I stow Narcan in the street when I go my way. Walking down the street I know I have one hidden near the store. And when I go down the other side, I know I’ve got one around the next corner. I stow everything away for easy access because it’s that bad here.”
Smith said he saw officers from the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office recently retrieve three bodies from a building where overdoses are common. Multiple overdoses within a few hours are becoming more common, Smith said.
Many of the homeless who collapse on the sidewalk sleep there until cleaners from local nonprofit organizations clear the streets from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. each morning
In a video Smith showed The Post that he filmed, crew members from the nonprofit Urban Alchemy 360 urged addicts to collect their belongings and stop using drugs while attempting to sweep the sidewalk.
The video also showed Smith trying to wake up a man who was so high from drugs that he couldn’t open his eyes or move while being shaken.
“Come on guys, it’s time,” said a worker with a broom trying to wake a drugged man who passed out.
It’s a vicious cycle that keeps the vicious cycle going.
“They clean up early in the morning so people who have kids can go around and take them to school, but as soon as it gets dark, [the addicts] “Come right back, do drugs, and pass out by morning,” Smith said. “It never ends.”