Business owners in San Francisco’s Castro District are fed up with the crime and problems related to the unhoused in the area.
The owner of Louie’s Barbershop manages the business and said that he regularly deals with the people outside.
“Sometimes you get to work and then you have a homeless person right at your front door that you have to try to manage,” said Martin Mendoza.
Dave Karraker, the co-president of the Castro Merchants Association representing about 125 businesses, said, “the mentally ill and the drug addicted are applying pressures that the small businesses shouldn’t have to deal with to be successful.”
He said a survey during the pandemic showed vandalism in Castro cost $170,000 worth of damage in a year, mostly done by those who are mentally ill and or on drugs.
That’s why in a letter to city leaders earlier this month, the group demanded the city step up to its responsibility.
The letter said in part, “They need shelter and/or services and they need them immediately … they remain on our streets week after week harassing residents, tourists and business owners/employees.”
“This is not normal, this is not normal behavior this is not how a business corridor or a residential corridor as well as the Castro, a tourist corridor, this is not how a city is run,” said Karraker.
Among the demands, merchants are asking the city to designate 35 beds for those unhoused in the Castro.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing responded saying it’s not city policy to dedicate beds and a thousand shelter beds opening over the next three months should alleviate the unhoused issues in the Castro.
The merchants say if nothing changes, “The Castro has a long history of civil disobedience and so I don’t think it’s beyond belief that we might start telling business owners to stop paying city taxes and stop paying business licensing fees.”
The Castro Merchants Association says it’s not just them. They’re gathering business associations and residents from across the city to join in their efforts if they don’t see any progress in the coming weeks.
It says it could cost the city potentially hundreds of thousands if not millions.