The handful of blocks that are bounded by Sixth, Seventh, Market, Mission streets are not quite San Francisco’s worst neighborhood for criminal behavior and public safety, but they are perhaps The City’s most high-profile symbol of those urban ills. This hotbed of addiction, homelessness, and crime has long vexed city leaders.
One new glimmer of hope for merchants, businesses and residents in the steadily emerging mid-Market neighborhood is the brand new police substation, which Mayor Ed Lee has dubbed the Central Market Safety Hub. City officials have spent years talking about bringing a stronger police presence to the area by opening a location for police officers to work out of. But the project hit a bureaucratic roadblock when funding from the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency evaporated after Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved such agencies statewide.
Yet city officials — including the mayor and Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the area — pushed ahead with this dream by funding a nine-year lease and overhaul of a facility located in the Baldwin House at 72 Sixth St. So it was appropriate to fete the substation’s opening on Friday. While it will not be a panacea for the many urban challenges that intersect in this neighborhood, it is a step in the right direction toward reducing crime, drug dealing and harassment.
People in the neighborhood are already praising the area’s increased police presence. Several merchants lauded the police for adding eight beat patrol officers to the mid-Market area, bringing the total number to 24. These merchants, speaking recently before the Police Commission, said that they have noticed a marked decrease in crime and violence on Sixth and Seventh streets since Police Chief Greg Suhr assigned the additional officers to the area on March 1.
In addition to being a place where police can do paperwork and conduct interviews — officers working in this area previously had to go to a nearby police station — the new facility will also be available for community meetings and homeless outreach workers. In essence, the space could become a community hub for a neighborhood that has, for too long, been forced into the margins due to intimidation and violence.
City officials have reimagined the mid-Market area as a tech hub, with anchor tenant Twitter just a few blocks down the street from the new substation. But the neighborhood is already a vibrant community, and all of the workers and residents of the surrounding area deserve to be safe. The opening of a new police substation is not the last action The City should take to provide services in this area, but it’s certainly a welcome step in the right direction.