Social experiments driving SF families away in droves 

There’s been considerable hand-wringing in public circles of late over census figures that show San Francisco is losing families and children faster than a runaway Muni train.

Supervisor Mark Farrell called for a hearing on the matter last week, saying they need to bring together all the organizations that deal with things like education and housing and see what is triggering the family flight.

Is it possible they really don’t know? Have our leaders been asleep at the switch so long they forgot where the twin tracks of politics and policy divert?

This much is certain: If reason can’t find a home in San Francisco, why should the members of its middle class?

We could go back a decade or just a few weeks and see why sane people would look at living in our fair city and then decide on a new ZIP code. San Francisco may be the greenest city in the United States, but you couldn’t fit all of its misguided social experiments in a giant plastic bag.

Remember when San Francisco was considered the nation’s homeless capital and spent hundreds of millions of dollars throwing money at the problem and then realized that giving away money was the problem?

Voters approved Care Not Cash almost a decade ago, getting thousands of people off the street and into housing while reducing The City’s welfare rolls by 85 percent. And then five supervisors recently (and somewhat secretly) decided to try and undo the program with a November ballot measure.

History doesn’t just repeat itself here, it suffers from self-inflicted wounds.

On the same day, some board members also introduced another measure that would block a Parkmerced development project that would bring thousands of new units of housing to San Francisco. It appears a few of the supervisors believe preserving some dilapidated World War II housing is more important than modern living.

Are you beginning to catch a drift here? The single-biggest obstacle to keeping middle-class families from fleeing San Francisco is its regressive politics, which have embraced ideology over common sense.

Just a scant seven years ago, the so-called “progressive” forces in town rallied to beat back an initiative to build affordable, moderate- income housing designed to allow teachers, nurses, firefighters and young families to buy homes in San Francisco. The reason, apparently, is that it was the “wrong” type of housing, since our social justice leaders believe only in developing housing for low-income people.

Tenant activists and scads of our current and previous supervisors have vigorously fought every attempt to increase the number of condominium conversions in San Francisco, capping it at a ridiculously low level for decades. This modest idea would provide homeownership opportunities for hundreds of families, but it’s been blocked, not because the concept is flawed, but because it would potentially reduce political power in some quarters.

I have friends who have moved out of San Francisco simply because the school system is so below par that they grew tired of white-knuckling through the lottery system. Children have been assigned to schools all the way across town. There are few decent public high schools. Attempts to reinvent schools in low-income neighborhoods have failed. After years of complaints, the school district has finally tried to reverse its backward policies and place children in schools near their homes.

San Francisco has a budget nearing $7 billion — larger than cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia that dwarf it — yet its spending priorities are so out of whack that it won’t provide for basic services like streets, parks and libraries. So it continually goes back to its citizens to borrow money for basic maintenance on capital projects. Voters may pass a $248 million bond measure for street repair in November just to reduce their car and dental repair bills.

But the bonds are just one part of The City’s free-spending package. Every year voters see tax initiatives and hikes in permits and fees. It costs a small fortune to park at a downtown garage. Car owners are singled out for monetary punishment. The City is even contemplating a congestion fee that would hit parents for taking their kids to practice fields.

You want to know why people are leaving San Francisco? The City wears out its welcome.

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Ken Garcia

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