Disserving San Francisco

By Terence P. Jeffrey | November 25, 2021 | 9:48am EST
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

When I was a boy growing up in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, my mom enforced an unwavering wardrobe rule on my brothers and me: When we went downtown in the city, we had to wear a suit and tie.

We did not have to dress that way in the suburbs or in the peripheral residential neighborhoods of the city. Nor did this dress code apply when we went to sporting events such as a 49ers or a Giants game, or to a high school football or basketball game.

And, of course, it did not apply when we took walks along Ocean Beach or had picnics in Golden Gate Park.

But it did apply when we ventured into the central business and shopping districts in the northeastern quadrant of the city. This was especially true when we went Christmas shopping at Union Square.

Late last Friday afternoon, I took a drive around San Francisco and through downtown. I noticed along the way that barriers had been placed on a few streets to discourage or prevent driving down them.

I ultimately arrived at Union Square and drove by the Macy's on Geary Street and the site of the now-defunct Blum's restaurant, where my mother used to take us for sandwiches and cake—when we were wearing our suits and ties.

Next door to that Macy's there is now a Louis Vuitton shop. It became a focus of national attention, just hours after I drove by it, when a group of robbers smashed their way into it, grabbed whatever goods they could and then were apprehended by police as they tried to get away.

Now, flashback to the California election in November 2014, when Proposition 47 was on the ballot and was approved by 59.6% of the state's voters.

One of its primary beneficiaries: shoplifters.

The day after its passage, the Sacramento Bee ran a story that summarized this new California law as follows: "The initiative rewrites penalties for crimes such as grand theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks, check forgery and drug possession.

"Such crimes, if they involve items worth $950 or less," explained the Bee, "now only can be charged as misdemeanors, meaning the offender will not end up in state prison.”

Gavin Newsom, who was then California's lieutenant governor and now serves as its governor, was described in 2014 by the Bee as "the only statewide elected official to endorse the initiative."

"Newsom said voters were left to adopt the changes because lawmakers have been too fearful of being seen as soft on crime," said the Bee.

In applauding passage of the proposition, Newsom said in 2014: "There's a sea change happening here in this country, a growing awakening, a growing consciousness that what we've been doing has failed."

In the past week, Californians, and particularly San Franciscans, have seen the real "sea change" that Proposition 47 is at least partly responsible for inspiring. It is a growing disrespect for the law.

Several hours after I drove by Union Square and the Louis Vuitton store there, KGO, the local ABC affiliate, broadcast a report about that very store.

"Swarms of robbers broke into a luxury Union Square store on Friday and made other attempts to strike businesses around the city this weekend as well," KGO would later report in a summary of the weekend's events. "Similar incidents happened in Walnut Creek, Hayward, and San Jose."

At a Saturday press conference, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott explained the full scope of what had happened in the city the night before.

"The Louis Vuitton store was burglarized and looted. The Burberry's in Westfield Mall was burglarized and looted. Bloomingdale's in Westfield Mall was burglarized. Jins Eyeglass store nearby here in Union Square was burglarized. Maxferd's Jewelry on Kearney Street was burglarized. Yves Saint Laurent here in Union Square was burglarized. Walgreens on Market Street was burglarized," he said.

"Fendi on Maiden Lane — that one, they attempted to get in but because we were here that did not happen. But the store was damaged," the police chief continued. "Hermes Maiden Lane, that one they attempted to burglarize. That one was also prevented. Armani's store at Maiden Lane, that one also was attempted to be burglarized and that was prevented.

"There were also multiple cannabis dispensaries across the city that were hit around this same time," said the chief.

On Monday, KGO reporter Phil Matier interviewed Chief Scott about the incidents. "Why is this happening now?" he asked.

"I think it's a combination of things," said Scott. "And number one, it's people who are getting away with it sometimes and accountability is a part of it. Property crime is, typically, doesn't have consequences as other types of crimes."

"There's less consequences, that's for sure," Scott said of property crimes. "I mean, if you are in that business, and that's what you do for a living, commit crimes, you're going to probably go toward the crimes that are less likely to have consequences, less likely to be caught, particularly when you have 40 or 50 people rushing at one time."

What was Mayor London Breed's response?

She declared that her municipal government would further restrict movement through the city and make it harder for people to go down to Union Square and shop.

"We are going to be making some changes to Union Square and how cars are able to access," she said. "There will be limited access in terms of when you come to this area."

San Francisco was made into one of the world's greatest cities by the people who built it and lived there for generations. Now, it is being destroyed by the people who govern California and the city itself.

Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of To find out more about him, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

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