San Francisco

SF Scrambles to Fix Filthy Streets as Holidays Loom

NBCUniversal, Inc.

After Oracle pulled its annual OpenWorld convention out of San Francisco for the next three years, people once again are talking about how to turn around the city's reputation for filthy streets.

It's espically urgent as the city makes a push to attract a few more waves of holiday shoppers before Christmas.

The $9 billion-a-year question facing San Francisco and its mayor: Can they convince shoppers and businesses they can clean things up in time for the last-minute Christmas shopping season?

Union Square was bustling Monday with shoppers of all ages hunting for holiday gifts or tourist treasures. But the streets and sidewalks they’re strolling along are noticed for all the wrong reasons: fecal matter, a massive homeless problem, trash and needles.

Local restaurants say they’re losing business because fewer people are willing to dodge the garbage.

"Every single day, someone comes up to me, into my bar, and has a story about something that happened to them that made them feel unsafe or something that was unclean on the streets," restaurant owner Ben Bleiman said. "Every single day."

A week ago, tech giant Oracle announced it was essentially taking $60 million in business out of the city, moving its OpenWorld convention to a "cleaner" and cheaper Las Vegas.

"It’s a call to action," said Rodney Fong, CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. "I think Oracle leaving SF is certainly a wake-up call. If we don’t do something, we’re gonna potentially lose more. We want to get out in front of that."

On Monday, Mayor London Breed said she has a new plan, announcing Street Care SF, a plan full of new safety measures, bathrooms, trash cans and more. The new program is aimed at making shopping safer and cleaner for everyone and more welcoming for businesses too.

"We have maybe lost one large convention, but that doesn’t mean there’s not someone ready to take their place," Breed said.

Breed did not elaborate on anyone big enough to replace OpenWorld, but she said the city will work to clean the streets more frequently and increase the services for those suffering from substance abuse and homelessness.

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