The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Conservative Crap about San Francisco

One of my favorite places on earth, which I was pleased to call home, was San Francisco. I lived on Castro Street for several years, across the street from Harvey Milk’s camera shop. I was just a little closer to Market Street than where the camera shop had been located.

The city has multiple problems and it’s policies on housing are out of some dark past age and created a crisis where one need not exist. While I lived there I watched “housing activists” do their damndest to destroy the housing market. One result is rents through the roof. My old flat took up an entire floor of a large building on Castro—I suspect today it would rent for $5,000 per month at least. This was a policy manufactured by the activists and the City Supervisors.

But that doesn’t mean conservatives don’t go into knee-jerk meltdowns when the city is mentioned by name. They make the most absurd statements entirely based on their own prejudices—and they have so many—with little factual evidence to back them up.

I was surprised to see numerous people — who I pray are conservative and not libertarians— making snide and snarky knee-jerk remarks ridiculing San Francisco on a friend’s Facebook page. One woman — I won’t say lady — made rude remarks about “gender identity.” Oh how witty and clever she must be but I wouldn’t give up my day job if I were her.

One libertarian academic, who ought to know better, made remarks about the infamous but bogus “poop map” of San Francisco, meant to convey there is a mountain of excrement on every sidewalk in the city.

The problem is the “map” is engineered to grossly exaggerate the problem. There are several ways the map is dishonest.

First, the map is made to appear like a typical day in San Francisco with thousands of piles of “human” excrement on the sidewalks. In reality the map is a compilation of every report made over a period of 8 years.

The Republican conservative producer of a map says, “Since 2011, there have been at least 118,352 reported instances of human fecal matter on city streets.” That sounds horrendous until you start to do the math.

Take the number of reports and divide by years and you get 14,794 cases per year, which is 40.5 incidents per day. The city, however, is 1.307 billion square feet in size and this works out to one incident of excrement for every 32,271 square feet or less than one case per square mile on any given day.

Another problem is the accusation dishonestly refers to this as “human excrement” when most of it is from dogs. The city works department doesn’t break down reports by dog or human categories. No one is doing DNA testing to discover these things. I noticed that when I looked at the map it heavily listed incidents in areas where people walk their dogs. Estimates say there are 120,000 to 150,000 dogs in the city and they aren’t inclined to use rest rooms.

Conservatives are falsely labeling all cases of poop as human, even when there is no evidence that is the case. The original purveyor of the map claims he only reports human excrement based on city reports yet the city repeatedly says they only report “waste” and never distinguish between human and dog excrement. In fact, if the city did the testing to distinguish between the two kinds of crap conservatives would be shrieking about it wasting taxpayer funds on testing shit.

The map, by recording every incident over a period of years makes the cases look more numerous than they are. But they also grossly exaggerate the problem by using brown dots per incident that are bigger than the largest building in the city. Look at the city map created by this conservative outfit. The city is a sea of brown, but that’s because the size of one reported incident is significantly out of proportion to reality. If you look at Treasure Island on the map (left) you will see three brown icons that practically obliterate the island, and one covering a chunk of Yerba Buena Island.

Those three brown icons cover more than half the island, which is 576 acres in size. So three incidents in 8 years practically obliterate the island. Each pile of excrement on the main map is approximately 100 square acres in size.

Even when you focus in the markers used to indicate one reported incident of excrement — mostly from dogs — are larger than a city bus. Of course, if they indicated the true size of the problem it would be tiny dots invisible to the human eye.

I focused in on an area where there is a park that was behind my old apartment on Castro Street. When you pull out and look at the main map this area is covered in a sea of brown. Now, when we focus in closer — which I suspect most people don’t bother to do — you see this area, which includes numerous apartment buildings, a couple of schools, a baseball field and covers almost one square block of the city, has 25 brown marks in the area between Collingswood and Diamond, north of 19th Street. I assure you this is a relatively large area.

Certainly 25 piles of excrement in one day would be horrendous, and 25 cases in a week would be a bit much. But we’re talking 25 cases in 8 years. That’s one incident reported every 117 days!

A second illustration is the Civic Center area of the city, which is where homeless people hang out. I count 16 markers, which averages out to two reported incidents per year.

Consider how the conservative who started the hysteria reports the “worst” cases in the city. Just remember he is not being honest when he calls this human waste, it is all excrement, both human or animal, in spite of his claims. He writes:

Since 2008, over 23,800 cases of human waste were reported in the heart of San Francisco. There were 13 reports of human feces in front of City Hall; 17 events at the U.S. Marshals office; and 67 reports at the Tenderloin police station on Eddy Street.

Now let’s translate this into cases per day averaged over the 11 years he uses. Here is my rewrite looking at this based on a typical day.

Since 2008 there were almost six cases per day of human and animal waste spread over the city center. There was one report of animal or human waste in front of City Hall per year! There was one incident at the U.S. Marshals office every 236 days and one report at the Tenderloin police station on Eddy Street every two months.

That doesn’t sound nearly as dramatic and isn’t likely to create headlines to “own the libtards,” as conservatives are so proud to do—often rather dishonestly, such as in this case.

One amusing fact that these conservatives don’t realize—and there are many facts to which they are oblivious—is this sort of poop politics in San Francisco was started by Supervisor Harvey Milk. It was at the start of Milk’s campaign that he manufactured an incident to get media attention. He gave an interview to the media while walking through a park and he purposely stepped in a pile of dog poop for the cameras. He then waxed on about the problem of dog poop in the parks. It got him the media attention he wants, it was good politics, not just entirely honest.

Conservatives are now taking a page out of Milk’s book and spreading poop around by exaggerating the problems in San Francisco. And it worked again. Business Insider uncritically reported the exaggerated map as gospel truth, Fox News used it to claim “nearly every city block has had a poop sighting in recent years.” Even a “liberal” site such as the Guardian breathlessly said, “It’s an empirical fact: San Francisco is a crappier place to live these days. Sightings of human feces on the sidewalks are now a regular occurrence; over the past 10 years.” Yes, what conservatives call the “lamestream” media can be duped by phony conservative reports as easily as they can by phony liberal ones.

In the rush to get the story out they don’t verify the claims provided they are made by someone claiming expertise—and it doesn’t really matter whether the bogus claims are about dog poop or how much taxes the richest 400 pay. The false stats get reported as gospel truth—but then you know what I think of the gospels.

When you start looking at the details the mountain of crap spewed out about San Francisco by conservatives doesn’t even make a decent sized molehill.

P.S. I should also note that after being away from San Francisco I moved back to the Bay Area, albeit outside the city but made frequently trips into San Francisco. In most cases I walked around the city rather extensively and didn’t notice problems worse than other large cities. I lived in five major cities in four different countries and found San Francisco on par in these regards with three of them and significantly better than one of them. All major cities have litter problems and anywhere people have dogs the dogs will take dumps on sidewalks.

It is curious to see how emotionally upset the comments on other parges are from conservatives about this article. Some are having absolute fits over it. Some seem intent on distorting completely the point made here.

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James Peron

James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.