Downtown San Francisco feels like a large public toilet without enough janitors. More than once this year, I’ve seen men drop their pants in public places — including at Fifth and Market — to leave a smelly mess on the sidewalk. You can walk for blocks and never escape the stench of stale urine. At lunchtime, I see street people passed out on high-traffic sidewalks, and I am afraid to walk around them.
The homeless have been a problem in San Francisco for as far back as anyone remembers, but to me it seems this year is the worst. There’s a sense among people who work downtown that City Hall doesn’t care about cleaning up San Francisco’s Summer of Muck.
If this year is worse, two culprits are the drought and the city’s booming economy. The drought means “there’s no rain washing down the streets,” San Francisco Public Works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon told me. The city’s housing and office building boom has filled in alleyways and once-neglected pockets where the homeless used to be able to hide.