Nobody was more pleased with the passage of San Francisco’s
homeless initiative, Proposition N, than the city’s tourism
The initiative, named Care Not Cash, essentially reduces the
monthly general assistance cash benefit for 2,900 homeless adults
from about $395 to $59. The savings goes directly into food and
Although John Marks, president of the San Francisco Convention
and Visitors Bureau, said the initiative was not perfect, it was at
least the start of something good. He said the problem of
homelessness was not being addressed by the city government and, as
a result, the number of homeless is now up to an estimated 8,000 to
Marks says the initiative essentially “takes the cash off the
streets” and uses it for helping the truly needy. Abusers of the
system will hopefully get the message that there’s no more free
handouts, he said.
Because of the condition of the streets, tourists and convention
goers are turning away from the City By The Bay.
In fact, according to PKF Consulting, San Francisco’s occupancy
rate fell 11.5% in the first half of 2002. Other big cities’
occupancies fell, too, but not by as much 7.6% in Chicago, 3.6% in
New York and 7.7% in Los Angeles.
Supporting Proposition N was the Hotel Council of San Francisco,
which pooled resources and bought billboard ad space to plead their
case. The hoteliers’ theme was “We Want Change.”
“We can no longer deny we have a problem,” said Peter Ells,
general manager of the Renaissance Parc Fifty-Five Hotel and
secretary/treasurer of the council. “We had to try something
because the problem was affecting our bookings and revenues.”
Even travel agents have noticed an increase of panhandlers,
drunks and drug addicts in San Francisco.
Syble Breihan, owner of Custom Travel Service in Yucca Valley,
Calif., had clients visiting San Francisco recently, and said they
noticed people sleeping in doorways right next to luxury
“A lot of big cities have this problem, but San Francisco
certainly has more than its fair share,” Breihan said.
Two months ago, Carol Kennedy, owner of Travel In Style in
Placentia, Calif., escorted a school group to San Francisco and
noticed right away that the homeless were shoulder to shoulder in
the downtown area. Luckily, she said, her group was booked at the
Radisson in Fisherman’s Wharf, which has fewer homeless.
Meanwhile, despite the homeless problem, San Francisco for the
10th consecutive year recently won the No. 1 U.S. City designation
from the readers of Conde Nast Traveler magazine.