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How SF tourism industry deals with the homeless crisis

“I actually think it’s the worst it’s ever been”

Photo by Filipe Frazao

San Francisco is home to some of the country’s nicest and priciest hotels. But many of them struggle with the optics outside their expertly-designed lobbies. In addition to competing with Airbnb, most if not all Union Square hotels have had to come to terms with the adjacent street misery.

In Heather Knight’s most recent eye-opening column (“SF tourist industry struggles to explain misery to horrified visitors”), tony lodgings like Campton Hotel and Westin St. Francis must operate side by side with a homeless crisis—an epidemic the United Nations recently billed as “cruel.”

In part, Knight reports:

San Francisco’s hotel owners and managers are increasingly frustrated that their gorgeous city, with its many museums, fine restaurants and scenic vistas, has an ever-deteriorating, dismaying flip side to the postcard. In a city that spends $305 million a year to combat homelessness, those who serve as San Francisco’s hosts struggle to explain why the problem isn’t getting any better.

“I actually think it’s the worst it’s ever been,” said Handlery, who’s been in the San Francisco hotel business for 38 years.

And our city’s tourists—who reportedly bring in an estimated $9 billion annually—have taken notice:

Kevin Carroll is the executive director of the Hotel Council of San Francisco, which advocates for 110 hotels. Among hotel managers and owners, “everybody’s talking about it,” he said.

“You see things on the streets that are just not humane,” he said. “People come into hotels saying, ‘What is going on out there?’ They’re just shocked. ... People say, ‘I love your city, I love your restaurants, but I’ll never come back.’”

Knight goes on to note that, while the ongoing crisis has yet to affect the tourist industry’s bottom line, “hotel owners and managers say they’re already noticing some worrying signs.” Among them, a drop in revenue at area hotel parking garages and conventions deciding to hold events elsewhere.

As for how exactly how our local tourism industry deals with it—well, they can’t do much. Other than calling 311 and/or pleading with hotel guests that the city is doing the best it can, the issue is beyond their control.

In related news, a member of the UN Human Rights Council paid a visit to the Bay Area in 2017 to look at the homeless crisis. The conclusion—conditions in San Francisco are “cruel” and “unacceptable,” especially for an area experiencing record levels of wealth.