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Trump threatens SF with sanctions over homelessness

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“We can’t have our cities going to hell,” said the president following his trip to Silicon Valley for a fundraiser

Donald Trump entering Air Force One and waving to an unseen crowd and reporters in Los Angles.
President Trump in Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Photo by Liu Guanguan/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

The White House press pool reported Wednesday that President Donald Trump threatened San Francisco with action by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over the local homelessness crisis.

Reporters quoted Trump, flying back from a Bay Area fundraiser, as saying: “It’s a terrible situation—that’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco. And we’re going to be giving San Francisco, they’re in total violation, we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon. EPA is going to be putting out a notice. They’re in serious violation. ... they have to clean it up. We can’t have our cities going to hell.”

Trump did not articulate which environmental laws he believes the city violates, but did cite a belief that discarded hypodermic needles that fall into storm drains pollute the ocean.

However, San Francisco storm drains send water to treatment facilities, one in Bayview and one in the Outer Sunset, rather than straight to the ocean, according to the SF Public Utilities Commission.

While the EPA typically cites private companies for environmental violations, the agency occasionally has disputes with cities. In August it settled a lawsuit with the city of Houston over the condition of its sewers, and in February resolved a similar dispute with Middletown, Ohio.

In response to the threat, San Francisco Mayor London Breed took to Twitter to run down Trump’s own environmental record and to tout SF’s anti-homelessness initiatives.

“If the president wants to talk about homelessness, we are committed to working on actual solutions, like adding 1,000 new shelter beds by next year and working to pass a $600 million affordable housing bond to create more badly needed housing,” Breed said.

SF-based Sen. Scott Wiener called the president’s comments “the next episode of Donald Trump’s campaign to slander American cities.” He then accused Trump’s own White House of exacerbating the homelessness crisis.

Trump had made frequent comment about homelessness in California and San Francisco in particular in recent weeks, and on Tuesday, Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, toured a new San Francisco housing development and gave a brief press conference about the city’s homelessness crisis.