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Enough is  Enough: The Doom Loop Narrative is Dumb

— by David Eugene Perry

OK, to quote that great artistic pairing of Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, Enough is Enough!  To read the national, and increasingly international, press, things in San Francisco are so bad that the last scenes of San Andreas or Godzilla are tourism advertorials.

This is simply not true.

I’m being purposely glib because the level of “Doom Loop” cherry picked stories about San Francisco’s challenges have become silly to the point of being submittable as a script for South Park.  Especially galling and unfair was the recent hit piece by Great Britain’s Daily Mail – admittedly not a publication one usually associates with equanimity or fact checking. I’m pretty sure that if I plopped down in the middle of London’s worst ‘hood I could come up with a Dickens of a story as well.

Is San Francisco crime ridden? NO. Are there parts of town that have encountered some post COVID surges? YES. Are things better now? YES. Is homelessness a big problem in San Francisco? YES. Is it a BIGGER problem in other California and West Coast cities? YES. Since I’m not a writer for the Failing Mail I won’t name those other sister metros. EVERY American burg of a certain size has been battered by COVID and its too-long-lasting hangover. Is Fentanyl a hideous stain on San Francisco? YES. Are the Mayor, Police and local businesses all banding together to improve things? YES.  Is San Francisco experiencing a tourism rebound? YES – bigly. Recently, have some hotels announced SALES (not closures) and have some retail outlets announced that they are decamping from ONE PART of town? YES. I would direct readers to the miracle called “Google” and search “retail trends America” that tell a similar story. 

This November, San Francisco will host the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Forum with the largest gathering of international leaders here since the signing of the United Nations Charter (yep, that was here) in 1945.  They know what they’re doing. San Francisco is also Star Fleet headquarters, but I’m getting ahead of myself by a few centuries.

Here’s the 411: San Francisco is often lumped in with “America’s Large Cities” which it is not. San Francisco’s glorious three-sided frame of ocean and bay is 7 x 7 miles with less than 900,000 residents. It’s small. It’s easy to take a photo of someone suffering addiction or homelessness downtown and make it sound like SF has slid into the sea. A city of neighborhoods, San Francisco is in no way “dying”, it’s thriving – especially in those communities like the Marina, Hayes “Cerebral” Valley where AI is creating the next big boom, the Mission and along the Embarcadero to name but a few. The restaurants are full. The stores are packed. Community festivals and street fairs are the norm. Let’s have some context Daily Smell.

I remember the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake – vividly. I was in the San Francisco Opera House when it hit: scariest 20 seconds of my life. Part of the ceiling came down and I got hit in the head with a copy of the biography of Maria Callas. It was bad. Over 60 people died, and parts of the City were without power for weeks. My family in Richmond, Virginia was in a panic, convinced I was buried under rubble. Friends visiting the Caribbean couldn’t get through by phone and were sure their house had collapsed. The national and international media kept showing the ONE building in the Marina District that burned over-and-over again.

As we say in my business, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Lately, the media — including, I’m sad to say, some of our local home-town press — have been reveling in sanguine click bait. It’s a bloody exaggeration of the reality that is San Francisco, and frankly, sloppy reporting. Before I turned to the “Dark Side” of public relations, I was a journalist. I go out of my way to build relationships with writers, often when (like lately) my clients say “why do we have to speak to people that are mean to us”? I believe that journalists have a sacred duty – to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Is the truth that parts of San Francisco are having a less than a splendid time at the moment? TRUTH. Is it the whole truth? FAR FROM IT.

Cue Donna and Barbra.

David Eugene Perry is an author and longtime public relations professional and a member of the board of directors for the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. He moved to San Francisco in 1986 from Washington, DC