It's hard to believe that just a few blocks away from City Hall, the intersection of Van Ness Avenue and Willow Street has become a hotbed of problems. The residents of a luxury condo complex in the area have been enduring the presence of tents, blatant drug dealing, drug use, and a range of safety issues for several years, despite their regular reports to the city's 311 service.
Expressing her frustration, one resident, identified only as "J," says, "Many of my neighbors have made complaints, but we never receive any response. The tickets are closed without any action taken. It leaves us feeling hopeless."
Residents have diligently documented these issues over the years, capturing disturbing incidents on video. In one such video, a woman is seen alarmed as a man outside her building casually handles knives. At a restaurant located at the Willow and Van Ness intersection, bars have been installed on the front doors to address repeated problems.
"I call the police every day. Every single day, it's the same story - nothing changes!" exclaims Ashley Yildiz.
In an effort to gather information about Willow Street, ABC7 News contacted the Department of Emergency Management. The department provided the following statement:
"San Francisco continues to engage with individuals experiencing homelessness in various parts of the city. In 2023, city staff conducted outreach and cleaning operations on Willow Street on eight occasions. A total of 94 individuals were engaged, with 31 accepting offers for shelter, five already having housing, 41 declining shelter offers, and 17 individuals choosing not to disclose their personal information for additional assistance."
"San Francisco's primary focus is on providing services and resources to unhoused individuals while ensuring that public streets are clean, safe, and accessible. These services and resources include access to shelter, medical and behavioral health services, and referrals to substance abuse programs."
In response, the city attorney's office explained that there are limitations to what they can do, citing a preliminary injunction order from the District Court that prohibits the enforcement of laws against sitting, lying, or sleeping on public property for "involuntary homeless individuals."
However, the city can still provide services to those experiencing homelessness, and law enforcement can take action when necessary. As long as the homeless individuals do not obstruct public rights of way, they are allowed to remain in place.
Following a street cleaning effort witnessed by ABC7 News, it didn't take long for the unhoused population to return to the area. This fact was noted by Yildiz and other observers, highlighting the ongoing challenges faced by the community