San Fran’s Wild Spending On Homeless Camps Could Get Worse

P. Gardner Goldsmith | June 28, 2021

In March, I reported on the upside-down priorities of San Francisco’s ruling political class, as they take and take more tax money, mandate $15-per-hour minimum wages that drive jobs out of the city, block new private housing projects, and don’t clear human waste from sidewalks, even as they admit to showering an astounding $61,000 per tent in 2020 on “Tent Cities” for the homeless during the COVID-19 lockdown.

As I mentioned at the time, this is a price that rises far higher than what it would have cost the city taxpayers to give each homeless person a high-end apartment.

Well, guess what? City bureaucrats seem unfazed by the bad publicity they received, and now, they want to EXTEND this policy, even after their COVID “emergency” ends.

Related: San Francisco's New DA Says City Will No Longer Prosecute Public Urination or Prostitution

At a Board of Supervisors Budget and Appropriations Committee Meeting, Wednesday, June 23, staff from the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing demanded more money, and an extension of what was supposed to be six temporary tent encampments. 

Reason’s Christian Britschgi reports:

The $20 million being requested for the program ‘seems like an exorbitant amount for something that we're trying to transition [away from] as quickly as possible,’ said Supervisor Ahsha Safai at the hearing. ‘When you factor in 260 beds at $15 million for year one, that's $57,000 per tent.’

Supposedly, the program was going to be temporary – a way to get homeless people out of the local hotels in which the city was housing them, and where “officials” feared they might spread COVID.

But, as with most government programs, “temporary” often means just the opposite.

And, notes Britschgi, some folks in San Fran warned that this would be the case, because they saw the huge tax increase saddled on city businesses in 2018, and knew the bureaucrats would want chunks of it.

The entirety of the funding for the safe sleeping program comes from money raised by the controversial Proposition C, which voters passed in 2018. That initiative hiked San Francisco's already high business taxes by 33 percent with the goal of raising around $300 million per year to be spent on homelessness, supportive housing, and mental health services—almost double the $380 million the city was already spending.

That tax, by the way, is on gross receipts, not net.


And, adds Britschgi, the predictions of profligate spending were borne out. Even leftist Mayor Breed, who last year wanted to pay certain minorities to have kids, predicted something along these lines.

’Proposition C does not audit the money the City already spends. It does not include a detailed spending plan for the $300M in taxes it seeks to add, nor regular audits of that money, nor adequate public oversight over how it's spent,’ wrote (Mayor London) Breed in a now-deleted Medium post. ‘Our homelessness spending has increased dramatically in recent years with no discernible improvement in conditions. Before we double the tax bill overnight, San Franciscans deserve accountability for the money they are already paying.’

But Breed and her leftist friends have made it virtually impossible for private entrepreneurs to create new housing in the city, even as they increase taxes and create disincentives for entrepreneurs to create apartments – all something that Reason has covered in great detail, and which Britschgi reiterates:

Were the city more friendly to new development, odds are it would have far fewer people on the streets and dependent on an inefficient city bureaucracy for shelter.

Economist and writer Harry Browne once said

The government is good at one thing. It knows how to break your legs, and then hand you a crutch and say, 'See if it weren't for the government, you wouldn't be able to walk.

San Francisco’s tent city problem is a perfect example of this phenomenon.

Related: San Francisco Subway Will Now Fine 'Manspreaders' Up to $500