Castro shops won't pay taxes unless San Francisco addresses crime and homelessness

The Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to San Francisco city officials saying they plan to stop paying taxes if The City doesn't do more to address burglaries, vandalism, people with behavioral health problems and unhoused people camping on the sidewalks in front of businesses and residences.

Terrance Alan is co-president of the association and owner of Flore Dispensary and Cafe Flore.

He says many shops have been targeted by vandals and his businesses' windows have been smashed 11 times. He says there are also several dozen people in the area who have been unhoused for years, some a decade or more.

"Every day we wake up and have to help people on the street. We have to clean up feces on the street. We have to clear our people from doorways, so we can open our businesses. It's not fair," said Alan.

The association wants the city to set aside 35 shelter beds for people in the Castro district who need a place to stay.

Also, the association wants the city to devise a plan for offering services to people who decline help and keep monthly records of how many people have been offered services and shelter.

MORE: SF investigates after out-of-town cop drops off homeless man in city

"At this point it's a failure of the system to help them," said Alan.

"Sometimes they do get violent," said Deen Nasher, the Castro Smoke Shop Manager. "The city does need to take care of these people, find a place for them to stay and help businesses. When we call, they come 30-40 minutes later. You know, the police department."

The city's Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing responded Tuesday that they cannot reserve shelter beds for just one neighborhood, but they are working to expand to more than 9,000 housing units.

"The Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing will be opening 1,000 shelter beds over the next three months that will give people in the Castro and other neighborhoods a place to stay inside," the city's statement said.

The Castro Merchant's Association says they would also like to see more enforcement of laws and a plan for those people who refuse housing or treatment for mental health issues or substance abuse.

The Department of Public Health said in a statement that figuring out a solution for people who do not want to enter treatment or housing is more challenging than people might think.

"Clinical teams are trained in assessing individuals for involuntary holds. However, California state law sets a very high threshold for these holds, and often that threshold is not met, even when it looks to the public like an individual "needs help," said the DPH statement.

The Department of Public Health says it is working to increase capacity to more than 2,000 beds for mental health treatment.

Some people on the sidewalks say they come to the Castro because it feels more accepting of homeless people who are gay.

William Rivera says he's a San Francisco native who has a room in the Tenderloin neighborhood, but he comes to the Castro because he says he doesn't get attacked, and it feels safer than other neighborhoods.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Merchants Association met with Debra Walker, who is a new member of the SF Police Commission. Alan says they discussed possibly increasing the number of citizen patrols and providing a pathway for partnering more with police officers.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or