San Francisco's mayoral candidates mull National Guard deployment to Tenderloin

San Francisco's mayoral candidates are publicly debating about what should be done to transform the city's Tenderloin District

Candidates are saying they're looking to declare a state of emergency and even bring in the National Guard to make the neighborhood streets safe and clean.

Street conditions in the Tenderloin and in the South of Market area have been a challenge for years.

Now, with a mayoral race picking up steam, the candidates are pitching their plans to make the streets safer. 

Mayoral candidate Mark Farrell said he would declare an emergency to bring more state resources, even the National Guard, since he said the city doesn't have enough police officers. 

"Therefore we've been letting this drug crisis fester and continue to grow on our streets," said Farrell. "To me, that's unacceptable. We need solutions, we need results and if that includes asking the state and the federal government for additional law enforcement assets, I'm prepared to do exactly that."

San Francisco's current Mayor London Breed says the state already has assets on the ground here that are making a difference. She says a lower overall crime rate last year is an indication that her administration is beginning to make progress against a problem decades in the making. 

"Not only have we made arrests of over 2,000 dealers and users with the goal of getting people treatment, and holding drug dealers accountable," said Mayor Breed. "Even just last night, there was a big operation with over 50 arrests because of the work that we're doing."


No signs of California National Guard in San Francisco to tackle fentanyl crisis

It seemed like more of the same Thursday in San Francisco's Tenderloin, less than a week after Gov. Newsom announced he's bringing in the California National Guard to help dismantle fentanyl trafficking.

District 11 Supervisor and mayoral candidate Ahsha Safaí said the solution to resolving issues in the Tenderloin is to responsibly use the resources the city already has, and says his plan to use police and sheriff's deputies on foot patrols will achieve results. 

"The other commitment I made is, I would have a satellite office of the mayor at the Tenderloin Police Station," said Supervisor Safaí. "The mayor needs to be on the ground, seeing that on a day-to-day basis, marshaling the resources of the city. No other person is talking about that."

Daniel Lurie says the idea of an armed National Guard on the streets of the city would do irreparable harm to San Francisco's image. 

He's pushing his plan to keep drug dealers out using geo-fencing and a combination of medical services and law enforcement to maintain order. He said he too called for a state of emergency to address street conditions in the city. 

"I'm the only candidate in this race with a comprehensive plan backed by law enforcement and behavioral health experts to address the crisis on our streets," said Lurie. "We need to do this, we should be doing it now, I will do it on day one of my administration."

Advocates for the homeless say this isn't an issue the city can arrest its way out of. 

Jennifer Friedenbach from San Francisco's Coalition on Homelessness said all of these plans are law enforcement heavy, and don't address the underlying issues of mental health and drug and alcohol dependency. "So, there's a lot of work that's been done on how to address the crises," said Friedenbach.  "The problem is the resources have not been put into the solutions. They've instead been put into a criminal justice response."

There is consensus that something must be done to improve conditions in the Tenderloin. The debate continues over the "how."