In an effort to combat aggressive street behavior downtown, the San Francisco Police Department is spending $350,000 to hire seven retired cops to help keep an eye on the Union Square area.
It’s Mayor London Breed’s idea, “with the goal of increasing safety in some of our heavily used commercial corridors, starting with Union Square,” said police Cmdr. David Lazar.
The retirees “will provide a visible deterrence, be able to provide information to tourists, and work closely with the station officers to address crime,” said Lazar, the Police Department’s point person on homelessness and quality-of-life issues.
The former cops will work part time and be paid $50 an hour.
Although they’ll be in police-issue uniforms, they will not be armed or make arrests. They’ll be tied in with Central Station so they can summon cops in case of trouble.
Starting next month, they’ll patrol in pairs during daytime shopping hours and cover the area bounded by Post Street, Powell Street, Market Street and Grant Avenue.
The $350,000 will fund the program for six months. It’s half the $700,000 that Breed and local merchants asked the Board of Supervisors to provide.
“And we had to fight for that,” said Karin Flood, executive director of the Union Square Business Improvement District.
Union Square has been slipping in recent years as the Bay Area’s premier shopping district. Names such as Gucci, Hermes and Prada still abound, but the area has felt the pressure of rising rents, loss of business to the internet and competition from suburban malls.
Visible homelessness, wholesale theft from stores by organized gangs of shoplifters and petty theft have added to the merchants’ concerns.
“Aggressive panhandling, smash-and-grab theft, aggressive behavior in general,” Flood said.
Merchants have installed some 350 cameras in the area, but the cameras are good only as evidence after a crime has been committed. Businesses have been looking for more in the way of deterrence.
“Our group adds an extra layer, because they are trained on what to look out for,” Lazar said.
The Police Officers Association president, Tony Montoya, said bringing back retirees to help patrol the city underscores how badly the department is understaffed.
“They can play a shell game with the numbers, but when it comes to boots on the ground, it just shows that we are in a crisis mode,” Montoya said.
Tech talk: One of the most vocal critics of the impact of the tech economy on San Francisco has been Supervisor Aaron Peskin. So it was no surprise when he tweeted that on Amazon’s Prime Day 2019, “I stand with the workers demanding a fair wage, job security and benefits while their corporate overloads (sic) reap billions in profits, evade taxes, kneecap our community corridors and facilitate border separations.”
This #PrimeDay2019 – and every other day – I stand with the workers demanding a fair wage, job security and benefits while their corporate overloads reap billions in profit, evade taxes, kneecap our commercial corridors and facilitate border separations. https://t.co/EppXwdq3Xh
— Aaron Peskin (@AaronPeskin) July 15, 2019
Peskin should know. According to his statement of economic interest, he owns between $100,000 and $1 million in Amazon stock.
“It’s true. I bought it years ago for a handful of dollars as part of my self-employment pension plan,” Peskin said.
He said he had thought about unloading the stock, but opted to keep it after learning he would lose about a third of his profit to taxes.
As for being one of the tech titans he so often slams?
“It’s not even close enough of a stock share for anyone to listen to me,” Peskin said. “Although I don’t think Amazon was all that happy with my ban on the use of facial recognition technology in the city.”
Going statewide: Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed his longtime friend Stanlee Gatti to the California Arts Council.
Gatti, an event planner, made quite a name for himself in the art world when, as president of the San Francisco Arts Commission, he proposed (without much luck) putting up a giant foot sculpture at the bottom of Market Street, a giant peace sign sculpture in Golden Gate Park and a giant spider on the dome of City Hall.
As for going statewide, Gatti said, “I look forward to learning the council’s responsibilities, then finding a way to push the limits.”
The position pays $100 per diem, which Gatti said he will donate back to the state.
Newsom also named retired San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White to a $600-a-month seat on the Board of Pilot Commissioners, the oversight body that licenses and regulates maritime pilots who navigate big ships through San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun bays.
“They specifically said they needed someone with firefighting experience. She was the first person to come to mind,” Newsom said.
“I received a call from the governor asking me to serve, so I responded,” Hayes-White said.
But does she even own a boat?
Breaking news: Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo stepped out of a meeting the other day at Jack London Square to find his sport utility vehicle broken into — again.
“It’s the fifth time — twice in front of City Hall,” Gallo said as he called the cops.
The next day, Gallo joined the line at In & Out Glass in East Oakland with four other customers whose windows had been smashed.
As Gallo was pulling out, Abdul Taleb, who owns a produce market on Foothill Boulevard, was pulling up in his Tesla with a smashed window.
“I counted 17 or 18 other cars along Foothill this morning, all with their windows busted out,” Taleb said.
San Francisco Chronicle columnist Phil Matier appears Sundays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call 415-777-8815, or email email@example.com. Twitter: @philmatier