letter to the editor

Letter to the Editor: Problems with RV Encampments


Please share this draft of a letter to the mayor with your readers.

Dear Mayor London Breed:

COVID is somewhat under control, but many of your employees are still functioning under the auspice and constraints of COVID-era regulations that limit their ability to make the City safe again by enforcing laws equally around the City and providing necessary services. The City needs an adult in the room to apply tough love to radically improve conditions for both the unhoused and the housed. We treat stray dogs better than the conditions I see many unhoused people living in on our streets.

You may have heard that the Lower Great Highway (LGH) has recently turned into what some are calling Tenderloin West.  
The quiet seaside community of the Outer Sunset is now experiencing rampant violence and unsafe and unhealthy conditions primarily from the influx of a band of marauding RV and van inhabitants.  

The Outer Sunset is experiencing a surge in lawlessness from the unhoused propagating rape, prostitution, arson, drug dealing, assault, careless discarding of syringes on the beach and in the dunes, public defecation, theft, intimidation and vandalism.

Why is less than 1% of the population (many not even San Franciscan’s) allowed to turn our City into an open-air drug market and insane asylum?  People are afraid to leave their homes for fear they will get injured or their property will be vandalized or robbed.

Not all unhoused people have good intentions.  Several people who have chosen to squat in our Sunset neighborhood are taking advantage of the situation.  They know the cops are under-resourced and not enforcing some of the laws so they have the upper hand. 

One of my neighbors was assaulted by a woman in the RV encampment so she filed a three-year restraining order against her.  The woman is choosing to not move and the police are afraid to enforce the restraining order as they don’t want to get sued or create any issues.

My next-door neighbor had an unhoused person break into her home with a large knife. Fortunately, for her, the cops were able to come in time.

Regularly, I have people parking their RVs across the street overnight, which is illegal. I have to shut my curtains as they are able to look in at me. Then, when I go to work, I have to worry whether they were casing my house as so many people’s homes are getting broken into out here. 

Our City has a huge issue with mental health and addiction.  Simply housing people in hotels or SROs won’t fix the problem.  We need to build facilities specifically for mentally ill and addicted people and give them the assistance and resources they need to hopefully get back on their feet. Our priorities are askew when we can come up with funds for entertainment and athletic stadiums, but we aren’t adequately funding mental health or rehabilitation facilities. 

Recently I spent a week in New York City. I walked more than 50 miles and only saw a handful of homeless people. NYC is a liberal city, but they use their budget to house and treat a majority of their 60,000+ homeless. I was shocked at how vibrant NYC was. By comparison, S.F.’s downtown is a ghost town as many convention organizers and tourists are afraid to come here. 

I have spent hundreds of hours of my spare time meeting with city officials trying to figure out how to get S.F. back to a place that feels somewhat safe again. I know that some members of the City want to create a westside “Vehicle Triage Center.”   Having seen how poorly a dozen or so RVs are being handled in my neighborhood, I would not recommend creating one in a residential area. There are too many variables that need to be coordinated (plumbing, electricity, waste removal, 24/7/365 supervision, mental health and addiction counselors …).  This needs to be managed in a contained and controlled environment like they have at the old 49er stadium grounds (which could house well over 1,000 RVs and tents) or possibly at the large pier near Red’s Java Beach could be temporarily utilized until appropriate facilities are built. After meeting with dozens of people from various departments in the City, the resounding pushback I was getting is that all the departments were passing the buck and not wanting to take responsibility for actually fixing any of the problems that I discussed with them. That is why we are needing your leadership to demand accountability and for city employees to take appropriate action. 

Mayor Breed, I have this request: Inform your police officers that they are allowed to enforce the laws that are on the books.  By not enforcing the laws equally throughout the City (the Sunset should be as safe as Pacific Heights and the unhoused should follow the same laws as the housed), you are directing unhoused people into neighborhoods that are understaffed and under resourced to effectively manage the situation so that both the unhoused and the citizens can feel safe. If left unchecked, then the lawless RV encampment will expand from Golden Gate Park to the Zoo and beyond.  If you allow lawlessness then lawlessness will expand like a cancer in our community and at some point the citizens will go to their own defense if they don’t feel they are being protected against the assault on their community.    

As a 30-year SF resident, I had hoped to retire and live out my life in the City, but that dream is fading fast as the city officials past and present can’t seem to muster the courage to direct the City in the right direction as other communities like NYC have done. When I moved to CA more than 35 years ago, I initially lived in my car until I got on my feet. I never once considered trashing people’s homes, businesses or community or committing crimes and parking wherever I wanted to and then simply expecting a City to tolerate my uncivilized behavior.  Has our society changed that much in such a short amount of time?  

Michael Nohr

6 replies »

  1. This letter captures it all.

    I think it should be on the front page of the Sunset Beacon and then get picked up by the Chronicle and the Examiner.

    It is the voice of a great many SF residents who are baffled by what is being allowed to happen in San Francisco.


  2. Mike is absolutely right about this. As a 12 year resident of the Outer Sunset/La Playa Park Village, I’ve never witnessed encampments by way of RVs to this degree. Even more disappointing has been the lethargic response by the city departments that are responsible for providing safety, enforcing laws, and addressing our concerns. The most egregious example of this to my mind is the absolute apathy we’ve been met with when it comes to enforcing a restraining order!


  3. It’s incredibly disturbing that this type of letter even needs to be sent. Is anybody home from the Mayor’s office . . . ? Larry, Moe, and Curley could do a better job – how hard is this, really . . . ?

    I clearly can’t vote for Breed next time around if priorities are not reset, and results observed. Really getting ridiculous.


  4. As a SF native and resident of La Playa Park Village in the Outer Sunset I am ticketed and towed for parking violations. Not applying the same consequences, as is the case, to RV’s amounts to selective enforcement that violates the principal of equal protections. This encourages encampment growth with associated squalor, crime, health risks, vandalism, and drug use and discourages property values and commerce viability. Mayor Breed has a duty to protect residents from these threats by ensuring that the MTA will enforce all the existing codes, including the oversize vehicle restrictions, equally by tagging and towing when needed.


  5. Every time I see discussions about this public policy issue I keep getting stuck on a fundamental concern. On one side of the debate you’ve got folks wanting a softer line, while others want a harder line – maybe some varying degrees, maybe different solutions and ideas. Ok, I can live with that, lots to think about and dissect. However, if I am even a remotely intelligent and self-interested politician, at some point I run the numbers and I quickly realize that people with real addresses actually vote and pay taxes, and outnumber the unhoused untaxed nonvoting population by a tremendous multiple (20 times? 50 times? 100 times over?). And so I DO something about it. This is A + B = C, it’s not a complicated problem involving calculus or some arcane mathematical theory, and you don’t need a slide rule or even a calculator to conclude that the ratio here is pretty skewed. And that really highlights the main problem for me – if Breed is so dumb that she can’t figure out who butters her bread and get priorities straight, then I really can’t vote for her again on a fundamental level, which has nothing to do with difficult public policy decisions, and everything to do with common sense – I mean, if she can’t even count properly, how can she be expected to run a city ?


  6. Breed and Miss Brooke only listen to the billionaires and tech money guru’s that sponsor their campaigns and believe paying for misleading political adverts is all they need to do. Competence unfortunately is not part of the payment scheme.

    They thought orchestrating a recall campaign would deflect from this incompetence because all they have is political posturing.


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