Technology entrepreneur Joe Lonsdale provided a “translation” of a statement from San Francisco Democratic Mayor London Breed regarding the city’s collapsing tax base and budget woes.
Lonsdale attended Stanford University and launched Palantir, a defense software company, before starting venture capital fund 8VC. The libertarian-leaning executive said he moved the company from San Francisco to Austin two years ago because the Texas metropolis is more “tolerant of ideological diversity.”
In reaction to a social media thread from Breed in which she lamented San Francisco’s difficulties in funding government operations, Lonsdale offered a “little translation” for those who cannot follow “California politician-speak.”
When Breed said that the “structure” of downtown San Francisco has “shifted,” Lonsdale translated the statement to mean “dozens of businesses have fled” because “their workers are terrified of being assaulted” by “criminals and mentally-ill homeless.” Indeed, an influx of homeless residents occurred as a $160 million program offered them shelter in local hotels: there are now 56% more homeless people in the city since the initiative began.
Breed also chalked up the city’s rapidly expanding budget deficit to the loss of FEMA funding received during the COVID outbreak and the lockdown-induced recession. As Lonsdale translated: “We used emergency money to operate the government, and without a permanent emergency, our city’s budget collapsed.” The second reason for the deficit, according to Breed, was a decline in business taxes and property taxes. Lonsdale’s translation: “It turns out that when businesses flee your city, they take the money with them! We didn’t consider this before we ran them off.”
Businesses such as Walgreens have closed several locations in the city, while retailers such as Best Buy have been struggling with safety issues related to organized retail crime. Silicon Valley technology companies such as Tesla, Oracle, and Hewlett-Packard Enterprise were among the 352 companies that moved their headquarters from Northern California over the past four years, according to a report from the Hoover Institution. As many as 25 million square feet of commercial real estate in San Francisco are currently vacant.
Breed said “focusing on public safety” is critical for “working with our business community to attract and retain companies and new industries.” Lonsdale said he is “skeptical” about the policy change since public safety means “you have to actually arrest, prosecute, and incarcerate serial criminals.”
Beyond issues related to the city’s large homeless population and drug use, storeowners have left San Francisco since the state reduced the penalty for shoplifting under $950 worth of goods. Countless viral videos have shown shoplifters emptying store shelves into garbage bags and walking out as security guards helplessly watch.
The San Francisco Police Department, however, recently announced that it had deployed officers in stores across the city to apprehend shoplifters. Former San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who likewise eliminated cash bail, was successfully recalled earlier this year by the city’s voters.
The developments, however, might be too insufficient to save the metropolis: nearly 8% of residents plan to move elsewhere within the next year, surging past every other major American city, according to data from the Census Bureau.