by Sebastian on February 20, 2024 (BeyondChron.org)

As a San Franciscan tired of hearing about the City’s doom loop reputation, I recently traveled to Asia with high expectations that people there, for a change, still praised our City for its beauty, wealth, and innovation.

San Francisco was a world-class city to them.

However, my hopes diminished rapidly during my 17-hour direct flight from San Francisco to Singapore.

The plane was half-full which gave its passengers plenty of space to walk around, stretch, and socialize.

It was the perfect place and time for me to talk to other fellow San Franciscans and tourists on board what they thought about San Francisco.

The airline’s flight attendants and several tourists from Asia who stayed at hotels in downtown San Francisco told me about the crime, the homeless, the drug dealers, the drug addicts, and the mentally ill they saw on the streets.

They shared the photos they took during their stay in San Francisco.

4 SFPD officers guarding Sephora, 33 Powell Street. Courtesy

A man sleeping in front of the San Francisco Centre, 865 Market Street.Courtesy

Drug users in front of SF City Hall. Courtesy

They were appalled to see 4 police officers guarding Sephora near Union Square; stores like Walgreens, CVS, and Target locking up their products; and drug users shooting up in front of City Hall.

They said that they would have been embarrassed if they were the mayor.

As I traveled through Singapore, Jakarta, Bali, Kuala Lumpur, and Bangkok, I talked to locals and tourists from around the world.

When I told them that I was from San Francisco, their first reaction was always: “Is it true that people sell and use drugs on the streets? Is that true that people can steal anything under $950 without any consequences? Is that true that car break-ins are out of control?”

None of them mentioned anything wonderful like it used to be about Golden Gate BridgeAlamo SquareLombard Street, and Aquatic Park/Ghirardelli Square.

These City’s iconic spots have become the hotspots for the crimes they often watch on the news and social media.

They mentioned to me that they have stopped sending their kids to college in San Francisco due to crime, homelessness, and drug problems.

Even though, they still believe that San Francisco has better universities than other countries, they send their kids to college in London and Rotterdam nowadays as both cities are safer than San Francisco.

The beautiful image of San Francisco has been tarnished domestically and internationally.

Burger King on Van Ness Avenue with smashed windows and graffiti

In the eyes of the world, San Francisco has become an extreme place where people are out of control.

Instead of doing good things, all they think about is destroying the beautiful city that once was a beacon of beauty, perseverance, wealth, and innovation.

For instance, on February 10, the first day of the Lunar New Year, a Waymo robotaxi was vandalized and set on fire in San Francisco Chinatown.

Before my flight from Singapore touched down in Jakarta, Indonesia, the airline’s flight attendant announced that Indonesia has strict laws on narcotics. Using or selling narcotics is prohibited and punishable by severe punishments.

Jakarta is the capital of Indonesia, a developing country.

I toured Jakarta to talk to its residents, business owners, and city officials about public safety, homelessness, and drugs.

I didn’t see any homeless, tents, graffiti, trash, drug addicts, and dealers on the streets.

The city was clean, vibrant, and safe.

There were beautiful lush gardens underneath viaducts throughout the city which made me so jealous.

I could only dream of having lush gardens underneath San Francisco’s viaducts.

How does Jakarta do it?

Because of their strict laws on using and selling drugs, they don’t have a drug crisis.

“You see, it’s the drugs that cause all the problems,” said a city official in Jakarta who deals with homelessness.

The city builds housing and shelters for the homeless outside the city and makes homeless encampments illegal.

They also have a homeward-bound program.

People don’t steal from stores or break into cars to pay for their drug habits.

All the store owners I talked to said they had no major issues with shoplifting.

“We don’t lock up our products like in San Francisco. We lock up criminals here,” said the manager of Ranch Market in Jakarta.

No products are locked up at Ranch Market in Jakarta

Businesses don’t need to deal with looters and clean up graffiti, needles, and human waste every day.

Public safety and clean streets play major roles in luring people back to downtown after the pandemic according to business and property owners in Jakarta Central Business District.

Indonesia was preparing for its Presidential election during my visit.

I was invited to a Vice President debate watch party attended by Ambassadors, legislators, and community leaders.

I met several Jakarta residents at the party who said that their rental car got broken into while visiting San Francisco.

Dion Lim with ABC7 News interviewed a group of tourists from Indonesia who also had their car broken into while visiting San Francisco at Whole Foods on California and Franklin Streets.

Their car break-in video posted on Twitter (X) and TikTok went viral in Indonesia receiving more than 5 million views.

Several Ambassadors at the party who had visited San Francisco said that they had seen the open-air drug markets near City Hall but declined to comment.

When I asked how they would like to live in San Francisco, they diplomatically said, “Even though San Francisco is a beautiful city, they will never live in San Francisco as they will be posted in Washington, D.C. if they ever get rotated to the U.S.”

As I was leaving the party, I asked the host who was a prominent political consultant how he would advise voters to vote in a close race with a possibility of a runoff like that.

He said, “Do your homework diligently and then vote wisely! You vote for a clown, you can expect a circus!”

Returning to San Francisco was like coming home to a third-world city.

As a San Franciscan who traveled abroad in pursuit of finding positive things people said about San Francisco I could proudly write about it, I felt embarrassed about the current state of my city.

How did we get from a world-class to a third-world city status?

A new poll finds that San Francisco voters are frustrated and overwhelmingly feel that the City is on the wrong track according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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