Has San Francisco Lost Its Liberal Soul?

Department of Elections workers transported a box of ballots at the San Francisco City Hall voting center on Tuesday.Credit…Loren Elliott/Reuters

Have San Francisco voters lost the bleeding hearts they have been known for — or are they just frustrated?

City voters resoundingly passed two ballot measures this week that probably wouldn’t have seen the light of day a few years ago. One measure gives more power to the police, and the other requires welfare recipients who are thought to have a drug addiction to enter treatment as a condition of continuing to receive benefits.

Critics of the measures said that residents had veered to the right and that billionaires had bought the city by throwing money at campaigns for the measures. But Mayor London Breed, who faces a tough race for re-election in November and who placed the two measures on the ballot, brushed off claims that the city had lost its liberal soul.

In her annual State of the City address on Thursday, Breed argued that it was progressive to invest in public safety to protect vulnerable older residents and immigrants, and to push for drug treatment for those who need it.

“We are a progressive, diverse city, living together, celebrating each other,” she said, standing at a podium at the city’s cruise ship terminal, apparently to highlight the rebound of San Francisco’s tourism industry. “That has not changed, and it will not change.”

San Francisco’s reputation has plummeted — unfairly, many residents say — since the start of the pandemic, because of open-air drug use, property crime and the sharp drop in office occupancy downtown. Breed, a political moderate by San Francisco standards, has responded by tacking to the right, and this week voters backed her priorities.

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