The progressive CEO of a clothing store chain announced yesterday that he would be closing the San Francisco store because of the frequent break ins by gangs of thieves. Davis Smith who runs the active-wear chain Cotopaxi, described San Francisco as a “city of chaos” and one in which his retail workers are “terrified.” He also described how practical efforts to deal with the problems, such as private security, don’t help because the thieves have learned they won’t be physically stopped or arrested.
It’s sad, but San Francisco appears to have descended into a city of chaos. Many streets and parks are overrun with drugs, criminals, and homelessness, and local leadership and law enforcement enable it through inaction. One of the most beautiful and amazing cities in the world is now a place where many no longer feel safe visiting or living.
We opened a retail store a year ago on Hayes Street, the charming shopping district just blocks away from the famous Full House home. Our first week there, our windows were smashed and thousands of dollars of product was stolen. We replaced the window, and it immediately happened again (four times). We replaced with window with plywood as we waited for a month+ to get a metal security gate installed (demand for those gates is creating huge delays). As of today, we are closing the store due to rampant organized theft and lack of safety for our team. Our store is hit by organized theft rings several times per week. They brazenly enter the store and grab thousands of dollars of product and walk out. We started keeping the door locked and opening it only for customers, but even then, they’ll have a woman go to the door, and then hiding individuals rush into the store as soon as the door opens. Our team is terrified. They feel unsafe. Security guards don’t help because these theft rings know that security guards won’t/can’t stop them. It’s impossible for a retail store to operate in these circumstances, especially when cities refuse to take any action (despite us paying taxes well above any other state we operate in). The city recently announced a reduction of police presence in this neighborhood, despite mass-scale crime.
Smith went on to say that he’d experienced the chaos in San Francisco not just professionally but also personally.
It makes me sad that I’m now avoiding San Francisco, a city I used to love. Last time my wife and I went in 2020, a drugged up person ran up to my wife’s face and started screaming some of the most obscene things I’ve ever heard. She was terrified. During a previous trip, my rental car was broken into and everything was stolen out of our trunk. When calling the police to report the theft, they let us know this happens hundreds of times per day in the city and said it was our own fault for parking in the street. I grew up in Latin America and spent much of my adult life there, and I never felt this unsafe there. Something has to change in San Francisco.
Perhaps what’s most striking is that the CEO in question is clearly a progressive. For instance, a critic of capitalism wrote this in response to Smith’s announcement: “what if instead of treating property and capital as more important than humans, we start investing in affordable housing, social services for low-income and dispossessed peoples…” Needless to say, this is dumb. It’s not treating capital as more important than humans to say that organized gangs shouldn’t steal. These aren’t starving artists stealing a loaf of bread. It’s a clothing store. They’re boosting merchandise to either make money or feed their habit or both.
In any case, Smith’s replay made it clear he’s not some conservative lashing out at a blue city.
Tylo, I’m the first to agree that capitalism needs to change. This is why we are a B-Corp and have used our profits from day 1 to create a more equal world (we assisted nearly 1.3 million living in poverty last year). I also disagree with violence in all forms. That said, I have a sincere question. Why aren’t we seeing these same extreme outcomes in other cities? We have stores in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake City, and other places and haven’t had a single other store vandalized or looted. Something seems to be fundamentally broken in SF.
Another leftist wrote in response to Davis’ announcement, “more police won’t help.” Davis replied: “When there is no law, it’s hard to create opportunities. Police are needed, unfortunately.” It turns out if you mug a progressive enough times he starts to sound like a conservative.
Smith says he’s working with other local businesses to try to reach some agreement with the city but honestly that shouldn’t be necessary. When businesses have to beg the city to stop criminals from robbing them on a weekly basis, it’s just not sustainable. Until some sort of order is restored running a business just doesn’t make sense.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Davis Smith is not the only person in SF who sees what is happening. ABC 7 ran a story Monday about residents and business owners in the SOMA neighborhood near a newly opened drug sobering center. Notice how similar this sounds to what David said above.
Adam Mesnik lives in the SOMA neighborhood and owns a business. He calls what he’s seeing on the streets as “a period of insanity.”
He’s referring to what he and others believe is an increased presence of drug use, violence and crime on the streets since SOMA Rise opened in June.
Ghis, who provided us only with her first name, is a 31-year resident of the neighborhood and says, “More troublemakers settling in, feeling comfortable doing their drugs, pissing and sh**ting in the street blocking the sidewalks.”
How many people need to say the same thing before the city decides to take a more aggressive approach to solving these problems? What they are doing now is clearly not enough.