SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis visited San Francisco on Tuesday as part of his 2024 presidential campaign and had terse words for the city.
"We saw people defecating on the street, we saw people using heroin, we saw people smoking crack cocaine," DeSantis said in a video posted on Twitter. "And you look around, the city is not vibrant anymore, it’s really collapsed due to leftist policies."
DeSantis’ harsh critiques of San Francisco come at a time when the city is facing record-breaking levels of overdose deaths and office vacancies. San Francisco, like many other cities across the Bay Area, is also facing a record-setting budget deficit. The city has also faced two mass shootings this month.
Standing at the corner of Geary Blvd. and Hyde Street with a heap of trash behind him, DeSantis claimed that many Californians have fled due to the "leftist policies," and criticized the city's leadership.
"They are doing it wrong here," DeSantis said, adding that criminals aren't adequately prosecuted compared to other parts of the country. DeSantis also expressed his dismay at the sight of numerous boarded-up businesses and what he described as "riffraff" roaming the streets.
"No wonder why we’ve had so many people move from San Francisco to Florida over the last few years," DeSantis said.
California’s population decreased for the first in recorded history, the 2020 US Census found.
However, contrary to DeSantis’ claims, there isn’t a mass exodus of Californians headed to Florida: Only 29,000 people officially switched their driver’s license from California to Florida in 2022 and 2021, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Times also found that for every six Californians who moved to Florida, five Floridians moved to California.
But San Francisco has its problems.
There have been 346 overdose deaths so far this year with 275 attributed to fentanyl, a recent report issued by San Francisco’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner shows.
Along with a fentanyl crisis, the city is facing an office vacancy crisis: 31% of the downtown offices are available for lease or sublease, according to a recent analysis by the Chronicle.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed said DeSantis is using the "oldest playbook in politics to get attention," and that his comments are devoid of solutions.
"Unfortunately, in politics the old playbook of focusing on the negative and targeting places like San Francisco have been unfortunately the norm, so we need to turn that around," Breed told KTVU’s Gasia Mikaelian, adding that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and President Joe Biden are helping to chart a new course for the city.
Supervisor Dean Preston agrees. While he and the mayor rarely see eye to eye, they are in lockstep when it comes to DeSantis' campaign video.
"It's just not helpful," said Preston. "We got real issues to work on and frankly a lot of these folks, certainly DeSantis are just exploiting the challenges in our city for political gain."
Breed said her recent policies that have resulted in a spike in arrests, and the city’s collaboration with state and federal officials is also helping to reshape San Francisco and its various communities.
However, Breed declined to say DeSantis’ comments about the city were inaccurate, and vowed to invest in more treatments and services for Tenderloin residents.
"I don’t know what his experience was," Breed said. "People are taking what they are seeing in videos and seeing in terms of a snapshot and elevating them. But the people who actually live in the Tenderloin, have businesses in the Tenderloin, who are experiencing that, those are the people that we should actually be listening to."
DeSantis’ video was shot outside the Hotel Union, which the Tenderloin Housing Clinic uses as supportive housing for the formerly homeless.
"It’s ridiculous, look at the poverty rates in Miami, we can go places in Florida where there’s homeless people," said Randy Shaw with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.
However, some residents in the area agree, in some part, with DeSantis' critiques.
"He has a good point, I don’t know if he has a solution, I don’t know who has a solution," one woman in the Tenderloin who asked to remain anonymous told KTVU.
"I would do it on one day’s notice with no notes," Newsom told Fox News’ Sean Hannity during a recent interview.
DeSantis is visiting California for fundraising events in the Sacramento area and Woodside, it’s his first visit to the state since his administration admitted to flying 36 migrants from Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela to Sacramento earlier this month.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta vowed to investigate the issue.
"It's very strange at best. It could violate criminal law, it could violate civil laws, so we're going to continue the investigation," Bonta told CNN. We're going to get to the bottom of that."