Cruel Summer in San Francisco

Dr. Munr Kazmir
6 min readJun 10, 2022

“It’s worse than it looks,” admits the SF Chronicle, and it looks pretty bad.

Earth Day in San Francisco. April 23, 2022. (photo: Peg Hunter)

“Downtown S.F. on the brink: It’s worse than it looks,” blared the San Francisco Chronicle headline this morning.

“The engine of the city’s economy is struggling,” added Noah Arroyo, author of the Chronicle’s blistering indictment of the current state of affairs in the City by the Bay.

“Visuals by Jessica Christian,” is the next by-line on the piece and it soon becomes clear just how important those visuals are in conveying the decay setting into San Francisco’s once thriving downtown district.

It isn’t excerpts from the article that strike the reader, though some are indeed striking. The visuals are impossible to ignore or explain away: An unflinching, interactive “walk” down two San Francisco city blocks where business after business is closed, shuttered, dark, and forbidding.

“Against the backdrop of shuttered, graffitied storefronts and other detritus left in COVID-19’s wake, including on this two-block stretch of Kearny Street,” Arroyo writes, “professionals can once again be seen en route to their now sparsely populated offices or the few cafes and restaurants that survived their absence, now eager for their precious patronage.”

“Some new businesses have opened, and tourism has ticked up,” Arroyo strikes a decidedly hopeful tone before dropping the hammer: “Don’t be fooled.”

“The downtown area, the city’s primary economic driver, is teetering on the edge, facing challenges greater than previously known, new data shows,” warns Arroyo. “The wounds suffered by the economic core are deep, and city officials have yet to come up with a plan to make the fundamental changes that some economists and business leaders argue could make the area thrive again.”

The scrolling two-block visual tour of downtown San Francisco tells the tale in gut-wrenching and visceral terms.

Vision First Eyecare Inc, closed February 2019. Pachino’s Pizzeria, closed March of 2020. Topsy’s Fun House, shuttered September 2020. The Organic Coup, December 2021. Selix Formalwear, closed June 2018. Boxed Foods, closed November 2018. Banana Home held on until March 2022, when it, too, closed. Baladie Cafe closed its doors in May…