The other week one of Pet Camp’s vehicles could not be started at the end of the day. After struggling for a bit, the counselors left it on the street (parked nicely along the curb) overnight. This vehicle, the old school bus we will use to move dogs between the Main Campground and the Ranger Station, is registered and insured. Unfortunately for us, there was street cleaning the next morning and our vehicle received a $90 ticket. Let me start by acknowledging that we made a mistake, the City penalized us for a mistake, and we paid the fee. Frankly, if that was the end of it, then no muss, no fuss, and no blog. But it’s not!
There have been 20 RVs parked across the street from Pet Camp’s Main Campground for over a year! These vehicles do not have current registration (no idea about the insurance), many of them appear to be inoperable, many more of them have “stuff” around them that make the sidewalk (a pedestrian right of way) impassable, and during the winter months several of them are “daisy-chained” together by an extension cord attached to a gas-powered generator. Quick PSA, this fire hazard is next to a known methane producing facility and the idea of sparks and methane should make everyone at least a bit concerned. I pass these vehicles every day on the way to and from work AND I have watched the same people who ticketed Pet Camp’s vehicle drive right past all these RVs without issuing a single ticket for blocking street cleaning (which, as an aside, means the street has not been cleaned in all that time either).
As a small business owner who just got nailed for a $90 ticket, the question is pretty simple: where the heck is the City on the rest of these vehicles? Does the City think, “why bother ticketing them – they won’t pay anyway, but let’s ticket a small business because we know they will”? Does the City think that it’s not fair to ticket them because they are “down on their luck;” but it’s ok to ticket a small business that may or may not be struggling? Or perhaps, sadly, does the City even think about this kind of stuff at all?
Honestly, I know this is a gripe blog. I know not a single person who works under the Gilded Dome cares enough about Pet Camp (or any other small business) to take the time or energy to address our concerns. I know that Pet Camp, like every other small business in San Francisco, is on its own to make it in a City that, despite the rhetoric, pays no real attention to the concerns of those that create jobs and pay taxes unless you can afford a full page add in the Chronicle or cater to those who visit from far away and want to see a gleaming Union Square or a homeless-free convention at Moscone Center. We are expected to pay for services we don’t get, comply with arcane and complex rules that no one seems to understand, and to keep our mouths shut and not to complain because we have the “privilege of doing business in San Francisco.” I understand that City leaders can blow off the complaints of a small business owner because there are no ramifications for doing so, but what do those same City leaders want me to tell a long-standing client that just sent us an email that includes “We were concerned about the safety of the environment, including homelessness, flares, and the general unsafe area that the Pet Camp facilities are located around.”? Unlike the City, I do not have the luxury of not taking these concerns seriously.
I know that the homeless issue in San Francisco is complex and without an easy answer. I’m told that the City is “working on it,” just as I’ve heard since Mayor Agnos was mayor in 1988 (when I moved to San Francisco). I guess what frustrates me is that the City doesn’t seem to understand or appreciate that running a small business is also complex (well, at least to me) and that being singled out for selective enforcement and having customers express concern about their safety makes it more so. I am the first to admit that I don’t have a solution to the homeless situation in San Francisco, but I do think that all San Franciscans should be subject to the same laws and the same enforcement of those laws and don’t understand what this is not the case.
Thanks for reading and thanks for letting me gripe.