SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco sued 28 alleged drug dealers who frequent a downtown neighborhood where drug dealing and drug use in broad daylight is common, in an effort to clean up the area that has seen the city's largest number of overdose deaths, authorities announced Thursday.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera said the lawsuits, if approved in California Superior Court, would prevent the alleged dealers from entering a 50-block area in the Tenderloin and part of the neighboring South of Market neighborhood. Those who violate the court order would face arrest on misdemeanor charges, a $6,000 fine and the seizure of drugs and money.
“These lawsuits won't solve the problems themselves. But they are a step worth taking,” Herrera said.
The move comes after a 70% spike in overdose deaths in 2019, when 441 people died, more than half of them from fentanyl overdoses.
The Tenderloin neighborhood, which includes City Hall and several federal buildings, has a large homeless population and is just blocks from tourist-heavy Union Square. The neighborhood has long been a public safety problem with people shooting up or snorting powder on the sidewalks at all times of the day.
It has lots of single-occupancy hotels, and it is also home to many low-income families. The Tenderloin has the highest concentration of children in the city — about 2,260.
“You see people who are pushing strollers, mothers who have to go out onto the streets and go around the drug dealing, and the drug using,” Mayor London Breed said. “San Francisco has become the place to go to sell drugs, it is known widely, and that has got to stop.”
Herrera said more drug treatment options, expanded mental health help and a concerted focus on major narcotics suppliers are also needed. "But these injunctions will give law enforcement one more tool to help keep Tenderloin residents safe," he said.