We all have a regular grim laugh about San Francisco's seemingly manic determination to drive away every city resident except drug addicts and homeless people.
But ask yourself: If the city were trying to do that, would they be doing anything differently? Because I don't think so.
Ben Jiang retrieved a key from a lockbox and worked to untangle a mass of chains securing the front gate of his house.
Inside, raunchy graffiti covered several walls and doors, fixtures remained broken, rodent droppings dotted the nasty carpet, and a strange stench filled the air. He bought the fixer-upper in San Francisco's Bernal Heights neighborhood in October 2020, imagining the dream home it could one day become.
Instead, it's turned into a nightmare.
The first mistake this couple made was daring to dream in San Francisco.
There was a time when the city was one of the great urban jewels of the United States: Beautiful, well-appointed, fun, appealing, well-run. But those days are over, maybe permanently.
The Jiangs — Ben and Jennifer — sought to remodel their home and moved to get the necessary permits to do so. But the local byzantine regulations meant that "even the smallest changes" to their house were ensnarled in months and months of idiotic bureaucratic wrangling.
Meanwhile, the city's famously tenacious homeless population has discovered the house:
In November, people piled cinderblocks to make a ladder to scale the back fence, moved into the home's crawl space and started a fire inside that got so out of control, three fire trucks had to respond, Jiang said.
He's installed security cameras, which vandals broke, boarded up the crawl space so he can only access it with an ax, and fortified the house to keep people out. He said police have responded to reports of squatters at the house four times, but have never arrested anybody for squatting, instead just shooing them away.
Police eventually arrested one of seven squatters hanging out in the building, but "despite causing significant damage to the house and leaving behind a lot of drug paraphernalia, the rest were allowed to walk away."
Here's an example of one single room after the local homeless population has lived in it without consequence:
It's unjust, but the Jiangs have wisely decided that San Francisco is a losing battle, and they've had great success just a few miles outside of town, in nearby Millbrae:
They bought a house in Millbrae, quickly got permits for a similar remodel and have already begun the work. San Mateo County, a place where city governments seem to serve residents and where property crime is taken seriously, will be the family's forever home.
"Millbrae has welcomed us," Jiang said, contrasting that warm feeling with San Francisco. "The city is telling us to leave."