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Will Hearing on Blighted Properties Bring Action on ‘Gambling Shack’ Issue?

If you have been faithfully reading the Light over the last two or three months, dear reader, you know that I’ve been investigating a particular form of urban blight: small time organized crime.

In the past two years, ever since the legislature closed the legal loophole allowing internet cafes operate sweepstakes gaming were eradicated, old fashioned gambling shacks—storefronts where old school gambling, narcotics use, after hours drinking and prostitution occur—have returned or, in the least, become more brazen. It has been estimated there are between 12 and 20 gambling shacks operating in the area. Evidence points to two individuals running a half dozen or so each.

If you have been faithfully reading the Light over the last two or three months, dear reader, you know that I’ve been investigating a particular form of urban blight: small time organized crime.

In the past two years, ever since the legislature closed the legal loophole allowing internet cafes operate sweepstakes gaming were eradicated, old fashioned gambling shacks—storefronts where old school gambling, narcotics use, after hours drinking and prostitution occur—have returned or, in the least, become more brazen. It has been estimated there are between 12 and 20 gambling shacks operating in the area. Evidence points to two individuals running a half dozen or so each.

These operations take up precious small business storefronts on our commercial corridors that are struggling with high rent blight, development and other hardships. Each also generates all sorts of criminal activity from armed robbery to public intoxication.

Although these operations are not confined to District 11, Supervisor John Avalos will be holding a hearing on the matter along with blighted residential properties on Oct. 15 at the Board of Supervisors’ Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee meeting.

Representatives from the City Attorney, District Attorney, San Francisco Police Department, Department of Building Inspection and Public Works will be on hand to provide information and field questions. At least two neighborhood watch groups will speak about their concerns.

Supervisor Avalos told me that he believes city agency coordination may be the single largest contributing factor slowing the closure of gambling shack operations. However, he also said that enforcement of the law is not equally distributed. He believes more affluent neighborhoods are likely getting better, more comprehensive service from all city departments.

I am inclined to agree. San Francisco operates under a rule of complaint-based enforcement. Those who complain the longest and loudest get the most service. Since time is money and people who have more money tend to have more time, it can be reasoned they can be much more vocal about their needs. You can bet on that.

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You’ve seen the headlines. City College will be in the clear with the accreditation commission for a long while. But should the mega junior college be in good graces with the residents surrounding Ocean Campus? That is a question I ask myself when I hear complaints about beginning-of-the-semester traffic, the Orfaela Family Center lawsuit or the need for a first class performing arts center.

Although the Science Hall is a stunning landmark, many residents do not see the college’s flagship campus as a shining beacon on the hill. When it comes to urban issues City College is strangely suburban. The 2004 master plan, which was hardly executed, shall be replaced soon. City College has chosen a consultant to produce its new, but already overdue, master plan. I look forward to participating in that process as a member of the Balboa Park Station Community Advisory Committee.

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It may be over a year before the odd supervisor districts are up for grabs, but that does not mean there is no movement.

For District 11, Ahsha Safai, a moderate who narrowly lost to John Avalos in 2008, has already filed his paperwork. It’s been reported that Kimberly Alvarenga may run as the progressive candidate. It expected there will be a dozen hopefuls vying for the seat.

In District 7, Norman Yee told the Westside Observer in a mid-term interview that he fully intends to run for a second term.

I inquired whether F.X. Crowley, who Yee narrowly beat, planned to run. His statement: “As a lifelong D7 resident, I share my neighbors’ concerns about funding for public safety, erosion of our west side neighborhood character and quality of life. In respect to the 2016 Supervisorial race, I am keeping my options open and will let you know if my status changes.”

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In other political news, Francisco Herrera, a resident of the Excelsior, is running against Mayor Ed Lee. It’s nice to see the E being represented.

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