An Open Letter Re: Encampment Fire on Octavia

Dear San Francisco Agencies:

RE: Encampment Sets Fire on Octavia

We’re bypassing the step of sending in another email or letter to describe our outrage; it’s apparent that emails don’t yield any response or action these days. Worth noting, our Co-Founder Richard Johnson sent this text regarding the fire:

Supervisor Preston, Captain Yep & Kyle this fire happened today around 4pm today on Octavia Blvd between Hickory & Fell on east side of blvd. In looking at the scene Ana, Mich & I met several concerned neighbors. Good news is no one was injured but bad news is this could have been worse. In speaking with one of the campers he stated it was started by a candle. In looking at the scene it seemed to be a hotter fire. Possibly a fire started by a fuel used to make or cook meth. This time we managed to avoid a major fire. All our neighbors had the same concern will next fire be a larger & have fatalities. Curious of each of your takes how we deescalate this safety hazard. Richard

We have yet to receive a word back from any of the addressed parties.

Our concern is simple: as residents and constituents we believe our public safety and quality of life is at great risk while we navigate sharing the streets with ‘campers’. The campers who are un-housed have been a staple on Octavia Boulevard for over a year and the situation has not improved, rather it has deteriorated. We’ve reached a tipping point when neighbors alike don’t feel safe walking with family, friends or dogs and can’t safely park their cars on a public street while fires are now part of the hazards that accompany encampments. Any one of our community members could have been in this fire’s path!

We would love a response to Richard’s text or this open letter though we aren’t holding our breath. Our City, its system and the blatant disregard to acknowledge this crisis continues to shock us at our core.

~ HVSafe Community

Read our updates on this incident here.

15 thoughts on “An Open Letter Re: Encampment Fire on Octavia”

  1. San Francisco is not a world class city – it’s a filthy mess of a city. I moved back to SF/Hayes Valley in January. What a surprise. The City is the absolute dirtiest, disgraceful place I have ever lived. Yes, the tolerance for homeless living on the sidewalk in front of our homes make for a dangerous, stinky mess. It’s even OK to cook illegal drugs on neighborhood sidewalks that result in fiery explosions. We allow thieves to steal $950 of shop owner’s goods without repercussion, and to then earn income from the sale of the stolen goods ‘around the corner.’ These problems are self-inflicted. The horrible outcomes (for law abiding and tax paying residents) reflect SF City leadership’s policies. These big problems will continue to drive quality residents out of San Francisco.

    From the Mayor’s home page: “As Mayor of this great City I will continue to advance bold and creative solutions to address our most challenging issues and work to ensure we have safe and clean neighborhoods,” this leadership group has zero credibility.

    Yes we have big problems in San Francisco, but even the simplest problems remain unsolved. One in particular is trash. We learned hundreds of years ago that trash removal is an important city service. Yet in San Francisco, there is trash and garbage everywhere. If I am not laser focused on the placement of each step, I end up with dog shit (and other feces) on my shoes when walking in the City. Trash cans are overflowing and grubby looking people empty trash cans onto surrounding sidewalks, presumably hunting for valuable items. With all the trash spread around and precious few trash cans with capacity, I even see residents and visitors contributing to the trashy mess. How can a world class city be unable to keep trash off its streets?

    Is San Francisco really a world class city with world class leadership? I think not. I see little, if any, evidence of competent leadership. This place has gone downhill, and the rate appears to be increasing. I plan to sell my SF home before valuations react to the low quality of SF life, and move to a safer, cleaner place with a much lower cost of living.

  2. I’ve lived in San Francisco my entire life and I’m appalled by the inaction of city leaders to keep our streets and community safe. I’m thankful no one was hurt because of this incident this time, but I could have just as easily been walking in the area with my two young children. The situation on Octavia Blvd is deplorable – tents blocking access to the sidewalk, open drug use, broken car windows, trash littering our streets. You try to explain why it’s not safe to walk to the neighborhood park to a 2 year old. Please do SOMETHING to bring back our beautiful streets and city!

    Thank you HVSafe for advocating for the community and helping us have a voice.

  3. I have lived in SF for 40 years and I also have reached a tipping point like most of neighbors here in HV. Who is looking out for our interest and protecting our safety and quality of life? The quality of life around my neighborhood on Lily st. & Octavia is abhorrent. I see piles of garage, tents, strangers urinating, dirty streets, car windows broken & the list goes on. As someone pointed out we are at a tipping point on resetting the button to have our issues addressed now ….not tomorrow. The system is broken and Supervisor Preston needs to show results to improve the quality of life for HV residents. Does he walk our streets and see what we see?
    How can we open up SF to tourists when we don’t feel safe & proud of our own neighborhood. It’s time to take action my fellows neighbors.

  4. This has happened before. Last month I called 911 to report a fire started by some street residents who were gathered around a fire during daytime rush hour traffic. I blame our city agencies and Supervisor Preston for encouraging this behavior by tolerating and in some cases giving out tents. This is not progressive. While Supervisor Preston works on making MUNI free; his efforts seem to be ignoring this drug and criminal crisis. Our BOS is tone deaf. Removing tents and increasing city wide safety must be a top priority. San Francisco has so much to offer but now it is a disgrace I have live in SF for 25 years.

  5. My GF is an OR nurse at St Francis. They have one of the most renown burn units there, and the vast majority of their patients are these “campers.” They’re coming in almost daily.

  6. Let’s not have a repeat of last summer’s camping season. We have vaccines now and can reopen the homeless shelters. There is no good reason to have semi-permanent tent camps on Octavia or anywhere else. Sup. Preston needs to get on this now before it becomes worse.

  7. I have lived in Hayes Valley for over 16 years and am seriously concerned with the lack of proper policing and the overall safety of our local and greater San Francisco community. I understand and respect the hardships that bring homeless individuals to the Bay Area, yet I don’t feel safe. We live in a wealthy city that is not protecting its taxed citizens giving only too much to help those fallen to continue without repercussion of their behaviors. Since living in this area I have had 9 broken car windows in Hayes Valley, two stolen vehicles, two slashed tires, my garage was broken into, and tools were stolen creating hardship for me to work and I had to pay out of pocket for all of this. Also, my best friend was mugged at knifepoint on Hayes street, multiple friends with break-ins on vehicles, neighbors with federal mailboxes tampered with, needles all over the streets, debris, garbage, and all-around an embarrassing state of a city. We are centrally located and in a rather flat terrain creating accessibility for those on foot to reside on our streets. It’s about time the elected politicians do their due diligence and stop preaching about the problems and ACT. I do not blame the police, I blame the lack of responsibility from those to who the police answer. To the failing government officials: take a walk around and look at the glass-filled streets and tell me this is safe while you ride around in police escort. This problem has been for YEARS. The explosion is another deep cry into the lack of care these homeless individuals need and policing to keep us safe. That car!!!!!! What does the owner of that car get out of all this?

  8. Thanks HVSafe for alerting our Neighbors / Friends about this untenable situation! We’re definitely lucky that the fire didn’t spread and cause more harm! The blast is in close proximity to a building that houses almost a 100 families; along with other wooden homes nearby too; all next to flammable trees and dry grass. SMH.

    WOW! This careless (criminal?) act could have displaced so many families / neighbors!

  9. Thanks HVSafe for advocating for the frustrated residents along Octavia. Thanks for taking my calls and listening. While I know it will take a village to move the pov on this crisis in a much needed direction, what I appreciate the most about your organization is the willingness to have the hard conversations. What’s going on here with the addicts in our streets is a crisis. Keep shining light on it.
    Your meetings with Thomas helped me understand the shift we need to take as a city and a community on the drug scene affecting so many on the streets.
    ps. so glad your not doing those boring dog and pony show public safety meetings any more. Frankly they are a waste of time to attend.

  10. As a long time resident of HV I have never seen crime or been threatened like the past couple of years. In many instances as I walk my two nieces to get ice cream I have to cross the boulevard, just to pass around the tents and people shooting up. I am so glad that we were not walking past the explosion when it happened. Please do not push this incident under the rug. There is a problem here which must be addressed to open our neighborhood safely for all residents and businesses.

  11. Time to “open up” again for tourist dollars? Are you kidding me? The homeless situation was out of control BEFORE the shelter-in-place took effect. This quality-of-life issue is not only of concern for property owners but also for those who are WITHout property. Jennifer Friedenbach of Coalition on Homelessness has been advocating on behalf of the unhoused for many months if not years. It is imperative for the creation of Compassionate Alternative Response Team (CART) . I am frankly weary of Mayor Breed’s smiling face. Her June 1st Budget Report did nothing to allay my concerns re unhoused hundreds who have been living on the streets for more years than I care to count.

  12. Everyone should be encouraged to call the northern station and complain directly to captain Yep. City officials are just waiting for someone to get seriously injured or worse. Thank you HVSafe for your dedication to improving the neighborhood.

  13. The tents are making a public space unusable. As a resident who walks to Patricia Green and Hayes street on a daily basis the sidewalk is unsafe. What is it going to take for the city to move the tents? There are other options and areas for people who need somewhere to sleep. This is unacceptable!!

  14. The very next day of the fire, I saw one of the guys with an orange torch lighting a foil – next to the debris! Are we waiting for a disaster to act? The fact that the tents are still at that site is completely unacceptable and a slap on the face for all residents, kids and our handicapped neighbors. Please make this right before another fire strikes!

  15. The tents on Octavia has been a serious hazard for far too long. Thanks HVSafe for your advocacy on this subject. I too share in the frustration with city’s lack of responsiveness. These tents are too close trees, buildings, walkways and cars. We’re lucky that this fire did not cause more harm. Let me know how I can volunteer my help.


Leave a Comment