Board of Supervisors Approves Mayor Breed's Legislation to Increase Nighttime Safety in the Tenderloin

The approved legislation will create a pilot program to limit the late-night operating hours of certain retail establishments, including smoke shops, as one part of comprehensive strategy to disrupt nighttime drug markets
June 18, 2024

San Francisco, CA —Today, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve legislation introduced by Mayor N. Breed to prohibit retail establishments selling prepackaged food or tobacco products from operating between 12 a.m. (midnight) to 5 a.m. or from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. for businesses that sell liquor to discourage loitering and crowding in part of the Tenderloin. Today’s vote ensures that San Francisco has another tool to help prevent drug-related crimes and crowds, which cause fear among residents and unsafe street conditions in the Tenderloin.  

During City outreach efforts, Tenderloin residents shared direct feedback noting the late-night operation of retail shops as a contributing factor to the drug markets in the Tenderloin. The legislation was developed in partnership with residents, community-serving organizations, and businesses in the neighborhood as part of Mayor London N. Breed’s comprehensive strategy to disrupt open-air drug markets, which have helped fuel the overdose crisis in San Francisco.   

Small businesses in the Tenderloin hope that this effort to improve the safety of the area will empower residents to shop in the daytime and early evenings creating a more vibrant neighborhood for locals and visitors.    

“The drug markets happening at night in this neighborhood are unacceptable and must be met with increased law enforcement and new strategies, but this must be done in partnership with community, which we are doing,” said Mayor London Breed. “Residents, business owners and workers have raised their concerns again and again, and it is imperative that we listen to them as we continue our efforts to make the Tenderloin safer for everyone. This is a good example of turning community feedback into real action because everyone in the Tenderloin deserves safe streets not just during the day, but also at night.”    

San Francisco’s Tenderloin district experiences a significant amount of drug-related crime, including narcotics offenses and gun-related crimes, frequently connected with drug offenses. This neighborhood is also home to many lower income and immigrant families. These shops are important for the residents who primarily do their shopping during the morning, day, or early evening hours.  

Late-night drug markets result in large crowds, often involved in illicit activity. These gatherings increase environmental hazards, like needles and waste, often lead to criminal behavior and violent crime which hinder law enforcement. Prohibiting these businesses from operating only between midnight and 5 a.m. strikes a balance between supporting the shops and the community while causing minimal financial impact.  

How the Legislation Will Work  

This legislation would create a two-year pilot program, during which retail food and tobacco establishments in a high-crime area of the Tenderloin police district are prohibited from opening to the public from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m., or from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. if subject to regulation by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. The legislation would not apply to restaurants, bars, or event halls. The area is defined as between O’Farrell and McAllister and from Polk to Jones. 

For each hour a store operates in violation of the ordinance, there will be an administrative citation that carries a fine of up to $1,000, with warnings given each hour of violation after the first, and with no limit on the maximum number of fines. In the case that a store becomes a repeat violator, the City Attorney can file a lawsuit seeking a court order to make the business comply with the hours limitation and to pay any owed fines. The goal of this initiative is to improve the health and wellbeing of the families with children and seniors who live in the Tenderloin; it is not intended to punish small businesses.   

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) will be issuing the administrative fines based on evidence and investigation from the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), which will serve as the eyes, ears, and feet on the ground; the department will conduct investigations, obtain evidence, and give warnings to shops that are violating the ordinance.   

"San Francisco is making progress in dismantling the pernicious drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods, but we can't let up," said SFPD Chief Bill Scott. "This legislation will assist our hard-working officers in their work to hold drug dealers accountable and make the streets safer for everyone. I want to thank Mayor London Breed for her commitment to this work and her vision in continuing to find ways to address these challenges."     

“The City is working alongside the community to make our neighborhoods safer, and the vast majority of businesses are contributing to our neighborhoods in meaningful ways,” said City Attorney David Chiu. “But, there are a handful of late-night retail establishments in the Tenderloin that appear to attract significant nighttime drug activity, and this legislation will give the City an additional tool to deter that activity. Once finally passed, my Office will work with other City departments to ensure compliance with the proposed legislation.” 

DMACC Efforts 

Mayor Breed launched the Drug Market Agency Coordination Center (DMACC) in May 2023, activating resources across the City to dismantle the illegal drug markets in the Tenderloin and South of Market neighborhoods. State and federal partners have joined the effort, leading to an unprecedented number of arrests of drug dealers and drug seizures. 

Since May 28, 2023, SFPD has seized over 225 kilos of narcotics and made more than 3,400 arrests related to drug activity in these neighborhoods, including more than 1,400 drug dealers and over 1,500 drug users arrested. For fentanyl seizures, over 77 million lethal doses have been seized since the start of DMACC. Conditions have improved along some of the most challenged streets as officers continue to make progress in other areas.   

The DMACC efforts initially focused on eliminating daytime drug markets, but due to worsening street conditions in recent months, the focus has extended to nighttime operations, bringing more enforcement of drug sales and illegal fencing by local, state, and federal agencies.  

Additionally, nighttime service outreach efforts led by SFDPH have continued to take place. As part of DMACC, the City engages regularly with residents to coordinate, update, and seek solutions to improve the community. 

Mayor Breed introduced the legislation in April following months of City-led engagement efforts to Tenderloin community members and stakeholders that included a police community meeting and door to door outreach to businesses in the proposed zone. A petition in support of the Mayor’s legislation was delivered to the Board of supervisors on June 14, 2024, with 521 signatures of Tenderloin residents and service workers; over a dozen community-serving organizations submitted a letter in support. 

This legislation is part of Mayor Breed’s Drug Market Agency Coordination Center (DMACC) efforts, a multi-agency strategy to disrupt and dismantle open-air drug markets. This effort is led by law enforcement and targets open-air drug sales, public drug use, and illegal fencing that fuels illegal drug markets.   

Community Support for Tenderloin Retail Hours Restriction Pilot Program 

“Throughout the past 19 years, we have maintained a close relationship with the residents of the Tenderloin, who inform us of their challenges in the neighborhood, but today, we are concerned about the increase in crimes, acts of violence, and insecurity that occur at night,” said Johana Ramirez, Trans woman and leader from La Voz Latina. “Many retail establishments selling cigarettes and alcohol products are open 24 hours a day, which contributes to the perception of our neighborhood as dangerous, as there is no policy that regulates their hours of operation until now. This policy has been very well-received by residents, including myself – it will provide us with more peace of mind when traveling at night, as 85% of the residents work night shifts cleaning offices and restaurants. Our children will also benefit from this proposal, as they will be under less stress. We hope that our voices will be heard and that we can create a safe and historic neighborhood.”  

“Our community has long suffered from the consequences of nighttime activities that threaten our safety and well-being,” said Khaled Ghaleb, Imam of the Tenderloin-based Mosque, Darussalam. “This legislation not only represents a decisive action towards curbing illegal activities but also reinforces our collective responsibility to nurture a safe, welcoming environment for all of our residents, worshipers, and youth.”  

"The Tenderloin is a multilingual mosaic, home to thousands of young people, seniors, single adults, and families who all deserve to feel safe at any hour in their neighborhood," said Kate Robinson, Executive Director of the Tenderloin Community Benefit District (TLCBD). "The enhanced coordination we are seeing amongst City partners is yielding tangible results, especially in the daytime, and this renewed focus on quelling known nighttime trouble spots will put us on a renewed path towards a sustainable future for residents." 

“We see this initiative as a crucial step toward revitalizing our community,” said Abdul Alrammah of Yemen Kitchen. “Closing retail businesses at midnight allows us to focus on quality daytime service and contributes to a healthier, more vibrant neighborhood. It’s about creating a community space that feels lively throughout the day, and secure during the night- ultimately benefiting all local businesses and residents alike.”