“In light of the conditions at the Federal Building we recommend employees maximize the use of telework for the foreseeable future,” an August memo from HHS (Department of Health and Human Services) read. Written by Cheryl R. Campbell, the department’s Assistant Secretary for Administration, the memo became necessary as a result of public safety concerns for employees at the 18-story Nancy Pelosi Federal Building.
Reports have it that Seventh and Mission Street, where the building (which houses the HHS, U.S Departments of Transportation and Labor, and many other federal agencies) is located, has become home to drug addicts and dealers.
The blooming open-air drug market has led to an increase in local crime and made the area unsafe for employees working there. This is even as the Federal Protective Services has collaborated with San Francisco Police to protect the federal building.
According to the memo, the recommendation for workers to begin remote work “should be extended to all Region IX employees, including those not currently utilizing telework flexibilities.” However, as of the time of writing this, no one knows for sure if the employees of other federal agencies in the building received a similar directive from their employers.
Ironically, the memo was released on August 4, the same day the White House urged more workers to resume on-site activities. It was also around the same time Rep. Pelosi had a meeting with the North District of California’s U.S. attorney. to deliberate on the safety of the Federal Building employees. However, according to The Chronicle, Pelosi’s staff haven’t received any advisory to begin remote work.
Looking at the rate of decline the San Francisco central business district is now facing, it’s hard to believe that the city was once a booming business/tech hub. Beyond the high crime rate and drug abuse problem, San Francisco’s downtown is also plagued by a high cost of living, skyrocketing rent rates, an increased number of layoffs in the tech industry, and lots more.
As if that was not enough, the COVID-19 pandemic came to make an already bad situation worse. The San Francisco area, compared to others, seems to be one of the worst hit and is still struggling to recover from the aftermath.
To describe how the drug problem has significantly impacted the area, experts refer to it as the epicenter for the “doom loop” of business closures and company pullouts. Retail heavyweights like Nordstrom Rack and Anthropologie in the area have shut down operations. Uniqlo too. Downtown pharmacies have locked up toiletries like toothpaste and shampoo amid daylight robbery incidents. It is truly a sorry case.
In the words of Frank Ma, a law enforcement officer cum business security advisor, “It really is that bad in SoMa…It doesn’t surprise me that government agencies can’t take it anymore either. Tenants in general have been fed up, and even the U.S. government knows when things have gotten that bad.” He revealed that his employees are reluctant to honor job requests in SoMa, and people are afraid to park their cars even in secure lots.
We hope that peace and normalcy are restored to the area soon enough. However, given the circumstances, the HHS’ decision to let their employees work from home seems like a pretty reasonable one.