San Francisco's increasingly contentious debate between its rich and poor residents was neatly captured by the front page of the city's largest paper on Tuesday, comparing a struggling program for the homeless with the cost overruns of a yacht race last summer.
The city has become the unexpected epicenter of debate over income inequality thanks to protests centered around buses that carry Google employees from the city to the company's headquarters down the peninsula. That tension was heightened when a venture capitalist compared the protests to Nazi Germany.
And in the San Francisco Chronicle, as noted by Mother Jones' Clara Jeffery, the divide is obvious. Even the placement of the competing stories on the front page reflected the proper politics. On the left side, this story: "S.F.'s homeless outreach corps a threadbare team."
More than 3,400 homeless people live on the streets of San Francisco, but at any given time, just two to four city-funded outreach workers are on the clock trying to persuade them to accept housing, drug and alcohol counseling or mental health services.
The article outlines how the $3.3 million-a-year program, which hires the formerly homeless to enroll the city's homeless into existing programs, is not able to meet demand. In order to conduct outreach to all of the homeless in San Francisco, the budget would need to be at least doubled to $6.6 million, according to county supervisor Mark Farrell. And where is the cash-strapped city supposed to get that kind of money?
On the right side of the front page, this story: "America's Cup cost to S.F. more than doubles."
San Francisco's red ink from the 34th America's Cup doubled Monday, with updated figures showing the city lost $11.5 million hosting the event.
See, last summer San Francisco played host to the America's Cup, a chance for the extremely rich owners of yachts — almost none of whom are homeless — to show off those yachts and also perhaps win a trophy to put on the mantel of one of their homes. The city figured it would cost $5.5 million, or, put another way, just under 2 Homeless Programs. Instead, it cost the city almost 4 Homeless Programs.
The race is defended by arguing for the economic benefit it yielded the local economy through increased hotel and retail revenue. In 2010, that was projected at $1.4 billion. It ended up closer to $364 million. San Francisco is currently considering hosting the race again, at the encouragement of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. (His team won the race last year.)
We are not able at this time to report how much increased economic activity the homeless experienced as a result of the yacht race.