Grime and crime are back in San Francisco just weeks after the cleanup for Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit earlier this month, one new resident says, and he’s stunned by what he has seen.
“This is a disgrace. I’ve been to 50-plus countries and traveled the world. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Jeremy Bernier told FOX News’ Carley Shimkus on Monday.
“It’s just ground zero of the fentanyl crisis. You’ve got people literally smoking fentanyl, taking these drugs out on the streets. You’ve got the tents and camps while you’ve got a playground with children playing right nearby, and this is blocks away from the mayor’s office. It’s just unbelievable to me that a city and country with such immense wealth can have such blatant poverty and suffering.”
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Bernier’s comments join a chorus of complaints about crime, filth, drug use and homelessness that have plagued the city for years. Some business owners have been forced to shutter in light of the dilemmas, including popular vegan eatery Gracias Madre, which closed after more than a decade earlier this year.
More recently, restaurant owner Tony Pankaew lamented that the city is deteriorating back to its natural state after rushing to clean up ahead of Jinping’s visit for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit where he met with President Biden earlier this month.
Bernier himself witnessed the contrast. The software engineer arrived in San Francisco a week before Jinping, and the cleanup left him pleasantly surprised.
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“I came into San Francisco expecting the worst because all over social media, it looks terrible, right? When I arrived in San Francisco, actually, I was surprised that it seemed really clean and fine,” he said.
“Yes, there were the bad areas around the Civic Center area, but the good areas were really fine. So I thought, ‘Wow. The media is showing an overly dystopian view of it.’ Then I left the city for a couple of weeks, just arrived back here on Saturday, walked through the Tenderloin [district], and I saw that,” he said, pointing out images he captured of homelessness in the city.
“Either it was cleaned up for Xi Jinping, and then it got bad, or they never cleaned up after Jinping.”
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom received criticism for the massive cleanup effort, which he acknowledged during the unveiling of a new program to plant trees in urban neighborhoods as part of his Clean California initiative.
“I know folks are saying, ‘Oh they’re just cleaning up this place because all those fancy leaders are coming to town.’ That’s true, because it’s true,” he said.
“It’s also true for months and months and months before APEC, we’ve been having different conversations and we’ve raised the bar of expectation between the city, the county, and the state and our federal partners,” he added.
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The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) replied to the acknowledgment with a post on X, writing in part, “Why will they [Democrats] clean up for China but not Californians?”
Bernier, however, said the issue is a “human” issue instead of partisan.
“Whatever your party is, you can look at this and see this needs to be solved,” he said.
“This is a crisis. We’ve just got to come together and solve it. It’s just it’s a matter of just having the willpower to solve it.”
FOX News’ Jeffrey Clark contributed to this report.