Venture capital tech elites threatened by San Francisco’s homelessness and crime are pushing for a recall of San Francisco’s progressive district attorney, Chesa Boudin. Citing an astronomical increase in crime, former San Francisco mayoral candidate Richie Greenberg initiated the petition to recall Boudin. During his mayoral campaign, Greenberg also made it clear that he opposed San Francisco’s sanctuary city status for undocumented immigrants, and he expressed support for a fully funded and staffed San Francisco Police Department.
In contrast, since taking office in January 2020, Boudin has built a reputation as one of the most progressive DAs in the country. He understands the horrors and lasting effects of mass incarceration; both of his parents, were members of the radical Weather Underground Movement and imprisoned during his childhood. He won his election with support from communities of color who wanted to make the criminal justice system less racist and improve public safety without imprisoning more people. In his first year as San Francisco’s DA, Boudin did this by ordering his office to stop asking for cash bail, reducing the jail population, and prosecuting police officers who beat or killed suspects, all of which earned him praise from supporters.
According to police data, crime in San Francisco decreased during Boudin’s first year in office, with violent crime dropping as well; incidents of rape decreased by more than 50 percent; robberies by 29 percent, and assaults by 12 percent, compared to the previous year. Homicides increased in 2020, with many US cities experiencing a surge in homicides, including those with Republican mayors and strict-on-crime district attorneys. The pandemic likely increased the number of homicides and burglaries in San Francisco and numerous other US cities.
Radical change breeds backlash, and the disruption of the old ways seemed to especially bristle some tech investors, many of whom have businesses in or near San Francisco. For weeks, the tech elite claimed the city was becoming uninhabitable under Boudin, with a growing scourge of crime and homelessness, and some even demanded that he step down from office.
Backlash against reform-minded district attorneys is not new in San Francisco. Black women district attorneys have faced harsh opposition as well. There is a clear disconnect between wealthy tech investors and San Francisco communities of color who have sought criminal justice reform for decades. It is unclear whether the recall campaign will pose an actual risk to the progressive DA. Greenberg and the wealthy petitioners will need to gather more than 50,000 valid signatures to force him out.
Elina Lingappa, “Former GOP SF Mayoral Candidate Richie Greenberg Behind SF District Attorney Recall Effort,” The Davis Vanguard, February 24, 2021, https://www.davisvanguard.org/2021/02/former-gop-sf-mayoral-candidate-richie-greenberg-behind-sf-district-attorney-recall-effort.
Samantha Michaels and Lil Kalish, “VC Lives Matter”: Silicon Valley Investors Want to Oust San Francisco’s Reformist DA,” Mother Jones, March 31, 2021, www.motherjones.com/politics/2021/03/vc-lives-matter-silicon-valley-investors-want-to-oust-san-franciscos-reformist-da.
Student Researcher: Aundria De La Fuente (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)