For residents of the San Francisco Bay Area hoping to stay warm and cozy in front of their fireplaces this chilly rain filled Christmas, authorities have reminded them that wood burning is prohibited.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District has issued a Spare the Air Alert from Dec 22 to Christmas Day, banning burning wood, manufactured logs, or any other solid fuel both indoors and outdoors.
The mandate, which sees those who violate the rule receiving a $100 fine and those who repeat offend up to $500, hope it will reduce the risk of carcinogenic substance related respiratory illnesses from fine particulate pollution which comes from wood smoke.
But questions remain, why authorities have focused their attention on festive fun as rampant drug use continues to plague the streets with thousands roaming the city openly smoking crack and meth.
San Francisco Bay Area residents have been banned from using wood fires – the city’s priorities were called into question as rampant drug use continues
Sharon Landers, interim executive officer of the Air District said the mandate was for the health of residents in the city
‘Unfortunately, weather conditions are leading to significant smoke pollution build-up throughout the region that is expected to cause unhealthy air quality through the Christmas holiday,’ said Sharon Landers, interim executive officer of the Air District.
‘It’s vital that we refrain from burning wood to reduce air pollution so all Bay Area residents can enjoy a healthier, happier holiday weekend.’
These conditions are not new, earlier this week, an ugly, brownish haze blanketed the Bay Area, creating ‘gross-looking’ conditions, SFGATE reported.
As of Dec 22, the air pollution level in San Francisco was moderate but in Oakland reached unhealthy levels.
Air district spokesperson Tina Landis said that fireplaces and wood stoves from residences are mostly to blame.
‘In the wintertime, wood burning is actually the number one source of pollution, which is kind of shocking, but there are 1.7 million fireplaces in the Bay Area,’ she told the outlet.
Cold evening temperatures, combined with everyone home for the holidays, leads to more people gathering around the fire.
‘People tend to burn more,’ she said, adding that low, light winds and pollution wafting from the Central Valley also contribute to the problem.
Landis said that the air pollution is so bad, it’s obscuring her view from San Francisco’s Mission District. ‘I can barely see downtown. It’s so hazy,’ she said.
But while the city has banned the use of log fires this Christmas, a stricter crackdown on drug use appears to have alluded authorities.
One ex-addict said that in San Francisco that ‘open drug use has been normalized’ in the city
The city planned to establish 12 new drug consumption sites or ‘wellness hubs’ – but those plans have been stalled due to legal and logistical issues
Supervised drug consumption sites remain illegal under federal law, and the health department said the Department of Justice ‘has yet to articulate a path forward’
San Francisco is governed by a leadership enamored by its progressive, humanitarian self-image that the idea of enforcing laws, even ones that save people’s lives like controlling drug sales and consumption, has come to be regarded as reactionary and lack luster.
‘Open drug use has been normalized to the point there are blocks where the entire sidewalk is filled with people passed out or getting high,’ Kevin Lee, a San Francisco resident who is in recovery himself told the New York Post in October.
‘There is not enough emphasis on creating access to treatment.’
The city planned to establish 12 new drug consumption sites or ‘wellness hubs’ where people can use drugs under the supervision of trained staff.
Plans to open these hubs by June next year have now stalled according to the San Francisco Chronicle because of legal and logistical issues.
The health department said in a statement earlier this month that opening 12 hubs is no longer accurate, and the timeline and certainty of opening any site is unclear.
‘The city is not planning to open 12 new drug consumption sites,’ the statement read.
‘Proposals evolve and are revised based on a number of factors, including legal barriers at the state and national level.’
The department’s published overdose prevention plan in September said the city would establish at least two wellness hubs in one to two years, and more within three to four years.
The health department previously said some hubs would likely allow drug use and provide overdose prevention services and isn’t refuting that’s still the expectation.
But the department cited ‘multiple legal barriers at the local, state, and national level’ and did not commit to a timeline in its statement for opening any hub.
Air district spokesperson Tina Landis said that fireplaces and wood stoves from residences are mostly to blame for air pollution in the city
The health department said some hubs would likely allow drug use and provide overdose prevention services and isn’t refuting that’s still the expectation – if they are established
Supervised drug consumption sites remain illegal under federal law, and the health department said the Department of Justice ‘has yet to articulate a path forward’ about how they will treat supervised consumption sites.
Its bungled predecessor, which was supposed to put addicts in touch with rehab facilities, but was revealed by DailyMail.com to operating as a secret illegal drug use site has since closed.
The Tenderloin Center was opened by San Francisco Mayor London Breed at the beginning of the year to tackle the city’s ongoing drug crisis and cost about $22million to operate.
The site was often referred to as a ‘safe place’ for addicts to ‘get high without getting robbed,’ according to one person who used the center.
In the first four months of the center’s opening, was said to only refer 18 people of the more than 23,000 it welcomed into the site.
Overall less than one per cent of visits ended in a ‘completed linkage’ to behavioral health programs.
City leaders, including Breed, now say the site was a ‘temporary solution’ offered up as a way to avoid the more than 640 overdose deaths San Francisco saw in 2021.
Despite their efforts, 2022 has been nearly just as deadly as more than 500 people have died from overdoses throughout the California city. In 2021, there were 641.
Officials had also hoped the site would offer a place to deal with the homeless crisis the city has faced in recent months and years.
Some estimates indicate that hundreds of people visited the Tenderloin Center while it was open, and more than 350 overdoses were reversed at the location.
Mayor Breed had originally allotted just $10 million for the project but it quickly ballooned to more than double that estimate.
In total, some 400 individuals were provided with assistance each day, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
A large portion of those who took advantage of the site used it specifically for shelter or food, though.
Earlier this year, Gina McDonald with Mothers Against Drug Deaths (MADD) wrote an op-ed for DailyMail.com in which she described the site as ‘dystopian.’
‘The linkage center was never intended to be a place where people could come to do drugs, but that is exactly what has happened,’ the mother whose own daughter had become addicted to heroin at one point.
In October, Breed signaled a U-turn in her approach to the city’s rampant drug use by backtracking on some of her ‘soft touch’ ways.
The site introduced by the mayor and city officials were pitched as a way to provide those battling addiction a place to safely engage in drug activity without fear of dying.
Some have said however that it quickly turned into spots where people are able to take drugs ‘without anyone going to jail.’