S.F.P.D. to 6th Street: We’re Watching You (from 9a.m. – 6p.m.)

by Live SoMa

A brutal robbery turned attempted murder at a local Sixth Street restaurant late last week has helped to point a spotlight on our seeded underbelly- so much so that the SFPD has added a Mobile Command Unit to the epicenter of the problem.

You may recall a post from earlier this week where we mentioned a couple of incidents that occurred last Friday on Sixth Street and Stevenson (near the future location of Twitter and in eye’s view of Burning Man’s Future Headquarters). 

Yesterday, I had a chance to spend an interesting couple of hours with the victim of the heinous crime, Steve Barton, who owns the Passion Cafe (28 Sixth St.). 

Barton, who is perhaps the most vocal advocate for helping to revitalize this troubled part of our neighborhood, discussed the incident in detail. 

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The Backstory

Last Friday morning at 3 a.m., a group of (rather absent-minded) individuals broke into the front service window of the Passion Cafe. While they appeared to be familiar with the interior of the restaurant, they overlooked the cash registers and bee-lined straight to a number of the Cafe’s flat-screen televisions. They spent two hours moving a ladder around and removing the tv’s from the brick walls, grabbing a business computer and an iPod deck on the way out.

At about 7 a.m., Mr. Barton arrived for a busy day at work. As soon as he walked in, he noticed the missing stuff and immediately went downstairs to review footage from their surveillance cameras (which they have posted all over the restaurant). Shortly after he sat down to review the footage, he heard footsteps directly above him, though he wasn’t expecting anyone to arrive. 

As he cautiously walked up the stairs to see what was going on, one of the robbers came flying around the corner with two handles of liquor, slammed one over Mr. Barton’s head and shoved him back down the flight of stairs.

Though Mr. Barton was severely injured, he says his adrenaline kicked in and allowed him to immediately get up and run after the thug, catching up and tackling him in the alley next to his restaurant. You can see photos and video of the bloody aftermath right here.

From what Barton told me, this was the third offense by the suspect he tackled on the ground, and he’ll be going away for a very long time (assuming he doesn’t hire Jeff Adachi to find some sort of lapse in SFPD Judgement that allows him to get dropped back off in front of Passion Cafe… more on that in a second).

What boggles my mind about this criminal idiot and his cronies is that they took their time (nearly two hours according to surveillance footage) removing tv’s from the Cafe, and then realized that they had forgotten some evidence (including fingerprints and a crack pipe) inside. He returned to wipe down the prints and grab the pipe. Mr. Barton added that this moron wiped his prints off a ladder that he used to get to the flatscreens but then proceeded to move the ladder with his bare hands. His buddies also peered directly into the security cameras to see if they were working. Obviously, they were professionals!

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The Aftermath

As of yesterday, the San Francisco Police, as well as Supervisor Jane Kim had been heavily involved in making this situation right. Mr. Barton even mentioned the fact that he received upwards of a half dozen phone calls from Ms. Kim and her office, all while Jane was away in New York for the weekend.

In addition, they have had a Mobile Command Unit parked across the street from Passion Cafe, as well as a noticeable increase in foot patrols walking up and down Sixth.

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Enter the Local News Media

While I was hanging out with Mr. Barton, a local news reporter showed up to inquire about the incident- quite literally as Barton and I were discussing how more media awareness was necessary in order to ensure the Mobile Command Unit stayed until the Proposed Police Substation was constructed and opened. (Note: The reporter was carrying a printout of the story he had read right here, on LiveSOMA!)

Here’s my problem with the local media. As far as I’m concerned, this is a small part of a very sensational news story. A bloody robbery/attempted murder that is an isolated incident on a street that is known for its madness. Why don’t they use this as a vehicle to bombard the Bay Area with the problem and try to find a solution? I even sent them an email with about ten other recent incidents to share with their viewers.

Passion Cafe Owner, Steve Barton being interviewed about a recent incident.

Obviously, it’s easier to grab a couple soundbytes and bury the real story to focus on whatever new start-up or government misstep they can find. In fact, the reporter who showed up, spent about an hour interviewing us for the story, and then was called off to a Press Conference at Jeff Adachi’s office to announce a new probe into whether or not some police officers in the Mission illegally searched a man they claim to have seen selling drugs and (shocker) found “1.8 grams of crack cocaine, a baggie of marijuana, a digital scale and packaging material” in his apartment.

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The Result

The result of our media expose? We spoke of a general belief by Sixth Street Businesses and Residents that the City has turned their backs on the area and created a containment zone that they have chosen to ignore rather than hold accountable. They sent in a secondary reporter who didn’t have any idea about the story, and turned it into a 2 minute fluff piece buried in the middle of the newscast.

They asked me what can be done to fix Sixth Street, and I proposed the “groundbreaking” concept of starting by regulating the sale of crack pipes and alcohol in Sixth Street (and Tenderloin) convenience stores. They asked me if a solution would be to close SRO Hotels along the corridor and I said that it’s not about closing the SRO’s, it’s about holding the owners and operators accountable for their resident’s actions.

After all, when a customer at Passion Cafe gets noticeably drunk, Passion Cafe becomes liable if said customer leaves and kills someone on the road. Why don’t the same principles apply to the owners of Single Room Occupancy Hotels and the convenience stores who have been spotted selling liquor to individuals who literally crawl into the store because they’re too drunk to stand at 8 a.m.?

One of the direct quotes I provided? “I don’t understand how this City can regulate the toys in Happy Meals but not hold the owners of these SRO’s accountable for the behavior of their residents and visitors.”

I’ve heard from other business owners along Sixth Street who have told me that there are elderly residents in some of these hotels who are too afraid to leave their rooms at any hour of the day because of the hourly/nightly guests that these hotels allow to enter. 

The quote that this newscast went with? “If this happened anywhere else in San Francisco, it wouldn’t be tolerated.” Are you serious, KTVU?!?!?

No wonder nothing is getting done on Sixth Street. Nobody wants to address it because it’s a tough problem. It’s a problem the City has intentionally created by placing recovering addicts and low income housing in a hot zone full of accessible liquor stores and welfare benefits and services.

But hey, at least you can enjoy a quiet Sunday Brunch in the Marina! Hell, you might even see Pat Burrell picking up some chicks.

I thought it fitting that I came across this pile of hypodermic needles and other waste as I walked out of the corridor.

Pile of Garbage and Needles on Sixth Street

Look a little closer, people. This is part of our neighborhood.

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