SAN FRANCISCO—On Thursday, December 23 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to approve Mayor London N. Breed’s State of Emergency Declaration in the Tenderloin District, officially allowing San Francisco to waive certain laws to address people dying of drug overdoses on the streets of the neighborhood as part of the Mayor’s Tenderloin Emergency Intervention Plan.

This action will eliminate bureaucratic barriers, allowing San Francisco to quickly implement public health solutions relating to the health and safety of the people in the Tenderloin. The overdose problem worsened over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the recent rapidly deteriorating conditions in the region caused by the opioid crisis put the lives of San Franciscans in serious risk.

“The Tenderloin needs change, and that requires us to do things different,” said Mayor Breed. “We showed during COVID that when we’re able to use an Emergency Declaration to cut through the bureaucracy and barriers that get in the way of decisive action, we can get things done and make real, tangible progress. It will take that same focus and coordination in the Tenderloin to make a meaningful change to this neighborhood that has been held back for too long. I want to thank the members of the Board that voted to support this urgent response and who understand that he people who live in the Tenderloin deserve better and the people suffering on our streets deserve better.”

The Emergency Declaration allows San Francisco to expedite the implementation of emergency programs like waiving rules around contract procurement and waiving zoning and planning codes to rapidly open a temporary linkage site where people with substance use issues can obtain behavioral health services and get off the street. The Emergency Declaration will apply to actions taken within the boundaries of the Tenderloin Police District. It will be amended to waive certain laws around hiring, which allows for the expedited hiring of 200 behavioral health clinicians to fill current vacancies.

“In an emergency, people need resources immediately not months from now. An emergency declaration allows San Francisco to cut through the red tape and obtain the contracts, resources and personnel to address the crisis conditions in the Tenderloin,” said Mary Ellen Carroll, Executive Director, San Francisco Department of Emergency Management. “We only have to look at our COVID response to see how an emergency declaration allowed us to quickly lease hotels, hire critical staff and establish testing and vaccine sites. Today’s action will expedite the opening of a linkage center and other essential resources.”

“Overdose deaths are a public health crisis in the Tenderloin neighborhood that requires an urgent and compassionate response,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of Health. “San Francisco has shown what we can achieve when we come together for a common public health goal. At the Department of Public Health, we have evidence-based health tools to support people with mental health and substance use disorders. These tools save lives and support our residents on their path to wellness and recovery. The Emergency Declaration provides us with a critical opportunity to greatly expand our services and connect many more people to resources, care, treatment, and safety.”

“We are grateful that the City and the Mayor will now have the tools needed to address the public health emergency in the Tenderloin,” said Simon Bertrang, Executive Director, Tenderloin Community Benefit District. “We saw that this kind of response – led by the Department of Emergency Management – has worked to guide San Francisco through the pandemic, and now people who live and work in the Tenderloin can expect some relief from the crisis that has taken over their sidewalks.”