This story of San Francisco’s continuing degradation hits close to home

I grew up in San Francisco’s Sunset District, a once thriving working- and lower-middle-class neighborhood. An important place in that neighborhood was Stonestown, one of America’s first shopping malls, where generations of children shopped with their mothers and, when older, hung out on their own. It was safe, and there was food. Today, as San Francisco’s government continues its commitment to social Marxism, Stonestown is turning into a violent gang hangout, making it a microcosm of what’s happening to leftist cities across America.

Before World War II, San Francisco’s southwest corner was mostly undeveloped. There were vacation homes there because of the beach proximity, and some rumrunners’ houses, with secret garages, were built well up in the sand dunes.

In the mid-1920s, though, Henry Doelger started developing the entire region, with neighborhoods known as the Sunset and Westlake filling in the sand dunes with rows of well-built single-family homes. That stopped during World War II but resumed with a bang after the war ended because of the demand for homes from America’s Baby Boom families.

These planned communities, unlike older, more organic communities, didn’t have a nearby “Main Street” where the women could get their shopping done. Adjacent to the Sunset, there was West Portal, a shopping street developed along with the streetcar system, but that wasn’t enough for the Sunset’s and Westlake’s burgeoning populations.

Moreover, after WWII, families had cars, and Main Streets had too little parking. Enter the shopping mall or “shopping center,” an artificial Main Street with lots of surrounding parking.

In San Francisco, Henry and Ellis Stoneson created “Stonestown,” an open-air shopping center surrounded by accessible parking lots. The development eventually included apartment towers and a movie theater.

The anchor store was San Francisco’s iconic Emporium, eventually followed by a J. Magnin. The mall offered everything: restaurants, fabrics, music, toys, and clothes, as well as a Woolworth and a Walgreens.

Image: Stonestown in the 1950s-1970s.

Surrounding the mall were Quality Foods Incorporated, one of the first grocery stores; a “professional” building for doctors and dentists; a car dealership; and two high schools (Lowell High School and Mercy).

Growing up, I spent endless hours at Stonestown. My mother regularly shopped there, and we kids went with her. Because it was safe, she’d give us each a quarter, and off we’d go for our own adventures. Or she could drop us off at the movies, knowing we’d be safe until her return.

When I attended Lowell, which had an open campus, we’d head to Stonestown if we had time to kill between classes. We were good kids, and it was a safe place. The merchants didn’t mind us because we didn’t steal and did spend money.

In 1985, the old mall was demolished, and a shiny, new, two-story, generic covered mall appeared, complete with the high-end chain stores known across America (Nordstrom, Williams-Sonoma, Hold Everything, etc.). I still went there on rainy days after my oldest was born so we could get out of the house. There were always a lot of teens there, but they seemed innocuous.

How things have changed. Thanks to San Francisco’s radical left turn, a once-safe community hub has become dangerous:

Mobs of teenagers have clashed in a string of violent San Francisco mall brawls, caught on video in one melee attacking and stomping each other as well as seemingly innocent onlookers.

San Francisco police told Fox News Digital in a statement that three separate incidents took place at the Stonestown Galleria mall from March 15 to March 17 that involved groups of juveniles attacking each other or bystanders.


“I’m very scared,” food court vendor Guang Wei, who witnessed one of the fights at the food court, told CBS Bay Area. “I cannot continue to do business here in this kind of environment.”

Supervisor Joel Engardio told the station that the city is 500 police officers below where it should be for a city of its size.

“We need police officers to walk the beat, be on the street, be at shopping centers like Stonestown,” Engardio said. “We don’t have that luxury right now because we have so few police officers.”

The San Francisco Police Department has been battered by staffing shortages in recent years, with the force seeing a 12% decrease in its number of full-duty sworn officers from 2019 to 2022, CBS News reported last month. As of January, the department employed 1,537 police officers, far below the recommended 2,182 officers, according to city Supervisor Matt Dorsey.  

“San Francisco is on the precipice of a potentially catastrophic police staffing shortage, and there are too many public safety problems we’ll be helpless to solve if we don’t start solving SFPD’s understaffing crisis first,” Dorsey said in a statement earlier this year.

Mayor London Breed redirected $120 million from law enforcement to fund other city initiatives in 2020 as crime continued to surge in the city – with homicides increasing by 20% in 2020 compared to 2019. Homicides also increased 17% in 2021 compared to the previous year, according to city data.

I know this isn’t big news when you consider what Biden has done to America, but it’s worth noting because it perfectly illustrates what today’s leftists (unlike old-fashioned working-class Democrats) do to cities they govern: They focus solely on advancing Marxist social policies, and abandon a city’s most basic function, which is to keep its citizens safe.

San Francisco used to have a well-staffed, solidly working-class police force that wouldn’t countenance disorder. By the 1990s, though, the police department, like the rest of the city government, was moving left. It was more concerned with proving its social justice bona fides than protecting citizens.

For a while, the Dot Com money hid the incipient rot, thanks to shiny new building projects. Now, though, the rot is everywhere. We routinely see news stories about the open-air drug markets and homeless encampments in the more central parts of the city. It’s easy enough, though, to pass that off as the cost of urban living.

However, the Southwest part of the city was what I always called an urban suburb: It may have been within San Francisco’s borders, but it had wide streets, mostly fully detached homes, intact families, and safe common areas. Thanks to the leftists at the city’s helm, that’s gone too.

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