San Francisco threatens to sue McDonald’s over drug dealing

Sam Harnett Jun 8, 2015
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San Francisco threatens to sue McDonald’s over drug dealing

Sam Harnett Jun 8, 2015
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There’s an area right by Golden Gate Park in Haight-Ashbury that’s known as a place to buy marijuana and psychedelics. The city has tried for decades to “clean up” the drug dealing. Now, it is putting pressure on one specific business—the local McDonald’s.

Drugs are part of Haight-Ashbury’s legacy—you know, Summer of Love, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, LSD. That past still draws a certain crowd. Drifters go to play music, panhandle, and smoke pot. Many congregate on the edge of the park around McDonald’s and some offer drugs to people passing by.

The city says the situation has gotten out of hand, and that serial drug dealers are doing business on McDonald’s property. It sent a letter to both McDonald’s Corporation and the local franchisee. The gist was that the business had to crack down on the illegal activity or risk a lawsuit.

Megan Cesare-Eastman is an attorney with the city. She says, “All we’re asking them to do is to take reasonable steps to change some of their operating procedures to make their property less attractive for that illegal activity to occur.”

The city is not specifying exactly what the business would have to do, but Cesare-Eastman says it should be something along the lines of adding security or putting up a fence around the back parking lot. 

Now there is a precedent for this kind of lawsuit where businesses are sued for illegal activity on their properties. But local attorney John Kithas says the city would have a tough case here. He says it would have to prove McDonald’s is a substantial part of the problem, which remember has been happening here for decades.

Kithas says, “The bottom line is that it is society’s problem and the city is dumping on McDonald’s potentially.”

It is no surprise drifters and drug dealers congregate at this McDonald’s. The rest of the neighborhood is pretty gentrified. Exhibit A: the Whole Foods across the street.

Mikias Lenherr is standing outside the McDonald’s drinking a McDonald’s coffee. He says, “the gentrification of San Francisco has become completely ridiculous.”

Lenherr is homeless. He says McDonald’s is one of the last places to use the bathroom and get a cheap meal. He says he can’t afford Whole Foods, adding that “those Jalapeno McDoubles are frickin pretty good.”

Some local businesses support pressure on McDonald’s. Jerry Johnson sells hippie trinkets, but he says these modern drifters hurt his business. He wants security at McDonald’s. At the same time he says it will not solve the real issues here—poverty and homelessness.

Johnson says, “I’ve always said this homeless problem isn’t a police problem, it’s a society problem. We’re just shifting the problem around. We’re not solving anything.”

The city’s letter has already had an effect. McDonald’s has hired some private security. That may stop some of the drug sales, but it probably won’t keep away those hoping to catch a puff of Haight-Ashbury’s hippie past.

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