Trump said the EPA would issue a notice in less than a week. It is unclear what laws San Francisco is accused of violating, but the president cited “tremendous pollution” entering the ocean through storm sewers, specifically expressing a concern about used needles.
“They have to clean it up,” he said. “We can’t have our cities going to hell.”
San Francisco officials, though, quickly disputed Trump’s claims.
“We haven’t had any (recent) problems with syringes,” Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D) called the president’s comments “ridiculous assertions,” noting the city has a combined sewer system that “ensures that all debris that flow into storm drains are filtered out at the city’s wastewater treatment plants.”
“No debris flow out into the bay or the ocean,” Breed told the Chronicle. “If the president wants to talk about homelessness, we are committed to working with our state and federal partners on actual solutions.”
In a tweet, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener accused Trump of “making homelessness & addiction worse by cutting healthcare & affordable housing.”
“I wish Trump would have his EPA enforce against actual environmental problems, but I guess that would be too much to ask,” wrote Wiener, whose district includes San Francisco.
Trump’s promise to hit San Francisco with an environmental violation comes as his administration aggressively rolls back Obama-era climate policies. Hours before maligning San Francisco, Trump tweeted he would revoke California’s long-standing power to impose stricter air pollution regulations on cars and trucks, a change the EPA and the Transportation Department are expected to announce Thursday morning. The Trump administration also finalized a repeal of a 2015 water protection rule last week.
Trump sharply criticized California over its homelessness problem ahead of his two-day visit to the nation’s most populous state, arguing that people living on the streets were ruining the “prestige” of Los Angeles and San Francisco. He told reporters on Tuesday he had personally heard complaints from people in the state, some of whom are foreigners.
“The people of San Francisco are fed up, and the people of Los Angeles are fed up,” he said at the time. “We’re looking at it, and we’ll be doing something about it.”
Trump has repeatedly used the issue of homelessness in major U.S. cities to attack the Democratic leaders who run them and has hinted at the possibility of taking federal action before.
“We may do something to get that whole thing cleaned up,” Trump said in said in a July interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, calling the problem of homelessness a “disgrace.” “It’s inappropriate.”
Administration officials, under Trump’s orders, are discussing plans to address California’s homeless population, mainly focusing on what’s known as skid row in Los Angeles, The Washington Post reported earlier this month. They have considered using the federal government to take down tent camps and relocate homeless people off the street, according to The Post.
“We have people living in our … best highways, our best streets, our best entrances to buildings and pay tremendous taxes, where people in those buildings pay tremendous taxes, where they went to those locations because of the prestige,” Trump said Tuesday.
The number of homeless people in San Francisco and Los Angeles has increased in recent years, according official data from both cities. This year, San Francisco’s population is at 8,011 while the city of Los Angeles has 36,600.
Breed, the San Francisco mayor, told the New York Times in a statement that the city has plans to add 1,000 shelter beds by next year. In November, San Francisco residents will also vote on a $600 million bond to build about 2,800 affordable housing units over the next four years, the Chronicle reported.
“In San Francisco, we are focused on advancing solutions to meet the challenges on our streets, not throwing off ridiculous assertions as we board an airplane to leave the state,” Breed said.