Jun 19, 2023
36 mins

We Are San Francisco: 'Making Change Happen' with Chris Larsen

Ben Kaplan  0:00  

Hey, BART riders. Hey San Francisco. I'm Ben Kaplan and this is the podcast where we define who we are and who we want to be.

Chris Larsen  0:09  

We are diverse. We are innovative, we are inclusive. We are change makers, problem

Ben Kaplan  0:15  

solvers, activists, leaders, citizens, we are open minded,

Chris Larsen  0:20  

optimistic, because hope for a better tomorrow and you and you and you got to get in the hole.

Ben Kaplan  0:27  

This is the podcast. That's more than a podcast for Cisco. They are the world champion, our San Francisco

Hey, San Francisco. Today I'm chatting with Chris Larson. He's one of San Francisco's most prolific and visible benefactors. That's the fancy term for a city resident who uses his time and money to address issues that might otherwise fall through the cracks. Chris has provided hundreds of video cameras in the Tenderloin citywide to address crime and safety, earmark millions of dollars to support struggling San Francisco retail businesses, and even recently funded a police recruitment TV ad campaign to reverse officer shortages. Chris is also the billionaire co founder and executive chairman of a well known crypto company, ripple. Before that he founded FinTech companies like prosper and Elon, he now spends most of his time focused on San Francisco issues and projects to combat global climate change. So what can each of us do individually and collectively, to help turn around the city we love? Let's find out with Chris Larson. Welcome to we are San Francisco, I'm chatting with Chris Larson. He's the co founder, past CEO now Executive Chair of ripple, a leading crypto tech company. But also he's really been involved in the past few years and being a benefactor in a lot of different ways to San Francisco, getting things unstuck, unblocked helping things move through. And so Chris, welcome to the podcast. And how did you get started with this? How did you you've described it, as a lot of folks, many of us are guilty, kind of sit back and say, things ought to be better, you know, we ought to change things. Why is it this way, but not a lot of us take action on that, and not a lot of us take action to the extent that you really have over the past few years. So so how did that journey come from you? And how did you get so involved with the city?

Chris Larsen  2:24  

Yeah, well, good. First, we're having me here today. I really appreciate it. Well, you know, I was born in the city, I was raised outside of the city, but then kind of came back to SF State, we got my business degree, and then, you know, pretty much here ever since I love the city, you know, it's it's the greatest city on the planet wouldn't want to live anywhere else. It's got a magic that no, no other city or place has, I think we all understand that. But it can be frustrating. Sometimes when we see some of these problems just continuing in that and seems so solvable with it don't get solved. So, you know, I've been fortunate I've had resources where I can add time now to spend thinking about how we might solve some of these things. And that really kind of got revolved. First, we were setting up a camera network with the CBDs, that community benefit districts that are hyper local nonprofits, there's 18 of them at Citi. And I got involved in that, because I lived in I live in a part of the city, which has been unfortunately really targeted with a lot of the smash and grab, you know, problems that we see right around Lombard Street, that's kind of Ground Zero, or at least it was and started work, you know, gotten involved with the district attorney that time, George Castillon, who introduced me some folks that had been solving that same problem in Union Square. And I thought, okay, we, you know, let's bring that same, those same tools and technology, mostly network cameras. And let's try to bring those other parts of the city and one thing led to another and you know, now it's, you know, kind of getting involved with other areas that we think we can, we can help on

Ben Kaplan  3:57  

and want to get into those areas, and we'll touch upon crime and safety, we'll touch upon small business, we'll talk about police, recruiting and morale, we'll hit those areas. But I'm actually interested in something you said maybe to start off with what I agree with you on which is San Francisco is the greatest city in the world. And there's a lot of pride in the city. And there's this unique combination of there's a sense of innovation, there's a sense of inclusiveness, there's a sense of diversity, there's a lot of natural beauty. There's a lot of different groups that come together, whether those are ethnic groups, or LGBTQ plus, or all these things come together to make San Francisco unique. So why does it feel like people are down on San Francisco now? I don't know if you feel that but it's just like so many people that I know because I've spoken in the past with like San Francisco is great. I wouldn't be anywhere else or like are just down on it or they've moved away or how do we get that back? That pride that confidence that I guess Mojo is the only word I have for how do we get our mojo back?

Chris Larsen  4:50  

Yeah, well, that's actually one of the things that motivates me because I think it's grossly unfair. Some of the critiques that you hear mostly from people I think, don't really know the city may They have moved out of the city. They're not up to date. I mean, honestly, if you look, if you walk around the city today, sure there are problems. And there's some pockets that look pretty bad. But downtown looks way better. You know, Union Square does. I know there's vacancies, but people are out. If you look at the tourist data, so think so first of all, I do think it's an unfair characterization. But I think that is born. You know, we are in a hyper political environment, San Francisco kind of represents sort of ground zero for a certain type of politics. So I think we suffer from that

Ben Kaplan  5:32  

sort of a liberal and more progressive. So it becomes a symbol of symbolic and that's why you see a story that would otherwise be a local crime story in San Francisco hit national or even international headlines, and when I travel around another country, so if you live in San Francisco, how's everything? Are you okay, over there? Because they've been seeing the news, because of that sort of symbolism. You think that's why that translates in a local crime scene, we get covered around the world.

Chris Larsen  5:56  

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you could show the same three blocks, and it would look like, you know, the worst place on the planet. And that's obviously not accurate. And if you remember, in the, you know, the 89 earthquake, right, I mean, on the global coverage, you think the entire city burned down and collapsed, right? Because they kept showing the same block in the marina. It's a little bit like that, right? That that's the stuff that sells and let you know, not to let ourselves off the hook. We shoot ourselves in the foot all the time. Our politics are kind of a mess, right? And but you know, I think, look, we still are the place where innovation happens, where not just innovation, we're thinking totally outside the box, this is where it happens. And I think it's no, it's no surprise, you know, we're now in an AI, tech boom, like we've never seen before. It's the talk of the world. And GE, where is it all located? It's all right here, right? If you look at the top four citations on AI research, you know, it's open AI, it's meta, it's Google it Stanford's All right here, that's not a coincidence. It's because this is the place that will let you think that crazy thought, and at the same time, attract people from all over the planet. That no, that they can think the crazy thought and it's not going to be shot down. That's not like that.

Ben Kaplan  7:13  

And I think that just to say, it's not just innovation, but we mean innovation in a broad sense, right? Doesn't have to just be technological innovation. Certainly, it could be, you know, there's a lot of really advanced technology, and certainly chat GPT and has brought a lot focus to AI. But it's innovation in lots of ways. Like let's make progress, let's push things forward, let's challenge the status quo. And if you are smart, but a little weird, come, if you want to make a difference to your community, but you're a little bit different yourself, come. And it's like that attitude is a real strength. If we embrace it, it's absolutely

Chris Larsen  7:45  

right. And many of the problems we have are also borne from not just compassion, but a belief in kind of the sacred right of the individual. Now, we can go too far on that. And clearly something broke in that kind of compact with, you know, homelessness, and then it to a number of people that are dying on the streets every single day. So something isn't working there. But it is born, I think generally, you could trace back some of the things we're criticized from, it's born from compassion, and that, you know, kind of ultra belief in the rights and freedom of the individual, more than kind of any place, you know, in America.

Ben Kaplan  8:25  

And if I was going to describe it, I would say good intentions, very good intentions, with unintended consequences. Yes, where sometimes we've wanted to put something through, it's a noble cause. But because we've created in a certain way, and to use a common, maybe an example, it's in the news. Now, we don't want to do business with companies from states that aren't supportive of certain values, we want to put financial pressure to come over those values. But then the problem is, if others don't come on board, if that impact is limited, then suddenly you have less competitive bids from a limited number of states that impact how efficient or cost effective something might be. So good intention, unintended consequence. And now you kind of have to reverse that.

Chris Larsen  9:10  

Yeah, I agree with you. And I think that kind of thing goes way too far. That's not the inclusive sort of beliefs that I think are the bedrock of the city, right? Even with things we disagree with, that's kind of the whole point of being open and accepting. But But I think there is some corrosiveness in the city where that desire to protect the individual at all rights, then kind of overwrites have this isn't working right? And then you get other folks in the city that are afraid to stand up and say, No, we're gonna move in a different direction because they're afraid of being accused of being like Trump people or something, right? That's what you see the same. Almost everybody here is like progressive, right? We all believe in what makes San Francisco special that openness and acceptance, but there is this kind of dynamic where if you speak out, you know, in a way that might look moderate or, you know, pragmatic, you can be accused of being insensitive and, and, you know, kind of a right wing and, and all that kind of stuff. And that that's, that's wrong. That's just that's not that's not dialogue that's built on a power thing to shut people up, right. And that's the thing that we have to reject. And that's the thing that I realized I was probably a part of, you know, we had businesses here with school here. But don't get involved in the muck of that, because it's just, it's don't want to do that. And that's the thing. I think that's what's changed in me. And I hope that's nice. See that changing? And a lot of people now in San Francisco who love it, but no, the problems are very fixable, and are, they're born of this, we've gone, we've gone off the rails in our quest for compassion. And it's, it's backfired. And that's the thing we picked up too.

Ben Kaplan  10:52  

And sometimes it's also a question of timing. What I mean by that is that, when you're an emergency, if there's a fire at your house, you're focused on the fire, right, you want to put out the fire, there might be other things you want to do in the house, you know, let's make the backyard a little bit more inviting and nicer. Let's have some opportunities for our neighbors to come over. If there's a fire in your house, you got to put out the fire. So just because there's like some focus on that, that immediate crisis or that immediate need, that doesn't mean that's forever. In fact, it probably shouldn't be. But you've got to do things at the right time. Because you don't get to do all the other things. If you don't put out the fire first.

Chris Larsen  11:25  

That's right, we got to take the wheel back right further, maybe and then turn it back over. Right, but things are gonna get off here. And part of it is that, you know, maybe the city hasn't changed, but the world has changed. And two big things we're facing nationwide, right, not just the city, an acute shortage of police officers, and a morale problem and the police that's hurting everybody. Right. So that makes your environment that you might have been okay, in 20 years ago, much more challenging. And then, of course, the fentanyl epidemic, which has killed 100,000 Americans, you know, last year over 100,000, and up to three San Franciscans every day. That's different, right? We're not talking about somebody smoking a joint, you know, walking down the street, like you would have taught 30 years ago, you're talking now about people dying and people being sold things

Ben Kaplan  12:14  

actually want to get into the topic of police recruiting police morale, in a little bit of a roundabout way, maybe not normal way. Because you've been very involved in recently, I think he did some ads during March Madness, trying to get more recruits, but also talking about the pride of being a police officer in San Francisco and the impact you can make. And I saw some of those ads. I want to get to that by talking about almost like this branding problem that San Francisco has, you know, just the national headlines. We've talked about people sometimes it's overblown, in certain ways. There's real problems. But how does that impact something like police recruiting? Because it's one thing to say like, Okay, we get some negative press, that's unfortunate, that's too bad. We got to change that. But it's just the negative press, let it roll off your back. It's different when that's broadcast around and you've got to do something like recruit police. And maybe more police are saying, why would I want to do that in San Francisco, if this is the situation, this is what I'm going to be put into, it's a really expensive area to live, I'm gonna maybe have to live outside the city and commute in and all of these issues to some of that bad PR or sort of bad branding actually have real consequences that prevent us from solving our problems? Absolutely. For

Chris Larsen  13:19  

sure. You know, again, the police shortage is a national problem. But when you think of what that means, that means every single city in the state and in the country is recruiting from the same, you know, limited group of people that want to become police officers, which had been made way harder for all kinds of reasons, you know, recently. But yeah, it does hurt San Francisco, challenges on the police issue are way tougher than they are Walnut Creek, for example, because of that, that very issue. So we've got to work on recruitment, got to work on morale. And we got to turn that around. You know, what's really sad, you talk to police officers who've been in for 35 years used to be like, the children are police officers became police officers. And that's happening less and less. And I think that's a really sad development.

Ben Kaplan  14:05  

And when you talk to police officers, do they wish it for their kids or the like, you know, what, it isn't worth it?

Chris Larsen  14:09  

No, they don't. They're sort of happy they're going into technology or something else, right. But that's a real shame. And that's kind of a that's a break from the past. Right. So how do you know and part of that is, of course, housing, as you as you mentioned, which can be solved with resources, you know, so we got to solve that. But that's a that's harder for the city. And it's showing up in the numbers, right? That's the thing I'm most alarmed with now, because that's like a crisis and it's heading in the wrong direction. So we've got to turn that around. And that's that's why we started doing some of the ads, which weren't just recruitment, they're also about morale and showing how much you know, we should be respecting the police for the tough job they have

Ben Kaplan  14:49  

on the recruitment issue. You've co founded companies and are chairman of a big crypto tech company now, from that experience. Is there any lessons we can take for Rick recruiting police officers because sometimes I have my own company, my own marketing agency. And if I'm having trouble recruiting one type of person for a position, I'll be like, Okay, well, how can we break up the rule? How can we make this role a little more attractive, so maybe we don't need police officers, for the things that don't require police officers like responding to crimes, maybe there's other issues that involve a mental health, understanding others that involves checking in on people and a sense of compassion, other things, even just administrative police officers have to file a lot of reports, maybe that can be done with other people. So usually, if I was having a problem at a company recruiting something, I would say, how can we make the job more attractive? How can we break off other pieces? How can we focus in and make this more specific? Is there room to do that? Do we have to like lower the total number of police officers we need to recruit because we're not going to get there otherwise, and kind of focus the job on things that only police officers can do that they would actually want to do?

Chris Larsen  15:49  

Yeah, you're raising so many good points there, because it is a complex issue. But let's start off by, you know, if you were a CEO company, right, and you had to recruit a bunch of workers, right, you would come up with a plan, you know, and then you'd solve, hopefully solve the issue, right? It's not the way it works in San Francisco, the CEO of San Francisco doesn't have the power to do the kind of recruiting that she needs to write, she has to go to the police commission, as the police commission, that's largely you, you're going to say whether or not you can do the things that you want to as the CEO of a company, or in this case, the city. That's a problem. So part of the police issue is the mayor of San Francisco not having enough power to do her job, lend the breach, she needs more authority, and then let's hold her accountable. But how can you hold a mayor accountable our CEO accountable if they don't have the right to do the things they need to do to leave the city. So that's a problem that comes from the board of soups that then appoints the police commission. And so that's, that's part of the issue that we need to change through getting the Board of Supervisors and more aligned with the mayor, that will happen, hopefully, in the 24 election, we need more tools for the police. And that there's another problem there too. We have a lot of nonprofit groups that are blocking tools that would otherwise tremendously help, especially in a police shortage. Things like license plate readers, especially with a smashing grab issue where most of the smash and grabs These are professional crews, right, this isn't just random. There's not random homeless people doing most of the damage there. It's it's professional crews, usually using stolen cars or stolen plates. So having license plate readers that would identify that would be huge. That's continually blocked by eff ACLU, which by the way, only really blocks that in San Francisco, they're not doing that in other cities, we kind of get picked on there. That's a problem. You recently raised a good point though of other things that can help with the shortage. So you're right on, you know, police are asked to do too many things, including dealing with mental health. So getting more health, mental health resources, but also being a little bit tougher with forcing people to get help. That's a problem in the city. And again, there are certain nonprofits that continually go to court, to block the mayor and even the board, from doing some of the things to be a little tougher to force people into mental health services, again, that that directly results in the police having to do more work that they hadn't signed up for. I think we can also do some of the things with ambassadors, urban alchemy, for example. It's in the Tenderloin that's effective, or not police, but they kind of help with stuff that might lead to issues. And there's another category called police specials. I think that's an area that's being looked into at somewhere between ambassadors and police officers to help with the burden of lower priority calls, which right now aren't getting answered. So so it's a really complex area with a lot of very doable solutions that we now have to kind of work on together.

Ben Kaplan  18:52  

You highlighted the part about really the difficulty of our structure with the mayor, supervisors, and then individual Commission's which retain power, the solution to a lot of problems, not just crime and safety, but a lot of San Francisco's problems. Is it going to come from the top down? Or could it come from the community up? What I just mean by that is, if there's enough collective will, and you've brought a lot of individual will to things and rally people around to then things that are surprising, actually get passed. And I'll give you an example of that. So the Board of Supervisors right supported recently, overtime pay for police officers, if you would have taken that decision and like maybe moved it back in time without the collective will what's happened and put that back three or four years no way that probably passes but there's such a collective will from the community. There's a sense that we have to do it that you know, politician like anyone else feels that feels purchases, I can't oppose this. It gets through. So I just sometimes wonder, do we need as a community to come together in more ways doing people doing things like you're doing? Maybe people don't have your financial resources, but they can rally people in other ways. They can organize people in other ways. And if we can get that collective will maybe the top follows

Chris Larsen  19:59  

Yeah, that'd be You're raising a great point. I think it's kind of yes and yes, right. So I mean, we do elect our leaders or our mayor board of soups to get the job done. But I think a lot of people, they don't realize when they elect the mayor, that she doesn't have a lot of power to it to do some of the critical parts of her job. So then how can you how can you hold her accountable, for example, but you're, you're totally right on if people get involved, the board of soups, and the mayor and these commissions, they do pay attention to that. I think the big question there is when How do you define community, right, so if you define community, as the 100, people that show up at a board of supervisors meeting and yell, they get a lot of attention, they even get a lot of stuff passed, it's not really the community, the community is also look, the elderly couple that can't get out of their tenderloin apartment because you know, they would have mobility, miss the immigrant family that's working three jobs that just does not have the time to come down and yell at people. So as long as it sort of fortunate that the sometimes the loudest voices, you know, kind of rule the day, that does mean that the individual is gonna stop stepping back and do have to get involved, not just in yelling, but in canvassing and working for candidates that are going to do what they want to happen in the city. And support it, you know, support the mayor sometimes on stuff you might be, you know, mad about, but you kind of find out, well, gee, she doesn't have it, the bureaucracy has taken away her ability to do anything about that. We've got to stand up for things like that, we actually have a very bureaucratic city. And that's, I think that definitely is one of the problems like who is responsible exactly for this, that and the other thing,

Ben Kaplan  21:46  

it's another issue that maybe pervades everything kind of the bureaucracy are sort of the operational side of what happens in a city, because we've been a city that wants to protect different groups or individuals or causes that creates regulation that then has to happen so that that can be related to it. But what else could we do to streamline all of that that would impact so many other issues? I mean, you see some of the stats about it takes 600 plus days to get housing event, we have a housing shortage, right? We need to get more people housed. And it's takes close to two years to get things that take other places a couple months through to do something at that level, it's not really a political issue. How do we think about doing that? Because it would make so many other things easier. And bureaucracy is the result of those good intentions with unintended consequences?

Chris Larsen  22:36  

Yeah, I mean, so you're, like 30,000 players in the city. So like, you have this massive, you know, kind of team that's this should be working for the people of San Francisco. But then yeah, you, you know, try building a house in San Francisco and see what that's like. Right? It is shocking. Sometimes. I don't know what the answer is on that one. I don't know if I can, I would even touch it. You know, criticizing it. It's, it means notable during the pandemic, I don't think we have as a single layoff of the 30,000 people. So there's something different happening in the way city staff works, and how it works in just about any company that's in the city. It's just two different worlds. And I'm not sure can ever change that. So it's frustrating. That very, very difficult. I think we got to before we get there, let's try to fix the problem between the mayor for soups, and then the courts. Right. So you know, can the CEO the city make key decisions on public safety, criminal justice, reform, all the other things that have happened in the city? Right now that's kind of really stuck. So how do you get the board of soups in the mayor working more closely together, kind of like the way the DEA and and the mayor and the police are working much better today. And like I loved Jessa. Personally, I supported him, but it is working better today. Right. So that that helped. But then we do have to address the issue of a couple of nonprofits that are very powerful, running the federal judges, even when the the board and the mayor do a great and blocking them. And you know, there's a state right now from a federal judge, you know, from one of the nonprofit groups that's blocking the mayor and the board from doing some of the work that they need to do to address some of the homeless encampments and the mental health issues and drug abuse. And that's a

Ben Kaplan  24:24  

problem. He talks about something that I often think about in regard to just the bureaucracy or just making progress, which is when you look at other cities that have tackled something really hard and been successful. I'm talking about homelessness in Houston, which made a lot of progress or housing accessibility affordability in San Diego, which made a lot of progress. Usually, there's an alignment that comes from elected officials, unelected officials, nonprofits, the community of like, we've got to tackle this problem. And the reason they're hard problems is that there's a lot of parts to it. And so we have to kind of come together to do it. And somehow, you know, we can sit here and I've had other guests on the podcast, we'll go issue by issue, right? We'll do Okay, let's do homelessness, let's do housing, let's do crime safety. But they're all interrelated. It all impacts things. And you know, it makes it difficult if you don't have enough housing beds, because of the federal judges, you you mentioned, you can't display someone who's in probably an area they shouldn't be because you don't have a place to go. And that's housing at the same time. Fentanyl and drug abuse impacts homelessness to a huge extent right now and all these things. So do we need like a plan, a plan to turn around San Francisco? That's not just like issue by issue. We just need like a master plan to be aligned to tackle this hard stuff.

Chris Larsen  25:39  

Yeah, I mean, I've heard that before. And it's it's totally true. I guess the problem is like that plan then would have to be executable by either the mayor or a coalition that Mayor and the board with the blessing of the nonprofit's that sort of fiber says it's a small city, but everybody's at each other's throats. Right. So yeah, the plan is kind of meaningless. And you know, if each of the key leaders can't make that key decision, you're

Ben Kaplan  26:07  

looking to 2024. Now, a little bit looking to try to make basically less if you call it gridlock, or infighting or not seeing eye to eye really you're targeting it sounds like between the mayor and the Board of Supervisors. Is that correct?

Chris Larsen  26:23  

I think that has to be just a key key objective for the people that care about the city and our rally. And the good news is, and you probably know this, right? There's lots of groups out there that are rallying, you know, again, with the heart and soul of San Francisco. This is not like Trump people versus the progressives. Like we're mostly all progressives, right? Just let's just fix the stuff that we know is totally broken. But I think that does come mostly from 24. We gotta we gotta check the police problem. But every single city in America has to do that. San Francisco, though, we have got to get more on the same page board of soups in the mayor, that comes from 24. And then we have the lingering issue. And there's really, there's nothing out there that I see is somehow we've got to deal with a couple of very powerful nonprofit groups. They're optimizing under a single variable, whether it's privacy with EFF, what's best seemed to be all they care about criminal, you know, public safety be damned. Or whether it's the ACLU local look, I have supported ACL and national I've written to them recently about how off the rails their local chapter has gone. But that's a problem. So what is our answer for that the people that are concerned about San Francisco have got to stand up some kind of counter force to kind of running to a judge and kind of blocking reasonable things. Because again, even if the board and the mayor started working together, you still got this, you know, sort of lawsuit question that seems to be uniquely San Francisco. I mean, you don't see ACLU local going suing Walnut Creek, right. It's San Francisco. And a little bit of that, because that's where you get the attention. And that's probably you're doing your fundraising. That's a unique problem that our city suffers from.

Ben Kaplan  28:10  

Are you hopeful for San Francisco there's been a lot particularly in regard to like downtown revitalization or somebody's like, oh, it's never gonna go back to how it was. I sometimes feel people are a little bit like quick to either overestimate the highs and and the lows as well, like things are never quite as good as they seem, and never quite as bad as they seem. Do you find yourself being optimistic and hopeful as someone who's been, you know, a unique vantage point, unblocking unsticking things and you know, a lot of the players involved in all of this.

Chris Larsen  28:39  

I mean, I'm 1,000% optimistic. I mean, this is the story of San Francisco, the boom, bust the rebirth, that's part of the creative process, right? So we're kind of setting up for something. I don't know what it is exactly, but I know it's gonna be exciting as hell, right. And the flip side of every, you know, kind of bust, you know, the bus might be commercial real estate downtown, okay, you know, bad for real estate investors. That's good news for like any new business that wants to start or any new retail idea or entertainment idea or housing idea, it just laying the field for all the creativity that exists here, which will just, I mean, it will just rush in, and you'll wake up one day, and we'll be late, you know, we'll be at the height of the boom again, right? So these things happen pretty quickly. It's a small city doesn't take much really the change that the equation and then throw in something like AI. I mean, we have to recognize the AI thing kind of overnight, it just exploded. It's all right here, the billions 10s of billions that are going into that, not just on the development of it, but maybe on the safety rails of it, and think about all the derivatives that will come at the second order derivatives from that in a small city like San Francisco place could be like the most creative, busy place on the planet by next summer. I mean, it literally can go that way. So I just have no doubt in my mind on that. This is gonna turn out in another chapter.

Ben Kaplan  30:03  

And a lot of the wrong ingredients that made San Francisco great didn't go away, you know, this idea of let's bring these ideas together and you're judged on like the merit of your idea or your cause, or your passion or commitment, not like how you're dressed, or how fancy your dress and what car you drive, you know, that is still here, this idea of anyone, two guys, two women, whoever it might be, which is like some way that can like disrupt big companies or entrenched ways of doing things that you could do that. And you could do that here. And you know, you get a little bit romantic view of the garage, like that's still here, you still have a lot of people that are really passionate and compassionate. At the same time, that's still here, we have a lot of problems. But a lot of other big cities have those similar problems to it has been not just the feeling of, for instance, like unsafety, or crummy with actual things, but it's the feeling of it and the feeling that things are trending in the wrong direction. But it seems like it doesn't take a lot to get it going in the right direction. And the right direction doesn't mean you solve all your problems overnight, but it means it feels different. It feels like it's getting better, and that is contagious and more people rally in. And instead of this sometimes doom loop if you've seen the reporting on that, maybe it's a prosperity spiral, where a good thing leads to a good thing leads to a good thing. Why does it always have to be bad leads to bad leads to bad?

Chris Larsen  31:26  

Absolutely. I guarantee you the doom loop that was invented in Miami, somebody who's over there, okay.

Ben Kaplan  31:33  

He or two in Miami? Like what do we call this thing over there? doom loop. Okay, that sounds bad. Yeah, they don't want that. Okay, good. And then finally, what would you say, Chris? For others who want to get involved? What's your recommendation? I mean, they might not have millions of dollars to donate to something, maybe some people do need those people to, but others, what is missing, if you are going to have impact? And you're going to be like, Okay, I got, you know, I gotta work. I got a family. But I got 10 hours a week, how could someone make a difference on 10 hours or maybe 10 hours? Or you got $1,000? Or you have something else? What could they do with that that would actually not just be lost in the shuffle?

Chris Larsen  32:09  

Yeah, no, that's a great question. You know, I think getting involved in in 24, the 24 election, which is both March, by the way, in November, because in March, you're going to be picking, you know, party leaders, that sort of thing, which is actually quite important. So yeah, get involved, whether it's money, whether it's, you know, making phone calls, whether it's talking to your neighbors, remember these supervisory races, they're won or lost by like, sometimes 100 200 votes. So one person just kind of, you know, getting involved through calls or just talking to their neighbors and makes a difference. So I think that's really important. Next time you see a police on the street, go stake them, you know, thank her for their hard work, it's a hard job. And a little bit of appreciation goes a long way. And I've seen it, you know, they're not asking for much that can make a big difference as well. So I think there's a lot of things that can that can be done. If you're supporting ACLU eff who do wonderful work, don't get me wrong, hold them accountable to some of the bad things they're doing to some of the things they're doing that's hurting our city. Hold back on the contributions unless they can answer why? What are they doing the ballots out? Privacy, criminal justice reform and public safety, because all of those things are important in the city, not just optimizing your one thing selfishly, try to get on board being a good citizen. So I think that's going to be an emerging issue, I think that we're gonna be hearing a lot more about

Ben Kaplan  33:38  

and I'd love to see for anyone listening to that has a special skill, a special talent user special skill, right? If you're a graphic designer, and you can do that, you can use that in support of let's drive some people to do use those skills to join this cause or go to event if you're a developer. I was just interviewing the founder of Code for America, Jennifer Pahlka, and there's ways you can do that. So I also think, you know, it's a rallying cry for right now that now is not the time to sit back. And maybe final thoughts of the day is just that it's a unique opportunity for us now. Because if there's enough will, and we can rally enough people, and maybe there is a collective will now because people have seen what's happened and it doesn't have to be this way, then it's an opportunity for great change. So I think, you know, you're right, not only being 2024, being election year, but also being just this moment, where you don't have a lot of moments where you can like galvanize everyone to come together. And you got to you got to utilize that why you haven't. And, Chris, I'll give you the final word. Are we in that moment? Now? Is this a moment where we can make things happen?

Chris Larsen  34:37  

I think that's the exciting part. You're exactly right. This is a turning point. We don't know exactly how it's gonna play out. But there's a lot of excitement to move the needle there. And I think we get back to a place like San Francisco could be the model for how the world of the future works. It absolutely could be that it could be that very soon.

Ben Kaplan  34:57  

According to Chris Larson, San Francisco is spot Sure, because of its sense of open mindedness and acceptance of individuals, but that needs to be paired with a pragmatic approach to solving fixable problems that affect our quality of life. Chris says that misalignment between the mayor and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors makes it unnecessarily difficult for us to fix our most pressing problems, just like the human body won't function. Well. If say the heart is working against the liver, our city body politic won't function. Well, if our executive branch and legislative branch can't stand each other. Chris points out that San Francisco operates in a competitive environment, that we're competing with other cities for everything from police officers, to job creating, and tax paying businesses to thrive. We need elected leaders, community organizations and voters who think about San Francisco's big picture, rather than than just those who are entirely motivated by a single niche issue at the expense of everything else. All too often in San Francisco. Good intentions have unintended consequences. But Chris says there's reasons to be hopeful. The raw ingredients of what makes San Francisco great hasn't changed. And the city's incredible creative energy can make progress happen quickly. What about that so called Downtown doom loop? Well, it might have been invented in Miami. So don't delay. You don't need millions of dollars to make a difference. We can organize, we can mobilize we can individually and collectively turn around San Francisco's trajectory. I'm Ben Kaplan. And remember, we is always greater than me. We are San Francisco.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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