San Francisco Is Burning

Here's a profile of a landlord who went to jail for trying to hire someone to burn down his apartment building.

The numbers cited by Campos and others -- 45 fires in two years -- also weren't necessarily as suspicious as they seemed. It turns out that 25 fires a year is about average for the Mission. But there's a reason that arson is on everyone's mind: While the number of fires has stayed steady, the value of the real estate in question has not. The 27 fires that burned in the Mission in 2006 caused $2.6 million in damage; the 22 fires in 2015 caused almost $15.6 million in damage.

I later spoke with the former head of the San Francisco Fire Department's Arson Task Force, John Darmanin. He told me he didn't know of any cases of arson explicitly tied to landlords wanting to get rich from gentrification but that the arson department was so overloaded and under-resourced that cases "do not get the level of professionalism and investigation that they deserve." There were fires, he said, that "very well could have been arson, but we just didn't have the manpower to devote to those cases."

Tags: , ,

4 Responses:

  1. anon3494 says:

    It was Scott Glenn, obviously.

  2. Zach says:

    Parts of this article infuriate me (both the situation and the article in fact, for different reasons). The headline ignores the reality, buried inside the article, that fires aren't actually up. Simply saying "we've got the same number of fires, but the buildings are worth more now" doesn't demonstrate anything other than a bad understanding of how correlations work.

    There's an actual point lurking here, which is that we need a better system to make sure people aren't living in death traps that catch fire when the magic smoke escapes from ancient electrical systems. Articles about substandard housing aren't as exciting as "OMG arson," but would be more helpful.

    • thielges says:

      Right. It's like how we freak out when Americans get killed by terrorists and then start trillion dollar wars that result in enormously higher death tolls. But we ignore the preventable but mundane causes of death like curable cancers dangerous streets.

      A 9/11 sized tragedy occurs on our streets every month, month after month. But we barely lift a finger to deploy the proven solutions.

    • Thomas Lord says:

      So scientific. Fires have hardly increased at all from a time of intense gentrification to a time of even more intense gentrification. Thanks for 'splainin. I'm also glad to learn from you that uninvestigated or poorly investigated arson fires never look like accidents. Very enlightening.