Retailer Sues San Francisco Mall For Failing To Address ‘Criminal Activity’

American Eagle, a clothing retailer in San Francisco’s downtown mall formerly known as the Westfield San Francisco Centre, has filed a lawsuit against the former mall owners for allegedly failing to address “rampant criminal activity” in the mall.

The retailer has accused Westfield of “allowing the mall to become a lightning rod for, in Westfield’s words, ‘rampant criminal activity.’”

According to the lawsuit, American Eagle is seeking monetary damages for “neglect” — alleging that Westfield invested $2 billion on upgrades at other California malls owned by the corporation while allowing the San Francisco mall to “deteriorate into disarray.”

American Eagle accuses Westfield of allowing its employees to “suffer and respond to gun violence,” physical attacks, burglaries, and robberies.

The lawsuit also asserts that American Eagle employees had reported over 100 “significant security incidents” from May 2022 to May 2022 — including “violence, aggressive guests, and thefts,” according to the retailer.

“On multiple occasions, patrons have brandished firearms while verbally assaulting the store’s employees. American Eagle employees have suffered multiple physical attacks and assaults. In one instance, a patron even threatened American Eagle staff with a machete,” the lawsuit states.

American Eagle’s lease agreement with Westfield requires the mall’s owners to maintain the common areas “at a level comparable to other regional shopping malls.”

While the retailer closed its street-facing entrance and significantly ramped up security in response to rampant crime in San Francisco, American Eagle claims that “patrons no longer feel safe because of Westfield’s inaction, and American Eagle is bearing the brunt of Westfield’s abandonment of its obligations.”

American Eagle is also claiming that Westfield blamed San Francisco for its issues rather than trying to combat rising crime itself. Westfield has since surrendered ownership of the property to the bank, blaming falling sales caused by crime.

In a statement to local news outlet KGO-TV, legal analyst Steven Clark speculated that American Eagle may be trying to get out of its lease agreement — though the retailer did not mention the lease in their lawsuit. The agreement does not end until January 31, 2028.

“I think American Eagle’s endgame here is to say we want out of our lease,” Clark wrote. “If American Eagle is allowed out of its lease based on the crime, the violence, the shoplifting, and the other problems at the mall, I think you’ll see a lot of other retailers looking at this as a tool to say we want out as well.”

“Certainly, American Eagle doesn’t want to be the last retail tenant at the mall,” he continued. “That could be a disaster financially, so I think because Nordstrom left and others have left, I think that’s what American Eagle is saying. … We don’t want to wait until 2028 to leave, we want to leave now.”

Meanwhile, the problem isn’t isolated to just the Westfield Mall location — San Francisco has been facing rising crime across the city. The problem has gotten so bad that a film crew from CNN covering the problem actually witnessed multiple thefts within 30 minutes at a single Walgreens location.