The classic song “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” could now be renamed to specify something else less pleasant left there. Presidential candidate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in a November 2023 debate with California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) produced an alleged “poop map” of the Bay City, which documented the reported locations of human feces on sidewalks.
The city of San Francisco, which twenty years ago could be explored on foot by tourists on a pleasant day, has been overrun with crime and homelessness. This is what TikTok food critic Keith Lee discovered when he visited the City by the Bay recently. His tour of the city’s best restaurants had to be cut short. His reason: San Franciso is “not a place for tourists right now”.
🌊TikTok food critic Keith Lee abruptly cuts short California Bay Area tour, says it's not for tourists right now
🌊“The amount of tents and living structures and burnt-out cars that we saw people living in was shocking to say the least"
— charlie tango (@charlie_tango98) January 13, 2024
Lee went on to state in a recent video: “As an outsider, I wish the city would step in. I don’t know if they have. I don’t know if they’ve been trying, but just from an outsider looking in, it doesn’t look like there was much city interference.”
As an “outsider”, the social media influencer might not be aware of California laws such as 2014’s Proposition 47, which reclassifies shoplifting crimes under $950 to be misdemeanors rather than felonies. Many property crimes have gone unprosecuted as a result. This lack of consequences has given rise to significant organized shoplifting gangs, many operating in upscale areas of the city in high-end stores such as Neiman Marcus. Many other retail chains have closed stores in problematic areas or simply left the city altogether.
He also might have thought twice about touring restaurants in a state that has greatly weakened the cash bail system for those who haven’t pinched quite enough Neiman Marcus merch to make ends meet.
Lee was visiting the area with his family and had few positive things to say about the food quality and the several-hour wait times to get a table at many establishments. In his video, he remarked: “I want to stress that it is not normal for us to go to restaurants, not like it and not post it. Any other time we ran into this situation, I’ve always had some kind of constructive thing to say. This is just different.”
Lee’s experience may also result from many of the city’s best establishments shuttering permanently due to the city’s draconian COVID-19 policies coupled with California’s crime and homelessness.
Also, despite his 15 million followers, Lee’s stature is not quite that of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The City conducted a massive clean-up effort prior to his visit to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, hosted by San Francisco in November 2023. Had Lee somehow become an APEC delegate and visited San Francisco then, he would have seen sidewalks free from tent cities populated by vagrants, discarded needles, and piles of human waste.
What makes Lee’s experience more interesting is that he hails from Detroit, which has long had a reputation as being one of the nation’s hubs of murder and violent crime.
The twenty-seven-year-old influencer started posting restaurant reviews in 2021. From 2017 until 2021 he competed professionally in Mixed Martial (MMA), compiling a record of 8 wins and five losses. He has stated that he began recording TikTok videos to help him with his fear of public speaking.