Megan Cassidy, San Francisco Chronicle, August 11, 2023
Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advised hundreds of employees in San Francisco to work remotely for the foreseeable future due to public safety concerns outside the Nancy Pelosi Federal Building on Seventh Street.
The imposing, 18-story tower on the corner of Seventh and Mission streets houses various federal agencies, including HHS, the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the office of Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi. The area is also home to one of the city’s most brazen open-air drug markets, where dozens of dealers and users congregate on a daily basis.
HHS Assistant Secretary for Administration Cheryl R. Campbell issued the stay-home recommendation in an Aug. 4 memo to regional leaders.
“In light of the conditions at the (Federal Building) we recommend employees … maximize the use of telework for the foreseeable future,” Campbell wrote in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Chronicle.
“This recommendation should be extended to all Region IX employees, including those not currently utilizing telework flexibilities,” Campbell wrote, referring to the federal government zone that includes California and other Western states.
The memo came on the same day that, according to Axios, President Biden’s White House chief of staff called for more federal employees to return to their offices after years of remote work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It was not immediately clear whether other tenants in the building had issued similar directives. Officials with Pelosi’s office and the Department of Labor said they have been working closely with local and federal law enforcement to ensure safety for their staffers, but they have not advised employees to work from home.
The building has long been a locus of some of the city’s most intractable problems.
Dozens of dealers routinely plant themselves on, next to or across the street from the property, operating in shifts as users smoke, snort or shoot up their recent purchases. The property’s concrete benches are an especially popular site for users to get high, socialize or pass out.
While Pelosi’s five-person staff was not advised to work remotely, she raised concerns about the building’s tenant safety last week in a meeting with the U.S. attorney for the northern district of California, according to officials with her office.