President Donald Trump, who said earlier this week that California’s homeless populations were affecting the “prestige” of places like San Francisco, told reporters Wednesday that he plans to order the Environmental Protection Agency to cite the city for pollution he blamed on homelessness.
“It’s a terrible situation — that’s in Los Angeles and in San Francisco,” Trump told journalists aboard Air Force One on Wednesday evening, according to a pool report. “And we’re going to be giving San Francisco, they’re in total violation, we’re going to be giving them a notice very soon.”
“They have to clean it up,” added the president, who specifically mentioned used needles flowing into the ocean. “We can’t have our cities going to hell.”
The White House and the EPA did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and it’s unclear what regulations the agency would enforce.
It would be ironic if Trump decides to leverage EPA regulations to cite San Francisco. The White House has spent years watering down or overturning many of the nation’s key environmental laws. On Wednesday, the Trump administration took aim at California’s efforts to combat climate change within its own jurisdiction, saying the White House planned to revoke the state’s ability to set stricter auto emission rules.
The president’s comments drew frustration in San Francisco. Rafael Mandelman, who represents District 8 on the city’s Board of Supervisors, called the comments “outrageous” and said they were “designed to get people’s attention” rather than take meaningful action on the housing crisis.
“The reality is that he and his party caused this problem,” Mandelman told HuffPost. “He’s created another attention-seeking situation that he and his administration may or may not follow up on, but it is designed to inflame his base and inspires the worst in folks.”
Trump’s comments came just days after he lamented the homelessness crisis in California, saying he couldn’t let cities “destroy themselves.” Affordable housing is a growing issue across the country, and almost a quarter of the country’s 500,000 homeless people lived in California, according to a federal report.
“In many cases, they came from other countries and they moved to Los Angeles or they moved to San Francisco because of the prestige of the city, and all of a sudden they have tents,” the president told reporters this week. “Hundreds and hundreds of tents and people living at the entrance to their office building. And they want to leave.”
The Washington Post reported last week that officials in the Trump administration flew to Los Angeles to learn more about the city’s efforts to address homelessness and had been looking at ideas to move people into government-run facilities.
But the state has asked for other means to better address the needs of those living on the streets. On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other local officials wrote a letter to Trump asking the federal government to provide more investment in programs to tackle the issue, including providing rental subsidies for low-income Americans.
Richard Kim contributed reporting.