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San Francisco receives its first official visit from European royalty in 17 years when Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visits the city on Tuesday.

The Queen will meet Mayor London Breed for a flag-raising ceremony and morning gift exchange at City Hall, visit the Castro, then travel to a seminar at Salesforce Tower focusing on climate, transport and other urban challenges. In the afternoon, the Queen will attend a seminar on innovative medical technologies at UCSF Mission Bay.

The Netherlands was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, so Dutch royalty prioritized the LGBTQ Mecca. The group will visit the GLBT Historical Society Museum, the Castro Theater and the Twin Peaks Tavern.

But the Queen visits the neighborhood while it’s in turmoil – business leaders just threatened to hold taxes on the homelessness crisis, arguing that the city is not providing basic services. And his trip comes at a time when the city and state are reeling from homelessness, a drug crisis, and energy and climate challenges.

The visit also follows Newsom’s veto of a bill authorizing a supervised drug consumption site pilot program in San Francisco, L..A. and Oakland to curb overdoses. The Netherlands opened its first supervised drug consumption sites in 1994. Five years ago, San Francisco’s per capita overdose death rate was 10 times that of the European nation and has only increase since then.

And Amsterdam shares some of San Francisco’s problems. It also has a shortage of affordable housing and its share of homelessness.

But in the spirit of international cooperation, what three things could San Francisco learn from the Venice of the North?

(1) Supervised drug consumption sites

San Francisco and Amsterdam have both been at the forefront of harm reduction – using public health strategies to reduce risk and overdose among drug users – but California’s approach has been stymied. by federal restrictions and political will.

Supervised drug consumption sites are still illegal under federal law, and California law does not legally protect people who work there. In his letter of veto of the recent pilot program, Newsom said the unlimited number of sites allowed by the bill “could introduce a world of unintended consequences”.

But the Netherlands – which opened its first supervised drug consumption site in 1994 – has far fewer people dying of overdoses than in San Francisco. The Netherlands recorded 22 drug-related deaths per million people between the ages of 15 and 64 in 2017. San Francisco, with less than a million people, recorded 222 fatal overdoses that same year, and the number has since tripled.

In 2018, the 24 supervised consumption sites in the Netherlands reported 17 overdoses in the previous year. One was fatal, occurring in a bathroom, which investigators say was not the fault of staff.

The reasons for the lower death rate are undoubtedly more complex than supervised consumption sites alone.

The Dutch government also set up the world’s first needle and syringe exchange programme, which was statistically related to limit disease transmission and runs a multitude of low-barrier treatment programs with goals ranging from harm reduction to abstinence. The Netherlands goes one step further by separately distributing government-funded prescribed heroin as a treatment, which public health experts say explains the drop in drug-related deaths.

“The Dutch government obviously doesn’t want people to use illegal substances,” Dirk Janssen, Dutch consul general in San Francisco, said in a statement to the Chronicle. “Nevertheless, people become addicted, and for them addiction care is available in our country.”

Janssen said that “in cases where some people may be unable to stop using drugs,” treatment is aimed at minimizing harm to the addict’s physical and mental health.

(2) Bike paths and transport

Amsterdam is a cycling utopia par excellence, and as Bloomberg article of a few years ago, this is not a mere coincidence, but the result of political choices. Janssen, an avid cyclist who bikes to work in San Francisco, said that in the Netherlands bicycles are considered a tool of transportation, while in San Francisco they are considered a “sport or something for the young people of the city”.

In the Dutch capital, the streets are designed for bikes, not cars, with cycle lanes often raised and separated to make cyclists safer.

Since 2017, Amsterdam got to two dead on the road by 100,000 people, a drop from previous years. In San Francisco, the rate was 2.3 deaths per 100,000 population the same year, but it rose to 3 deaths per 100,000 last year.

Overall in the Netherlands, road fatality rate was 70% lower than the United States in 2019.

“People will cycle when it’s safe, and to cycle safely you need separate cycle lanes. It’s as simple as that,” Janssen said.

Amsterdam has also closed some streets to car traffic to encourage cycling.

San Francisco has taken a similar direction during the pandemic, diverting through traffic from a series of slow-moving streets, but the controversial move in a car-centric city has turned into a years-long battle.

Likewise, the city’s decade-long plan to redesign Market Street ended in disappointment for some cyclists after the city said it couldn’t afford separate bike lanes. Lawyers said that means the street remains unsafe.

The city has built other bike lanes downtown in hopes of deterring automobiles, but as our architecture critic pointed out last year, this only works in the Netherlands, perhaps. be, but not here.

Janssen said the trade delegation coming to San Francisco includes more than 30 mobility companies, many in cycling, who “all have smart ideas for making cycling safer and easier in California.”

(3) Climate change and energy

After the Dutch Queen’s visit to Breed, she will meet Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis. Authorities in the Netherlands and California will commit to creating more charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and building a zero-waste “circular economy” focused on recycling and reusing resources.

Both California and the Netherlands aspire to take the lead in climate action. They have set targets to cut emissions by 2030 – the Netherlands by 49% below 1990 levels and California by 40% – although reports say neither is likely to meet their targets. Goals.

In one area, the west coast state beats the European nation hands down: just 8.6% of the Netherlands’ energy came from renewable sources in 2019, compared to 59% of California’s electricity in 2020. Janssen said the Netherlands is building offshore wind farms that will double the country’s renewable energy capacity by 2030.

But the state is also currently facing an energy challenge, with a heat wave prompting warnings to save energy to avoid blackouts. Just days after announcing that California would phase out most gas-powered cars by 2035, the government warned electric vehicle owners to limit charging over Labor Day weekend.

Temperatures will remain high in San Francisco on Tuesday and with a heat wave sweeping through the state, officials have warned there could be power outages due to energy demand. This means the city could turn off its lights while welcoming a royal guest.

Mallory Moench (her) is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter:@mallorymoench