Mayor London Breed is trying to make good on her campaign promise to add more homeless Navigation Centers and shelter beds. The proposed Embarcadero Navigation Center, if opened, would be the city’s fourth such facility.
Breed's latest effort would be a significant one as the San Francisco Chronicle reports Breed has sent the Port Commission a proposal for the city’s largest Navigation Center yet. The site is currently a parking lot at a 2.3-acre parcel at the Embarcadero’s Pier 30/32, just beneath the Bay Bridge, and would address the growing unhoused population in South Beach, Rincon Hill, and the so-called East Cut.
As CBS SF astutely notes, the proposed site “sits within walking distance of luxury condos.” CBS’s Betty Yu also points out that the Navigation Centers provide more expansive services than normal homeless shelters, as they also offer “health and housing services, round the clock stays, and allow pets and partners.”
“We identified a viable location, and we need to move quickly,” Mayor Breed told the Chronicle. “That means that every part of San Francisco has to share in really making sure that we are providing these spaces in places that make the most sense.”
The proposed center would be in Supervisor Matt Haney’s District 6, and Haney has made no secret of his desire to see more similar facilities in other districts. “I really want to see other neighborhoods building shelters as well,” Haney told the Chronicle. “What about the west side? What about the Castro and the Marina? If this is the most urgent priority our city is facing, we should see the entire city being part of the solution.”
Still, Haney strongly supports this particular project, telling CBS SF, “We have a lot of city-owned parking lots, I think this is a piece of land that can be used to address our most urgent problem as a city.”
Like several previous Navigation Centers, this Embarcadero facility would not be permanent. “Officials expect it to operate for four years,” Dominic Fracassa writes in the Chronicle. “The hope is that by then the city will have gotten a handle on some of the systemic causes of homelessness in San Francisco.”
That four-year goal might cause some eye-rolling among anyone who’s watched San Francisco try to get a handle on the homelessness problems for, say, four years or longer. The homeless population has grown consistently over nearly the last decade, if not much longer.
This proposed Embarcadero Navigation Center is still not a done deal. The Port Commission has scheduled what CBS SF calls an “information hearing” on March 12, a week from today. There will be public comment at that hearing, which could hamper or even derail the proposal. The actual vote won’t come until April, and even if the Port Commission approves the plan, the center would not open until this summer.
Even if it were the city’s biggest Navigation Center, 200 beds is really not very many in a city with an estimated 7,500 homeless people. Even Mayor Breed’s ultimate goal of 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020 would not address most of that population. But we do see a philosophical change here in getting new facilities open ASAP, with the Board of Supervisors considering measures to exempt permit processes and expedite the hiring of contractors to run these facilities, that should start moving the numbers in this crisis in the right direction.