The residents who staunchly oppose the mayor's plan to construct a temporary homeless Navigation Center in their neighborhood, along the Embarcadero, will be appearing at today's Board of Supervisors meeting to appeal the Port of SF's decision to allow the project to move forward.
A coalition of neighbors has gathered a legal war chest in preparation for a fight over the plan, which they say will bring drug use, crime, and general blight to their waterfront environs. And the tactic they'll be taking if the Board votes against them is a familiar one, which will be to bring a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit against the project. As environmental attorney Jennifer Hernandez tells the Chronicle, "Using CEQA for non-environmental purposes is an abuse of this environmental law, and this is another example of it."
The residents, via their attorney Peter Prows, have vowed to "take this as far as we have to," which echoes other waterfront fights that have happened in recent years, including the successful one against the 8 Washington project, and the unsuccessful one against the Warriors' arena, a.k.a. the Chase Center.
As the Chronicle notes, while it's unclear how all 11 SF Supervisors will vote on the residents' appeal, all have previously expressed support for the Navigation Center plan.
While the tide of homelessness continues to rise in the city, the short-term methods for addressing the problem are limited, especially as the city's shelters overflow. Navigation Centers — in which individuals can reside for extended periods, with their belongings, until they can potentially be moved into a treatment program or more permanent housing — have seemingly been a successful model since they were first introduced in 2015.
Earlier this year, Mayor London Breed signed off on the construction of a 200-bed Navigation Center, the largest in the city to date, on Seawall Lot 330, which set off an immediate firestorm among residents in the Rincon Hill/South Beach vicinity. Breed had earlier set a goal of creating 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020, and this would get the city one-fifth of the way there. To Breed's credit, she held her ground when she attended a shout-y public meeting on April 3. Responding to shouts of "Build it at City Hall," Breed replied to the crowd, "It's always going to be a bad plan when it's in your neighborhood. I have a shelter in my neighborhood."
She later compromised and suggested the Center could open with just 130 beds, later rising to more.
The Port Commission unanimously approved the plan for the shelter, which will be a large tent-like structure (like the one at Division and South Van Ness) built on what's now a parking lot, with the plan to keep it there for two years. And the city has pledged to provide increased police presence in the immediate area.
One resident opposed to the shelter gives the most telling quote to the Chronicle, suggesting that he doesn't want more homeless coming to the area, which currently doesn't see as many as other parts of the city. "We just don’t have a homelessness problem [here] that would require a 200-bed Navigation Center," he says. But now that's myopic, right?
According to census numbers that have yet to be officially released, San Francisco's homeless count has risen 17% since 2017.