So far the legal maneuvers of that group of Embarcadero residents who really don't want more homeless people in their midst have not gotten them anywhere. In the latest blow, a judge has denied their request for a temporary restraining order to halt construction on a Navigation Center on Port property.
Just to recap:
- San Francisco has found some success with non-traditional shelters that it has dubbed Navigation Centers, with the first one opened in the Mission in 2015. The centers allow homeless people to "check in" as couples or even as whole camps, along with pets and belongings, and stays are indefinite, with services like showers and drug counseling provided.
- In March, Mayor Breed signed off on a project to build the temporary structure on Seawall Lot 330 — a parking lot owned by the Port of San Francisco, across from Embarcadero’s Pier 30/32. The initial plan is to build a 200-bed facility that will live there approximately four years. "We identified a viable location, and we need to move quickly," Breed said at the time. "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."
- Less than a month later, residents of nearby Rincon Hill and the East Cut launched a campaign called Safe Embarcadero For All which raised $102,000 to pay some lawyers to fight this project tooth and nail. A dueling campaign launched by the Coalition on Homelessness has raised over $176,000 to date, and pledged to use the money to fund "potential legal costs and restrictions on the city from taking independent action," in addition to the Coalition's ongoing work.
- Mayor Breed was shouted down by angry residents and members of the Safe Embarcadero For All group at a community meeting on April 3. She stood her ground about building the Nav Center.
- The Port of SF subsequently approved the project — which Breed reduced in size from 200 to 130 beds in a compromise — leasing the property to the city for several years, and the residents appealed this decision to the Board of Supervisors in June. They lost that appeal.
- The group vowed to bring a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) lawsuit to halt the project, which they tried to file in court in Sacramento in July. A judge there tossed the case back to San Francisco.
- Construction was already well underway two weeks ago when a judge in SF Superior Court refused to grant an injunction to halt construction.
- In the latest development, as KPIX reports, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman ruled against the group saying, "the court [does not] accept the petitioner’s argument that it has shown irreparable harm here from the potential that the opening of this Navigation Center may subject it’s members or the public generally."
An attorney for Safe Embarcadero For All, Peter Prows, tells KPIX that the judge "got it wrong," and he continues to argue that the city's project violated the State Lands Commission rules. Prows also argues that the Port should have sought a market-rate lease for the property, which they did not in this case.
Exciting to see the progress being made at the new SAFE Navigation Center, which will soon help 200 people at a time get off the streets and connected with housing and services. pic.twitter.com/oXvXSaHCjy— London Breed (@LondonBreed) August 30, 2019
As environmental attorney Jennifer Hernandez told the Chronicle back in June, "Using CEQA for non-environmental purposes is an abuse of this environmental law, and this is another example of it." Similar arguments were made by a group that opposed the construction of the Chase Center in recent years.
In a statement on Twitter following Monday's ruling, Mayor London Breed said, "We’re moving forward because we need more Nav Centers to help people off the streets and connect them with services. We need more Nav Centers, more treatment beds, more permanent supportive housing, and more affordable housing if we’re going to address the homelessness crisis."