One neighborhood group is taking credit for killing off plans for a homeless drop-in center at the blighted Stanyan Street ex-McDonald’s site, others are baffled that the city may let it sit empty for years.
The notoriously sketchy Haight Street McDonald's was demolished shortly before the pandemic hit, yet the site has maintained its notoriety. It was transformed into a tent-city safe sleeping site in late May of last year, which quickly brought a lawsuit from the adjacent Amoeba Records and Escape from New York Pizza. But they dropped their lawsuit in about three days, after enormous social media backlash pointed out that their attorney was Trumpy Fox News regular and Republican National Committee California committee member Harmeet Dhillon.
The site served as a safe sleeping site for about a year, but was eventually disbanded. The razed McDonald’s is slated to become an affordable housing complex, but that won’t even break ground for years. So there was a plan for an interim use as a homeless drop-in center, and wouldn't you know, that plan also enraged neighbors, and set off angry debates among established merchant groups like Cole Valley Improvement Association, and anonymous, nebulously-led “community groups” with names like Safe Healthy Haight.
I called for a hearing on the sudden abandonment by @SF_HSH of a project serving homeless youth in the Haight. HSH has reneged on its promise to launch a drop-in center with restrooms, showers, referral services as an interim use at 730 Stanyan. What changed? Why keep it vacant?— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) October 27, 2021
City Hall nixed that drop-in center out of the blue last month, with little explanation, leaving the district's supervisor Dean Preston demanding hearings on why plans changed. 48 Hills is reporting they think they know what changed, suggesting it was lobbying against the drop-in center by the Cole Valley Improvement Association.
“It’s not going to happen.”— 48 Hills (@48hills) November 15, 2021
Conservative newsletter gives the inside story on how the chances for the Haight Street homeless drop-in center died. https://t.co/8igOlyklly
The report is based just on a newsletter that 48 Hills acquired, apparently sent by the Cole Valley Improvement Association, which 48 Hills describes as “largely conservative homeowners and business owners.” That newsletter describes a community meeting they had with Breed on October 21, where Breed is quoted as saying the drop-in center “It’s not going to happen.” 48 Hills further paraphrases that “She then, according to the newsletter, told the local police captain to 'enforce the law on quality-of-life issues' (which typically means rousting, sweeping, and hassling homeless people to try to drive them out of the neighborhood.)”
But did the Cole Valley Improvement Association really “lobby” to kill the plan, or had the decision already been made weeks ago? It seems the latter. A Chronicle report on cancelling the drop-in center plans was published before the 4 p.m. Oct. 21 Breed meeting with the Cole Valley merchants even took place. That report says that “on Oct. 19, just two weeks before the center was slated to open, Preston said he learned the project was not moving forward.”
Either way, the space is again sitting empty and unused, which other Haight merchants and groups find counterintuitive. Today’s Examiner has a great writeup addressing how community groups feel about the empty McDonald’s site. Safe Healthy Haight weighed in against providing homeless services there (anonymously as is their usual habit). A member of another group Cole Valley Haigh Allies said that leaving the spot empty “seems like a real waste of real estate.”
Booksmith owner Christin Evans told the Examiner, “My pragmatic lens is that as a business owner and a resident, I’d like to see actual solutions to ending their homelessness rather than just additional policing to remove them from my block.”
Personally, just from my own two eyes, I always thought the safe sleeping site was a huge success. There were far fewer tents and unhoused people on Haight Street! But the Examiner piece dug into the aftermath, and while the safe sleeping site may have been a great band-aid, it may not have cured any permanent ills.
“Of the 73 people who stayed at the Stanyan site, just 24 ended up in housing afterwards,” the Examiner reports. “Another 29 went to an emergency shelter.”
Image: Camden Avery / Hoodline