Headlines are blaring that the SF Board of Supervisors just approved the “most expensive homeless response” ever with $140,000-a-year RV parking spots at a Bayview RV triage center, but PG&E and Urban Alchemy are a big chunk of those costs.
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors held a seemingly humdrum, routine vote to authorize a two-year extension of the Bayview Vehicle Triage Center at Candlestick Point, which opened during the pandemic. The supes approved the extension at a cost of $312,000 a year. There was no discussion, the vote was a unanimous rubber stamp, and then the supes moved on to the next item.
But the Chronicle got ahold of a Budget and Legislative Analyst report about the facility. And they’ve got a stunning headline that this center is “the ‘most expensive homeless response’ ever,” and that “One parking spot (at the triage center) is set to cost about $140,000 a year in operating costs, or about $12,000 a month — that’s five times more than the median monthly cost for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco.” And total costs for the two years are expected to top $12 million.
Is the $1.7m bathroom team now running SF’s homelessness program? https://t.co/iu7LwiC09b— Chris Elmendorf (@CSElmendorf) October 4, 2023
Those costs are instantly drawing comparisons to the infamous $1.7 million Noe Valley toilet debacle earlier this year. And the Chronicle is quite correct with their “most expensive homeless response” quote. But the full quote bears some fleshing out, and explains some key detail about the costs.
The Budget and Legislative Analyst report says that “Assuming an ongoing capacity of 35 vehicles per night, the cost per vehicle is approximately $140,000 per year, which is by far the most expensive homeless response intervention.”
The $140,000 per year is not just for the parking spot. It’s an average per-spot cost based on the current 35 vehicles there. That number of vehicles is expected to nearly double, but PG&E hasn’t hooked up all the connections yet, so the site is only half-occupied. That's leading to higher per-resident costs, and the need for costly diesel generators.
And it seems fingers are being pointed at PG&E over this. In the Chronicle’s coverage last week of a supervisors’ committee hearing on the matter, they say that supervisors Shamann Walton and Hillary Ronen “blasted PG&E for its service at the site, criticizing the company as ‘evil’ and ‘a big part of the problem.’” PG&E responded in a statement that the project was “not delayed in any way.”
Video from that meeting is not archived online, so we cannot review the exchange about PG&E (but boy, would we like to!). Still, there is no disputing that lack of electrical hookups is limiting the site’s residency capacity, leading to higher per-resident average costs.
And above we have a detailed breakdown of that $12.2 million overall cost, per the Budget and Legislative Analyst report. And who do we have here ringing up the site’s highest costs, at $7.6 million? It’s the sometimes controversial street ambassador program Urban Alchemy, who’ve certainly received many a lucrative contract under the Breed administration.
There’s another nonprofit listed there called the Bayview Hunters Point Foundation, in line to pull about $2.5 million over two years. The budget report points out that “Bayview Hunters Point Foundation was one of two non- profits on elevated concern status in the Controller’s Citywide Nonprofit Monitoring and Capacity Building Program Report FY 2021-22, based on their lack of compliance with a grant agreement to provide fiscal sponsor service to United Council of Human Services, invoicing departments for costs not yet incurred, and turnover in leadership.”
So if you want to call much of this spending something along the lines of “homeless-industrial complex,” I am not going to argue with you.
But while the “most expensive ever” component of the budget report will grab the headlines, it will likely garner fewer headlines how the report concludes with “We are recommending approval” of the two-year extension. And that same report also adds, “All lease and service contract costs would be funded by Proposition C funds, a gross receipts tax that funds homeless housing and services.”
So this is not deficit spending. But it is probably money that could be spent a lot more effectively elsewhere to fight homelessness, instead of on RV parking spaces that don’t have electrical hook-ups. And that’s the kind of thing we hope the new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing Oversight Committee takes on, because empty spaces at the triage center equate to a few dozen more people staying on the street.
Image: A Google Street View image of RVs parked on Hunters Point Expressway in February 2021