The location of SF Mayor London Breed’s proposed Navigation Center in the Embarcadero of San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 8, 2019. (CHRIS ROBLEDO/Golden Gate Xpress)
The San Francisco Port Commission voted in favor of the controversial Navigation Center along the Embarcadero waterfront on April 23 despite facing intense opposition from community members.
After weighing the debates between opponents and advocates of the center for six weeks, the Port Commission tentatively agreed to open the center.
Mayor London Breed faced a great deal of backlash over the location of the center, its size and the expedited approval process.
“This is a very quick [process] for San Francisco,” South Beach resident Wallace Lee said. “You can’t even request a bike rack and get it put in six or seven months. It’s kind of a slap in the face when they say they
can’t fix a pothole but [they] can build the largest Navigation Center in the neighborhood.”
In response to the Navigation Center’s approval, Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) Executive Director Laura Foote said any building made to address homelessness should always be immediate.
“Tourists are horrified by the amount of street homeless that San Francisco has found acceptable for decades,” Foote said. “We are an international embarrassment.”
Some residents raised more than $101,000 for legal costs to delay the center in a GoFundMe account called “Safe Embarcadero For All.”
“No matter where you propose a homeless shelter, the local people are always going to freak out and do everything they can to stop it,” Foote said.
In a public meeting held by South Beach Rincon Hill and Mission Bay residents on April 15, city officials revised the original plan and announced the center will house 130 beds over a six-month period before
expanding to 200 beds.
Some residents said their concerns for the community have gone unnoticed in the revised plan, and that the center will not alleviate drug addiction or mental health issues among people experiencing homelessness.
“The majority of the community does not support the adjusted plan,” South Beach resident Dane Ince said. “Just take a drive around any existing homeless shelters in San Francisco and see for yourself how unsafe
these areas are.”
Another revision to the approved homeless shelter is a two-year lease with the Port of San Francisco with the possibility of a renewal determined through bi-monthly reports from community members, according to Emily Cohen, Mayor Breed’s policy advisor on homelessness.
“Our area is definitely doing its part to address the housing crisis in the city,” Lee said.
Ince said, “Homelessness is a citywide problem and the responsibility of solving the homelessness crisis needs to be shared by all districts.”
Foote said, “Navigation centers are an important piece of the puzzle, and we need more shelters to get people off the streets immediately. The answer has to be that we all hold hands and make these decisions together and that the entire city [agrees] that we need [more] Navigation Centers.”
District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney is in favor of the center and announced last week that future legislation could require all districts to open more navigation centers within the next 30 months.
Currently, there are nearly 1,200 people on the waitlist for shelters throughout the city, Haney said.
Coalition on Homelessness Policy Director Sam Lew said that over 4,500 homeless people remain unsheltered throughout the city.