San Francisco will move ahead with plans to build a 200-bed SAFE Navigation Center along the Embarcadero this summer after the Board of Supervisors denied an environmental appeal lodged by residents who live near the project site.
Peter Prows, an attorney with Briscoe Ivester & Bazel, LLP, representing Safe Embarcadero for All, shared concerns from residents who live in the Mission Bay, Rincon Hill and South Beach neighborhoods that a homeless Navigation Center in the area would bring crime, blight, drugs, traffic and noise.
Prows also said the Port of San Francisco Commission, which approved the project in April, missed steps before approving the project, including state approval and environmental review as outlined in the California Environmental Quality Act.
Mayor London Breed, who proposed the temporary Navigation Center on Port property, said in a statement:
“Over the last month, we had heard ideas and feedback from residents and people who live in the area, whether they support the idea or oppose it, and we have incorporated some of those ideas so we can move forward with this SAFE Navigation Center on the Seawall Lot.
“We know that these Centers have been successful in other neighborhoods and in helping people to exit homelessness, and I believe this Center will help us continue to address the challenges of people living on our streets.”
The Center will focus on providing onsite services for the homeless with the ultimate goal of finding permanent housing.
The Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center has been a contentious issue between residents and advocates for the homeless. Several meetings where residents were present turned into shouting matches with city officials and project supporters.
Residents who spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting said The City was not listening to their concerns and that the project was forced upon them by the mayor.
Breed and Haney promised residents that the Navigation Center will initially open with 130 shelter beds and another 70 beds will be added over a six-month period. Officials also guaranteed the presence of two dedicated foot beat police officers in the area seven days a week.
Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said Navigation Centers at Division Circle, Central Waterfront, Bayshore and Bryant, saw a decrease in crime after opening.
He added that a high volume of 911 calls, nearly 3,500 per month, already come in from the area surrounding the proposed site.
“We wouldn’t expect to see more than one additional call on a monthly basis at this site based upon current data that has been presented by us and the appellants.”
Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the neighborhood where the Navigation Center will open, said he understands residents’ worries but stressed the homeless crisis The City is dealing with, including along the waterfront:
“There are hundreds of people who are unsheltered, who are living along the waterfront, who will be served by this Navigation Center. It is important that we just not do this, but we do it right, that this Navigation Center is a place where people can effectively connect to not just shelter, but to services and ultimately housing.”
He added that he found no evidence from the appellants that the project required a CEQA environmental review.
While Breed said the SAFE Navigation Center will start construction in the summer and open by the end of the year at Seawall Lot 330, Prows vowed to keep fighting.
“I expect we’re going to file a lawsuit… I expect us to win.”
Jerold serves as a reporter and San Francisco Bureau Chief for SFBay covering transportation, City Hall, and the Mayor's Office in San Francisco. His work on transportation has been recognized by the San Francisco Press Club. Born and raised in San Francisco, he graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in journalism. Jerold previously wrote for the San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit, noncommercial news organization. When not reporting, you can find Jerold taking Muni to check out new places to eat in the city.