A San Francisco Superior Court judge ruled Monday that city officials can move forward with plans to construct a 200-bed SAFE Navigation Center along the Embarcadero at Seawall Lot 330.

The ruling is a blow to residents and merchants who oppose the center in their neighborhood due to fears of increased crime and assaults in the area.

Wallace Lee, a petitioner on the lawsuit to halt the project from going forward and representative of the Safe Embarcadero for All group, said The City has proven it does not know how to run Navigation Centers at other locations.

Lee said:

“Looking at the way that The City has run other navigation centers, we don’t have any confidence that The City will be able to run this one well without any negative consequences in the neighborhood.”

via Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing A rendering of the proposed SAFE Navigation Center along the Embarcadero in San Francisco, Calif. Illustration courtesy of Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.

The group’s attorney, Peter Prows, argued in court the lot had been approved for use as a parking lot under state law and that any changes to use of the land would require approval from the California State Lands Commission, which city officials did not obtain.

The property is owned by the Port of San Francisco and is being leased to The City temporarily.

Judge Ethan Schulman countered that 2007 legislation defining use of Seawall Lot 330 “have ceased to be useful for the promotion of the public trust.”

Schulman also disagreed with the assessment that crime increases in areas where Navigation Centers are located and said that crime statistics fluctuate day by day, month by month and from year to year.

The judge said crime statistics he reviewed near the Division Circle Navigation Center, which was cited as an example by the petitioner, mirrored what was going on citywide.

Brows suggested that when The City announced the opening of Navigation Center at The Embarcadero in June, more homeless people arrived in the neighborhood in hopes they would be first in line when the center opened, which Brows claimed caused an increase of crime and homeless encampments in the area near the project site.

The judge disagreed and said opening the Navigation Center is The City’s attempt to mitigate residents’ concerns about crime and encampments.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay A row of empty beds lined up inside the new Bryant Navigation Center in San Francisco, Calif, on Wednesday, January, 9, 2019.

Prows said he will discuss next steps in litigation with his client.

Mayor London Breed tweeted after the ruling:

“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.”

Jerold Chinn
Jerold Chinn is the San Francisco Bureau Chief of SFBay. A San Francisco native, he has spent a decade covering transportation in San Francisco. Send tips to jerold@sfbay.ca or at Twitter @Jerold_Chinn.

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