Proposed Homeless Shelter in the Heart of San Francisco Sparks Community Outrage

sanfranciscohomelessThe prospect of a 225-bed homeless shelter on the Embarcadero, one of San Francisco’s most scenic and economically vital areas, took residents by surprise. Only eight days earlier, the proposal had been unveiled to turn what is now a parking lot — Seawall Lot 330 — into the largest homeless shelter of its type in the city. Neighbors arrived en masse at the Port Commission hearing to express their views. It was standing-room only, with people crowded on floors and in aisles, and spilling out the door.

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After a brief presentation by Jeff Kositsky, executive director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, who touted the merits of the “Navigation Center” — as the new shelters are called — local homeowners, renters, and workers were granted two minutes each at the mic. All spoke passionately about their ties to the neighborhood and how the shelter would erode safety and quality of life. They worried that it would intensify drug use and other illegal activity and draw additional homeless people onto their property, leaving more needles and feces behind. Several described how their toddlers have already been poked by discarded syringes and had to take HIV tests. A father explained that his baby stroller was stolen as he was placing her in her car seat; a senior citizen recounted being chased by “a crazy person.”

Their testimonies were often agonizing. A few broke down as they pleaded with the commissioners to reject the proposal. Many emphasized that the waterfront is a jewel of the city. Placing an enormous homeless shelter in the center of it, in such close proximity to the prized Ferry Building, is bizarre. The location, they pointed out, is also a poor choice because few amenities like hospitals or grocery stores are nearby, and police response time in the area is slow. With no requirement for shelter residents to be sober, drug dealing, overdoses, and crime would proliferate.

Port Commissioners Kimberly Brandon, Willie Adams, and Doreen Woo Ho sat poker-faced. The Port of San Francisco owns Lot 330, and the proposal depends on their consent, which seems likely. Mayor London Breed supports the idea. The site itself was likely chosen for expediency, because the Port of San Francisco oversees the location, and commissioners are appointed by the mayor and approved by the Board of Supervisors.

“The community is feeling blindsided and shortchanged in regard to public process or a sincere desire for public input,” says Jamie Whitaker, who lives a block away from the site. “They cast us as millionaires who don’t care about the homeless, which is completely wrong. We just do not have faith in the city to provide the right kind of place for them and us. For example, there should be serious talk of building a mental hospital. It’s clear we have schizophrenic people in this city and they need help.”

After community members expressed their objections, a small contingent of homeless-rights activists spoke, trivializing their neighbors’ concerns as NIMBYism, and, predictably, accusing them of hating the poor. Most of the residents, however expressed compassion and praised the nearby Delancey Street Foundation, a self-supporting residential community for ex-convicts, addicts, and homeless people, because it provides vocational and social skills training in a drug and alcohol free setting. It’s a critical difference but the activists are deaf to nuance and unconcerned about anyone with homes, children, or businesses.

More crucial, though, is the attitude of city leaders and the media. The San Francisco Chronicle ran an editorial headlined, “San Francisco Neighbors are Wrong to Fight A New Homeless Facility,” dismissing the concerns of residents as “the magnetizing fear of a homeless influx,” and implying that elitism fueled their protest. But the Chronicle also admitted that those living on the streets are “often struggling with addiction or mental illness.” The proposed Navigation Centers are neither psychiatric hospitals nor substance-abuse facilities, both of which the city desperately needs.

Further, the Navigation Centers have not reduced homelessness. At last count, approximately 7,500 people were living on the city’s streets on any given night; shelters aren’t making a dent because so many homeless people are “service-resistant.” No one is required to go or stay, and many don’t. Tents and illegal activity mushroom around the shelters, despite so-called good-neighbor policies that are supposed to maintain a modicum of safety in the surrounding area.

The city, however, refuses to guarantee that there will be no uptick in crime and vagrancy. “We feel swindled,” says Wallace Lee, a retiree living in the area. “Something strange is going on. I used to be a lawyer and how this city works is confusing even to me. What I do know is that city officials don’t care about our concerns. I’ve been coordinating people to show up at these meetings. We will challenge the legislation. I’ve made this my full-time job, I stay up until midnight. I heard from a lot of people who want to continue to fight and I’m encouraged.”

And now Mayor Breed claims that she is “ready for battle over housing, homeless.” Her attitude is making enemies of tens of thousands of San Franciscans. An us-versus-them approach is counterproductive. At worst, she’ll get what she’s preparing for: a war with the people who care most profoundly about the city. The commission vote is expected on April 23.


  1. showandtell says

    In the attempt some months ago to clear out the filthy and dangerous Santa Ana river bed homeless encampment, politicians and the deciding judge went from vagrant to vagrant to offer services. Something on the order of 95% REFUSED ASSISTANCE OF ANY KIND.
    Unless we move in the direction of mental hospitals and lockdown rehab facilities for those who refuse aid, this situation will only get worse and become a further drag on the segment of society that somehow still manages to function, as well as not being fair to drug-addicted, alcoholic, and mentally ill homeless people.
    Take a look at what has happened to Seattle; it’s a shocking wake up call:
    “Seattle is Dying”

  2. Common sense has disappeared among the so-called leaders today.
    And they have managed to disarm the voice of the people, in the same breath saying they are representing the people. What are the people to do now? A revolt? A demonstration?
    When will the ACLU wake up and begin representing WE THE PEOPLE! The public at large is literally and otherwise paying a high price for the mismanagement of this government-created problem that appears is just getting started and going in the wrong direction.

  3. Great ! Let the Liberal ” Elite ” live with the mess that they have created . But , I have a feeling that , just like Skeletor Peelosi , when the problem really is at the foot of their house , they will solve it with arrests and jail sentences .
    Wonder what happened to all the lower paying jobs that people could get to keep from falling through the cracks . Oh ya, they have been given to those who came here illeagly and now there is no work for Americans that needed those lessor education jobs to survive .
    No worries ,” let them eat cake ” . Too bad that previous justice is not to follow this injustice and Utopia dream of fools.

    • showandtell says

      You’re right, not only have lower paying jobs that keep people afloat dried up because of illegals, and been criminalized because of minimum wage laws, etc., but all the truly affordable flop houses that helped people get by temporarily were long ago torn down to make way for luxury “affordable housing.”
      Isn’t it uncanny how all of this leftist crap that sounds good results instead in disaster? Can’t be a coincidence. It’s almost as if these people have a faux-religious-like fervor (not real religion) to do the wrong thing, instead of the right thing, at every turn.
      What I like about “Seattle is Dying” is that solutions are sprinkled throughout, and a resonating solution for drug-afflicted people is laid out at the end.
      No proposed solution will have instant results, obviously, or necessarily be the whole answer, but this is the direction we should be going in and we should all be supporting, don’t you think?
      I don’t think we have a choice; we’ve seen example after example after example of situations only getting worse as they are neglected and the wrong answers funded.

  4. What is the breaking point for the people of San Francisco?

  5. Brenda Torres says

    Democrat’s why of fixing the Drug Problem is to give them a Clean Place with Free Needles and Drugs and a place to sleep it off…Yeah that ought to do it…

  6. Stephanie says

    There’s lots of room in the Presidio, right below Pacific Heights. Put a shelter there.

    • Ernie Snyder says

      Sorry to hear there are sane people remaining in Frisco. This group of neighbors, they who love their city most profoundly, has it been a proponent of all the ridiculousness that added up to this latest bad joke?

  7. Matterofact says

    This problem has such simple solution – pass a homeless tax. That is a tax on the homeless – or, alternatively, a registration fee. If they want the right to live on the city streets and consume millions in city services, then they should pay for it. And if someone is living on the street and cannot show proof of payment, they would be incarcerated. And if, during that incarceration, they are shown to be mentally ill, they would be hospitalized.
    Problem solved; within 6 months, the streets would be homeless-free.

  8. SLOcitizen says

    If the primary concern is shelter and “caring” (mental, physical, etc.) then I submit if the Emabarcadero is “sacred ground”, then as an alternative the City Fathers and Mothers should consider using one (or two) of the ships in mothball in Suisun Bay. Review and evaluate the roster of possible ships (some which can be activated in 10 days) that could be used for the homeless. Think containment in one place moored adjacent to one the SF piers. The ships are property of the Feds. so engage our Senators for assistance.

  9. Watch out for some serious gandy dancing at city hall if Boeing puts out feelers.

  10. You voted for Socialist communist government stop winding and eat s*** if you want to make a change start with geting signature to start impeachment of Keven Nutson and let us fix California

  11. Hi Wallace Lee how do I get involved

  12. !@#$ing Retard Liberals you get what you ask for.

  13. Joseph Blake says

    I was homeless in San Francisco (travelled there when the Midwest was a “no-go”). No drugs, no alcohol…no criminal record. A veteran resource group (Swords to Plowshares) got me in a shelter (very near the corner of Fremont & Harrison, I think)…and then to an SRO in The Mission…I left SF as soon as I had my feet under me.

    While in that shelter, I met MANY people who were just not interested in doing better…one guy was going through bankruptcy after which he planned to spend the rest of his life in shelters; Other than that…pretty reasonable guy. Of course, there were drug-addicts, drunks (and “proud” of it) and many people who were looking for any way to scam the system (it’s a way of life for them).

    And some, were just like me (bear in mind, I stood out like a sore-thumb because I 1) follow the rules 2) cleaned my plate 3) kept myself clean and…..was respectful and polite). Repeat: I was VERY noticeable because of these things.

    Most people who are homeless are trying to “blend in” or “not be noticed” (no matter what above category they fall into), and because many shelters force them to leave for the day, a place to nap is in high demand (for those of us with a home…think about NOT being able to take a quick nap…or NEVER being able to sleep in) and life WILL wear you down.

    I no longer live in California, and I never will again, but I hope this gives some perspective what looking for solutions. Now? I am relatively comfortable, I voted for Donald Trump & an NRA Lifetime member.

    Good Luck and…..Joe “Beijing” Biden may be president, but the election was stolen (both can be true).

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