Neighbors sue to block Embarcadero homeless shelter

Residents follow through on legal threat after Board of Supervisors backs 200-bed facility

A band of neighbors in South Beach and Rincon Hill announced Wednesday they have filed a lawsuit to block the city-approved homeless shelter planned for the Embarcadero just south of the Bay Bridge.

The lawsuit, filed in Sacramento Superior Court, seeks a restraining order to prevent The City from moving forward with plans to build the 200-bed shelter until the legal challenge is resolved. A judge could hear the request as early as this Friday.

“San Francisco unilaterally approved a mega-housing project on San Francisco Bay-front land burdened by the public trust, which prohibits housing without prior State Lands Commission approval, among other requirements, and without any environmental or design review,” the residents’ attorney, Peter Prows, said in a statement. “San Francisco violated direct statutory requirements the Legislature made specifically applicable to this special property.”

City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s spokesperson John Cote said that “all appropriate land use laws were followed.”

“San Francisco has a homeless crisis on its hands. The City is ready to put roofs over people’s heads and get them indoors,” Cote said. “Others are filing baseless lawsuits to keep people out in the cold. Rather than trying to shift the problem to someone else’s backyard, everyone needs to do their part.”

The Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected an appeal of the project on similar grounds on June 25. Residents vowed to sue after the vote.

City signs observed recently at the site say shelter construction will begin this month and conclude in November. Mayor London Breed proposed the shelter to achieve her goal of opening 1,000 additional shelter beds by next year.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the site of the planned homeless shelter, was critical of the lawsuit.

“I think it’s time to focus on making sure this Navigation Center is successful for the people it will serve, and for the neighborhood,” Haney said. “I’m not sure who is well served by further delays at this point.”

“The homelessness crisis on our streets and on the waterfront could not be more urgent,” Haney said.

On Friday, The City released new data showing there were 9,784 homeless persons counted earlier this year, a 30 percent increase from 2017.

Nearby resident Wallace Lee, a member of the group suing, said in a statement, “We support the moral imperative to care for the homeless. It is also a moral imperative of our government and its leaders to afford due process to residents, families, children, and businesses in this neighborhood and to protect them from harm.”

He said that “there are undeniable negative impacts of homeless shelters on our neighborhood, including public alcohol and drug consumption, police interventions, property crime, personal assaults, and attracting additional homeless encampments.”

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