A parking lot near the Balboa Park stationhas been identified as a possible safe parking location for people living in RVs. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Safe parking site for homeless who live in their vehicles proposed near Balboa Park BART

Facility would offer social services, security, bathrooms for overnight parkers

It’s been a long road, but homeless RV and car dwellers may finally be able to park and rest.

City officials have proposed a Balboa Park site for the first “triage center” site for people living in their vehicles. The site at 500 Geneva Ave. at Balboa Upper Yards, announced Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Vallie Brown Monday, would provide a safe place to park and social services.

“We’ve seen a rise in homeless people living in their cars in our neighborhood,” Safai told the San Francisco Examiner Monday. “This is an honest conversation, nothing’s been decided yet.”

A community meeting is planned at Balboa High School from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. to allow residents to weigh in on the plan this Saturday, July 20. Should the community be on board, Safai said he expects the pilot to begin in November, pending new legislation to lock-in the site.

The Balboa Upper Yard property will one day host 138 units of affordable housing, with the triage center providing a temporary use for the site in the meantime.

The facility could serve up to 33 vehicles and offer bathrooms, lighting, community “ambassadors” to provide security. I could also serve as an “entryway” to permanent housing, according to the supervisors, through the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s Vehicle Encampment Resolution Team.

People would be allowed to stay on site 90 days, with options for renewal until housing is made available. The proposal also has the support of the Coalition on Homelessness, which has long advocated for services specifically for those living in vehicles.

“We believe this is addressing a real need,” Safai said.

The location is just a stone’s throw from the Balboa Park BART station and not far from De Wolf street, where the legislation got its start. That tiny one-block stretch near Alemany Boulevard was home to many RVs where people lived full-time, until neighbors complained the RV-dwellers made the neighborhood unsafe.

Safai sought to ban RV parking along that block in September 2018, but the SFMTA Board of Directors initially told Safai “no,” citing a number of recent RV street bans that pushed homeless people living in those vehicles from neighborhood to neighborhood. Homeless advocates described the bans as a citywide game of Whac-a-Mole, with far graver consequences.

The De Wolf parking ban was later approved, after Safai and Brown began working on a plan to help RV dwellers and people living in other vehicles in San Francisco. Mayor London Breed backed the plan with $1 million from The City’s budget, and the Board of Supervisors will fund the plan with $200,000 annually.

“Sadly, more and more San Franciscans are resorting to their vehicles to keep a roof over their heads. This isn’t a new phenomenon but it is a growing dimension of homelessness, and one we need to address,” said Supervisor Brown, in a statement. “Now we can really get to work helping our neighbors get out of their vehicles and back into suitable housing.”

That number of neighbors living in vehicles is growing, according to recent city counts.

The City found 432 inhabited vehicles on the streets of San Francisco, including 313 RVs and 119 passenger cars, in its first count of such vehicles in 2018. At the time, homeless officials said the count was conducted due to a growth in complaints about such vehicles.

joe@sfexaminer.com

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