The search for ‘safe parking’ begins

With legislation approved, city working to identify sites for people living in cars, RVs

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors gave final approval Tuesday to a law requiring The City to create “safe parking” sites for homeless persons living in their cars or recreational vehicles.

Now comes the hard part: actually finding a site.

What happens next is spelled out in the legislation, which was introduced by Supervisor Vallie Brown.

Within three months, the City’s director of real estate will survey property in the city and identify the sites where such a program could work. Similar programs are in place in other California cities like Los Angeles and East Palo Alto.

From there, site selection, neighborhood outreach and a buildout of the site, such as toilets and hookups, would need to occur. Mayor London Breed has already set aside $1 million for the program. If the site is on city agency-owned property, those bodies would need to approve its use.

Brown estimated it will take six months before a site is opened, which would bring it to November or December, if all goes according to plan.

“I think we are going to start with one, and then I would love to have two,” Brown said.

How many vehicles the first site could handle will depend upon the site. Priority will go to seniors, persons with disabilities and families with young children living in vehicles.

“I would love to see 30 to 50 but it totally depends on the site,” Brown said. “We are looking at all [supervisorial districts].”

But homeless facilities in San Francisco can face opposition, as was most recently seen with the Port Commission’s approval of a 200-bed Navigation Center on the Embarcadero just south of the Bay Bridge. Nearby residents are expected to sue to block it from opening.

Brown said there will be community outreach, but “we are all going to have to deal with this. I do feel that it is all our shared responsibility.”

In a recent count The City found there were more than 400 vehicles with people living in them, including 313 recreational vehicles and 119 passenger cars. The City has adopted restrictions on overnight parking but critics say such restrictions push the problem to other blocks and exacerbate the challenges facing those living in the vehicles by adding the financial burden of citations and tow fees.

Instead, Brown’s legislation will try something different. People living in their cars or RVs will have the opportunity to come to a “Vehicle Navigation Triage Center,” where they could meet with case managers and have their vehicles looked at. From there, the program will determine if they can have access to the “Safe Overnight Parking Lot,” where there will be showers, wireless access, waste disposal and security.

Case managers will work with those living in the vehicles to help them obtain services like medical care, legal assistance and housing. People could stay up to 90-days.

In other business, the board unanimously approved Mayor London Breed’s appointment to the Planning Commission of Frank Fung. Fung, who was serving on the Board of Appeals, was appointed to serve out of the term that expires June 30, 2022. His seat was formerly held by Rodney Fang, who became San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s new president.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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