Haight Street group drops ties with prominent pro-Trump attorney

Amoeba, other merchants filed lawsuit seeking to block ‘Safe Sleeping’ site on Stanyan

A group that filed a lawsuit seeking to block San Francisco from opening a homeless shelter in the Haight has parted ways with the Trump-supporting attorney who took on its case after facing backlash on social media.

Amoeba Music and Concerned Citizens of the Haight, a newly-formed community group opposing the “Safe Sleeping” site, said Friday that they are no longer represented by Harmeet Dhillon, a San Francisco attorney and Republican party official. Dhillon’s firm, Dhillon Law Group, filed a lawsuit on their behalf on Tuesday seeking to stop The City from opening the emergency encampment on the site of a former McDonald’s.

Joe Goldmark and Paul Geffner, the respective owners of the neighboring Amoeba Music and Escape from New York Pizza, are part of the effort and announced their separation from Dhillon on Friday.

“Mistakes were made,” said Amoeba Music in a tweet on Friday. “A lawyer was recommended to us and in haste we took the recommendation without a thorough vetting. Harmeet Dhillon’s politics are obviously not in line with Amoeba Music’s beliefs and vision, and we have therefore parted ways.”

A number of social media users had declared they would boycott the stores over the lawsuit and their involvement with Dhillon after the lawsuit was announced on Wednesday.

Dhillon, a conservative regular on Fox News, is behind other legal efforts challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom on coronavirus health orders and a move to switch California to mail-in ballots to allow safe voting during the current pandemic.

Dhillon could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

The CCOH suit alleges that operating the site at 730 Stanyan St. would violate their constitutional rights, constitute negligence and ignore zoning. It argues that residents and nearby businesses would be “irreparably harmed by the imminent crime and disease that is amply foreseeable as a result of this change.”

The “Safe Sleeping Village,” run by Larkin Street Youth Services and Homeless Youth Alliance, opened Friday morning and is expected to hold 40 to 45 spots. Occupants will be provided with showers, meals, sanitized bathrooms and storage under 24/7 supervision for the site’s run of three to six months.

Now that the site is populated, CCOH is taking a wait-and-see approach, according to Amoeba Music co-founder Dave Prinz.

“I guess we’ll see how it plays out,” Prinz said. “If it goes ok, we’ll be ok with it, but if it doesn’t, we’ll probably reinstate the suit.”

Prinz added that a parking lot is an inhumane site when San Francisco has vacant hotels at its disposal.

“Why do you need to put 40 people on cement when there’s dozens of rooms?” Prinz said. “We’re certainly not anti-homeless. We think putting them on cement is inhumane.”

San Francisco first opened a homeless camping site near the Main Library at Civic Center earlier in May and is planning to open more.

Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents the neighborhood, and the Board of Supervisors have passed legislation mandating the placement of unhoused residents in hotel rooms, but Breed has been slow to implement that plan, saying it requires extensive staffing and cannot be done quickly.

“The safe sleeping site is not a substitute to getting people in hotel rooms, which we as a city need to be doing in a robust way,” Preston said earlier this week. But, he added, “It’ll be a huge improvement over what we currently have.”

imojadad@sfexaminer.com

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