In an effort to encourage social distancing, city supervisors are calling for “Safe Sleeping Sites” for those living in tents. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Legislation would allow homeless tent camps on public land

Fewer announces proposal as supes unanimously adopt resolution supporting ‘Safe Sleeping Sites’

As the coronavirus continues to spread in San Francisco, thousands of homeless remain unhoused and many living in crowded tent situations.

Supervisor Sandra Fewer announced Tuesday she is working on drafting emergency legislation that would “open up suitable public sites, including land owned by Rec and Park, for the purpose of establishing safe encampment sites.”

The legislation is needed because currently only recreational use is permitted on rec and park land, according to her legislative aide.

“Seventy percent of Golden Gate Park is my district,” Fewer said. “And I have identified specific areas which would be perfect for safe encampment sites.”

Details are still being worked out such as if the proposal would require The City to establish such camps within a certain time frame.

The legislation builds on a resolution introduced by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman that urges The City “to establish Safe Sleeping Sites for unsheltered people, to encourage social distancing, improve sanitation, and slow the spread of coronavirus disease.”

The resolution calls for the sites to have marked off space for each tent with adequate social distancing and resources like bathrooms, handwashing stations, meals, drinking water and garbage disposal as well as a safety plan and janitorial services.

The board unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday.

Supervisor Dean Preston said that he and other homeless advocates prefer that homeless are housed in hotel rooms or apartments but they are engaged in a debate with Mayor London Breed about the pace at which hotels are being secured and for whom. In absence of the hotel rooms, Preston said there is a need for safe encampment sites.

“Homeless advocates and housed neighbors have raised really well-founded concerns regarding sufficient hygiene and social distancing during the pandemic for those living in tents on our streets,” Preston said.

He said that he is in discussions about opening these sites in his district, which includes the Haight, and is committed to making one or more a reality as soon as possible.

Fewer said she intends to introduce the emergency legislation, which she is working on with Supervisor Gordon Mar, as early as next week.

“Though this is not a permanent solution to homelessness and not as good as a hotel room, it is certainly better than leaving our unhoused folks crowded on our sidewalks,” Fewer said.

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