A man walks past the soon-to-open sanctioned camping site for the homeless at the former McDonald’s by Golden Gate Park in the Haight on Tuesday, May 26, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Neighbors sue city over safe camping site planned for Stanyan Street

A group of Haight residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday asking a federal judge to stop San Francisco from opening an emergency homeless camping facility on the site of a former McDonald’s.

Alleging the move violates their constitutional rights and constitutes negligence, the group Concerned Citizens of the Haight is seeking to block the opening of the “Safe Sleeping Village” at 730 Stanyan St., across from Golden Gate Park. The city-sanctioned encampment is set to open later this week to allow homeless people to shelter in place while maintaining social distance.

The site, which will be operated by the nonprofits Larkin Street Youth Services and Homeless Youth Alliance, plans to accommodate 40 to 45 tents, with partners and pets allowed to stay together. It will provide showers, sanitized bathrooms and storage with 24/7 supervision, according to Supervisor Dean Preston’s office.

After years of complaints and city lawsuits over crime and loitering at the Stanyan Street McDonalds, The City bought the property in 2018 for $15.5 million with plans to eventually build affordable housing there. The site currently sits vacant and fenced off.

The group filing the lawsuit, which is represented by Dhillon Law Group, seeks an injunction from a federal judge to bar the City from proceeding with its plans and argues residents and businesses in the immediate area will be “irreparably harmed by the imminent crime and disease that is amply foreseeable as a result of this change.”

Concerned Citizens of the Haight and another newly-formed group, Safe Healthy Haight, sent a letter to City officials describing concerns over due process, zoning violations, and harm to businesses, and felt they were not meaningfully addressed. Joe Goldmark and Paul Geffner, the respective owners of the neighboring Ameoba Music and Escape from New York Pizza, are part of the effort, Hoodline first reported.

“This site is uniquely unsuited for this encampment,” said Harmeet Dhillon, lead attorney and Republican National Party official. She added that the City has “the ability to pay for hotels. Apparently, the mayor doesn’t want to use the money for that.”

Preston, who represents the neighborhood, called the lawsuit “frivolous,” although he would also rather put homeless residents in hotels. The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation requiring the City to place 7,000 homeless people in hotel rooms by the end of April, but Breed has said it could not be done safely by then.

“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. But, he added, “It’ll be a huge improvement over what we currently have.”

The site is slated to be open for three to six months, and otherwise has broad support from neighbors, Preston said.

The City recently opened one other safe sleeping site near the Main Library at Civic Center, and has plans for others in the works.

Michael Barba contributed to this report.

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