The City’s transit agency is telling RV dwellers to drive off into the sunset.
It’s a major reversal for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which previously pushed back against banning oversize vehicles where homeless people slept. Now, with The City exploring new ways to help that specific homeless population, the SFMTA is preparing signage saying “no” to oversize vehicles on specific city streets.
And the tiny street where the latest round of the battle over homeless residents living in RVs began, De Wolf Street, is among them.
The little one-block long stretch at the edge of the Ingleside has finally seen the conclusion of a long-running dispute, first reported by the San Francisco Examiner, between housed neighbors who complained the nearby homeless people living in RVs were a nuisance and a danger, and the homeless who pleaded for leniency — and help.
Last Friday those living in the RVs on De Wolf were cleared out.
One person out of seven was given permanent supportive housing, two were sheltered in temporary Navigation Centers, and the rest scattered, according to the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
With RVs cleared from De Wolf street, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency planted new signs there banning oversize vehicles.
On Tuesday the SFMTA Board of Directors voted to approve two other sets of restrictions targeting homeless vehicle dwellers, this time in the Bayview, while also approving a policy clarifying when, and why, the board would approve further bans.
The policy specifies that SFMTA will not seek RV bans, or other similar bans targeting people sleeping in vehicles, without first allowing other city agencies to offer homeless services.
“They’re really focusing on the people who have great need, the people who are sick, or for whom living in vehicles is problematic,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA director of transportation, at the meeting.
The policy approved by the board would allow oversize vehicle restrictions near schoolyards, playgrounds and community parks, to ensure children are not exposed to “public health risks” or public safety risks from encampments, and on residential streets with congested on-street parking, or on streets with vehicles subject to dumping or graffiti.
While the SFMTA board approved the policy, one SFMTA board director, Gwyneth Borden, was an outspoken critic of further street RV bans.
“I will support this policy. But I will not vote for any new bans until there is a solution,” she told her fellow board members. “We’re setting ourselves up to hear these every other week and there is still no solution.”
“The City has not done its job,” she said.
Neighbors have increasingly complained homeless people living in nearby RVs ruin neighborhood character, frighten children, make a mess or run dangerous gas appliances that could combust.
In September the SFMTA board took a stand and declared there would be no more RV bans on San Francisco streets — which they critiqued as a “whac-a-mole” approach, shuffling the problem without solving it — until city leaders crafted policies to help.
After that stalemate, The City announced help is on the way. But concrete plans have yet to materialize.
Mayor London Breed, Supervisors Vallie Brown, Hillary Ronen and Ahsha Safai are working together to craft a citywide program for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing that would “study the opening” of a facility to repair RVs so people could move along to other cities, as well as a vehicle storage facility while people live in shelters and seek permanent housing.
The effort will also see the Department of Homelessness assemble its first ever trove of data on who is living in oversize vehicles like RVs, and how best to help them out of homelessness.
Yet, critics pointed out, these efforts are still a plan to plan. They aren’t yet concrete, nor have they seen The City offer any permanent places for people to sleep.
At Tuesday’s meeting, after SFMTA directors said the situation had been “resolved,” Kelley Cutler, a human rights organizer with the Coalition on Homelessness, noted only one person out of eight on De Wolfe street was housed.
Cutler told them bluntly: “De Wolf has been ‘resolved.’ I don’t know ‘resolved’ for who.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of people referred to shelter on De Wolf Street.