Construction is underway on the future Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center near Bryant and Beale streets. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Navigation Center opponents’ lawsuit sent back to SF

Judge declines to issue immediate injunction stopping construction of Embarcadero shelter

A Sacramento Superior Court Judge on Thursday declined to give an immediate injunction to a group of neighbors opposing a homeless shelter planned for the Embarcadero and sent their lawsuit and temporary restraining order request back to San Francisco.

The group of South Beach and Rincon Hill residents filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County on July 10 after the Board of Supervisors unanimously rejected their appeal of a 200-bed Navigation Center on the site of an existing parking lot on Embarcadero last month.

At the first hearing on the restraining order in Sacramento on Thursday, Judge James Arguelles granted a motion filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera last week to move the proceedings to San Francisco. So far, no further hearings have been set.

John Cote, a spokesperson for Herrera’s office, said on Thursday that there was ”no reason for this case to be in Sacramento.”

“This small group of opponents was trying to conceal what it was doing by improperly suing San Francisco in Sacramento. The court saw right through it,” said Cote. “It was a blatant attempt to avoid not only the court in San Francisco, but the people of San Francisco. Now these opponents are going to have to justify their baseless lawsuit here.”

District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, whose district includes the Embarcadero, agreed.

“This is a San Francisco issue, only impacting San Francisco. It seems entirely logical that it be heard in San Francisco courts,” he said.

More than 9,700 people were found homeless in San Francisco during a Point-in-Time count conducted earlier this year. Mayor London Breed proposed the center as part of a larger push to add more shelter beds and has previously called it “necessary” in addressing The City’s growing homelessness crisis.

The opposing neighbors, united as the group “Safe Embarcadero for All,” filed for a restraining order to prevent the building of the shelter until the legal dispute is settled.

Prior to the shelter’s unanimous approval at the San Francisco Port Commission in April, the neighbors rallied in opposition, criticizing initial plans that called for an up to 225- bed shelter— the largest of the city’s six currently operating navigation centers — citing safety and quality of life concerns.

The plan was scaled down, and will now begin with 130 beds and then increase in size over a seven-month period to a total of 200 beds, but the change has not appeased opponents.

The group’s lawsuit seeks to have the State Lands Commission step in to “protect the public from the development as the property is public trust land over which the State Lands Commission has authority as well as other legal objections,” according to a statement published on Thursday.

“We look forward to attempting to get a [temporary restraining order] and trying this case in San Francisco courts. We are confident we will prevail on the law and the merits of our filings and arguments in opposition to the City’s efforts to railroad this project over the objections of neighbors and over the rule of law,” Safe Embarcadero For All lawyer Peter Prows said.

Meanwhile, construction of the navigation center is already underway. Department of Public Works spokesperson Rachel Gordon said on Thursday that a contractor is “almost done digging the footing” for the foundation of a community services building at the site.

On Friday, the contractor will begin working on the building’s structure. According to Gordon, construction will wrap up in November, and clients are expected to move in some time in December.

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

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