Mayor London Breed first proposed turning a waterfront parking lot into The City’s largest navigation center in March. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Port staff recommends approval of waterfront Navigation Center

The Port Commission is scheduled to vote on a resolution on Tuesday.

The Port of San Francisco has recommended approval of a controversial Navigation Center that would bring an initial 130 beds for the homeless to the Embarcadero, and then grow in capacity over seven months to a total of 200 beds.

The Port Commission is scheduled to vote on a resolution on Tuesday that would authorize a contract between the Port and The City’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing for the proposed ‘SAFE’ Navigation Center on Seawall Lot 330.

The original proposal, announced by Mayor London Breed in March, called for the center to serve between 175 and 225 people, but was adjusted after nearby residents organized in opposition. Breed has set a formal goal of adding 1,000 new shelter beds for the homeless by 2020, and the large scale Navigation center is a step in that direction.

The recommendation comes amid stark opposition by neighborhood groups, who have voiced concerns over the center’s location, size, safety and potential quality of life issues.

Out of The City’s six Navigation Centers that are currently in operation, the proposed Waterfront SAFE center would be the largest. District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney has announced legislation that would mandate navigation centers in every supervisorial district — currently, the centers operate in just three neighborhoods.

On Wednesday, members of The Central Waterfront Advisory Group, which advises the Port Commission on issues pertaining to Port property from Rincon Park in the South Beach neighborhood to 26th Street in the Central Waterfront, also spoke out against the proposal.

According to Port documents, the contract between the Port and The City would expire after two years, but the Port Commission could authorize another two-year extension at the site if the conditions are met.

The center, which would occupy about 46,000-square feet of the site and includes 10,500 square foot outdoor space, would first feature dormitories with 130 beds and then ramp up to a total of 200 beds over seven months, with 165 beds scheduled to be added by the fourth month and the rest in the seventh month.

“The City believes that the gradual ramp up will ensure that neighborhood concerns are successfully addressed,” staff said in their report, which also indicated that Port officials have been grappling with addressing a growing homeless population in the area, with “homeless individuals and encampments” visible on “Port property at Justin Herman Plaza, Brannan Street Wharf, Fishermans’ Wharf, around the Ferry Building and in pier sheds throughout the waterfront.”

“Port staff does not have the resources or expertise to adequately respond to these populations,” Port staff stated in the report.

A survey conducted by HSH identified 179 people living unsheltered within an outreach zone proposed for the center, roughly spanning an area encompassed by the Embarcadero, Market and fourth streets.

Opponents of the proposal have questioned the effectiveness of the Navigation Center model, which is designed with a low-barrier to entry by allowing clients to enter along with their pets, belongings, and partners, and provides social services on site. Clients may not use drugs or alcohol on site, but are also not required to discontinue substance use to be referred.

According to the report,about 46 percent of clients who pass through the navigation centers “exit homelessness,” while only 10 percent exit due to “serious or repeated rule violations. Another 14 percent are “timed out,” 30 percent leave on their own.

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