Supes reject appeal, approve 200-bed homeless shelter on the waterfront

Residents have threatened to sue to block the project

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday rejected an appeal of a 200-bed homeless shelter on San Francisco’s waterfront by nearby residents, approving the project unanimously.

The board’s 9-0 decision to uphold the Port Commission’s April approval of the Navigation Center near the Bay Bridge is a victory for Mayor London Breed, who has championed the project and needs it to realize her goal of opening 1,000 additional shelter beds by the end of 2020.

More Navigation Center sites, which impose fewer rules on residents than traditional homeless shelters, are in the works, including a Lower Nob Hill site proposed by Supervisor Aaron Peskin Tuesday at Post and Hyde Streets in a building once occupied by the business House of Fans.

The board’s vote Tuesday means the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing can move forward with plans to build out the 200-bed Navigation Center on Seawall Lot 330, a Port of San Francisco property. The shelter could open by the end of this year.

“Our City is in the midst of a homelessness crisis, and we can’t keep delaying projects like this one that will help fix the problem,” Breed said in a statement. “When we have people suffering on our streets, we need to be able to provide them with the care and services they need. This SAFE Navigation Center will help us do that and I am committed to making this site work for the people who need help and the surrounding neighborhood.”

The board rejected two appeals filed with the Board of Supervisors that argued the necessary environmental and design reviews were not performed.

One appeal was filed by attorney Stephen Williams for the Portside Master Association and Portside Homeowners Association, a group that represents about 220 households.

Another was filed by attorney Peter Prows for a neighborhood group that calls itself Safe Embarcadero For All, which is a group of South Beach and Rincon Hill residents.

“We strongly oppose the placement of Mayor London Breed’s Navigation Center on the Embarcadero waterfront,” Prows said. “This is the gateway to the city, its front yard.”

He said that “more than 10,000 people, many of them retirees and young families with children, live within three blocks of the proposed project” and that “there are undeniable negative impacts of more homeless shelters on this neighborhood.”

Wallace Lee, a resident of South Beach near the proposed site, said, “This project has been rushed through so quickly that things haven’t been thought through.”

He said that emergency calls would increase, which would increase traffic, and that “public services are not sufficient for this.”

“First responders in the area are already stretched. It’s a constant community complaint,” Lee said.

But Jeff Kositsky, director of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said, “Speaking generally, we have not seen increases in crime or calls, we’ve generally seen a calming effect, around the Navigation Center sites.”

He added, “With 5,000 people living on the street, I believe that it is quite clear that we need to add more temporary spaces for people to be.”

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the neighborhood, said the arguments in the appeals were not “valid.”

“We need Navigation Centers. They are not the entire solution. They are an essential tool for us to be able to address the crisis on our streets,” Haney said. “Over 400 people have died on our streets in the last two years. This is a life a death or situation and it is urgent.”

After the vote, Prows said that he expected to file a lawsuit to stop the shelter from moving forward, possibly within weeks.

“The board gets to make these kinds of political decisions but the courts will have the last word on this,” Prows said.

Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Hillary Ronen were absent for the vote.

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