San Francisco Residents In Wealthy Area Sue City Over Planned Homeless Shelter

The shelter would provide 200 beds for unhoused residents in the California city, where homelessness has surged in recent years.

Residents of an affluent San Francisco neighborhood are suing the city and state over a planned homeless shelter to be built in the area.

A group of people who live near the Embarcadero ― a waterfront area popular with tourists, where city officials recently approved bringing a “navigation center” for homeless residents ― filed a lawsuit Wednesday in Sacramento County Superior Court. The suit claims that the city violated state law by not getting approval from the State Lands Commission for this use of the property.

In April, officials with the San Francisco Port Commission unanimously approved a new homeless shelter, which would provide 200 beds for unhoused people and offer a range of services, including case managers to connect people with public benefits and permanent housing. The shelter would allow people to bring pets and have 24/7 access to the space.

The issue inspired warring GoFundMe campaigns ― one from neighbors opposing the project, and another from homeless rights advocates in support of it.

In June, the city’s board of supervisors rejected an appeal from the opposing residents on the basis of environmental regulations, allowing the project to move forward.

The city was expected to start construction on the shelter later this summer, with the center opening by the end of the year, per the mayor’s office.

“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,” Mayor London Breed said in June. “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.”

People opposed to a proposed homeless shelter hold up signs during a meeting of the Port Commission, April 23, 2019, in San Francisco.
People opposed to a proposed homeless shelter hold up signs during a meeting of the Port Commission, April 23, 2019, in San Francisco.

Judy Lin, a resident who contributed to the fundraiser opposing the shelter, told HuffPost in March that they “all want to help the homeless,” but that this project was “deeply flawed.”

Lin argued that the center would be in a “densely residential” neighborhood with “families, children and retirees,” and expressed concern that it would be serving (and hypothetically attracting) homeless residents with substance abuse issues.

“All neighborhoods have families and children. Both rich and poor people alike have substance abuse issues,” said William Fitzgerald, a San Francisco resident who doesn’t live near the site and who started the GoFundMe supporting the project. “The answer is not to turn them away ― it’s to try and help them.”

Amid the nation’s affordable housing crisis, homelessness has surged in California, and specifically in San Francisco’s Bay Area, in recent years.

On a given night in January 2019, there were over 8,000 homeless people in San Francisco, most of whom were living “unsheltered” ― that is, in the streets, vehicles or other places not suitable for human habitation ― per a count for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Meanwhile the city only has enough shelter beds for about 2,500 people, according to a release earlier this year from the mayor’s office.

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