San Francisco

Mayor London Breed in the Middle of Heated Navigation Center Debate

City leaders want to build a 200-bed Navigation Center in San Francisco and the idea has people on opposing sides attacking each other including Mayor London Breed who stepped into the heated debate Wednesday.

"My goal is to hear from all of you today," she said as she stood her ground at a community meeting. "Let us talk, do you want me to talk or not."

The meeting, hosted by the Port of San Francisco and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, was held at the Delancey Street Foundation at 600 The Embarcadero, just across from the proposed site at Seawall Lot 330.

Mayor Breed showed up after designs of the center were presented and after police assured neighbors officers will add special patrols and be in direct contact with center security.

"We want this navigation center to have direct access to us to say there's a problem we need you they get a quick response," said David Lazar from the San Francisco Police Department.

Mayor Breed initially announced the proposal to build the Navigation Center there a month ago.

The proposed center would be the city's first SAFE Navigation Center, designed to be more effective than previous Navigation Centers in the city, providing 24/7 access and connecting guests with services and permanent housing. The center would also have 24-hour security.

Some neighbors said they are ready to give it a chance.

"I think the homeless need a place to stay," said San Francisco resident Shelley Carrol. "Housing is the answer but navigation is half way between shelter and housing."

Others walked out of the meeting saying their concerns weren’t being addressed.

"My frustration is tonight was a sales pitch, not a community meeting evidenced by focusing on lighting and color and exterior design not about what's happening to people outside," said San Francisco resident Chris.

Since the location was proposed, many South Beach residents have rallied together to announce their opposition to the center, citing concerns of increased drug use in the area.

A GoFundMe account, set up by a group calling itself Safe Embarcadero For All for the purpose of retaining legal counsel to stop the center from being built, has raised more than $90,000 of its $100,000 goal as of Wednesday night.

"We are worried the rushed process puts the political goal of building a large Navigation Center ahead of a legitimate concerns about public safety, drugs use, and other problems that a large shelter may bring to the community," the group said in a statement on the account. "The Navigation Center will not allow drug use inside, meaning that about 75 drug users will be forced into the surrounding family neighborhood to use drugs."

A different GoFundMe site, set up by proponents of the center calling themselves Safer Embarcadero For All, has raised $161,824 of its $175,000 goal. According to the account's organizers, the money would be used to support the Coalition on Homelessness and cover any potential legal costs.

On Monday, Breed said of the proposed site, "Our goal is to not allow this to be a burden to the neighborhood but to be something that helps to lift people up. Sadly, we have people who are homeless and we see them on our streets everyday and this is a way to address that issue."

Breed said that because of the pushback, she's willing to work with residents and possibly meet them in the middle.

"One of the conversations being had now is that they feel there's too many beds ... So maybe starting at a lower number and giving us a chance to see if it works could be a compromise. The whole point is about having an open conversation with the community. I do understand that people are upset and are frustrated, and we're here to listen."

The Port of San Francisco owns the site, which is currently a parking lot. The port would have to approve an agreement with the city for the center to move forward.

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