San Francisco

Supervisors Move South Beach Navigation Center Plans Forward, Residents Threaten Lawsuit

Plans for a SAFE Navigation Center in San Francisco's South Beach neighborhood, providing beds for up to 200 homeless people, are set to move forward, city supervisors voted during a hearing at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

At the hearing, supervisors heard an appeal on a determination to exempt the center's site — Seawall Lot 330 — from an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. The exemption would allow for the temporary two-year center to be built faster.

The appeal was filed by the law firm Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP, which represents Safe Embarcadero for All. The group has opposed the opening of the center since Mayor London Breed first announced plans for a center in the area back in March.

"We recognize the seriousness of the homelessness problem in San Francisco," said Peter Prows with Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP. "But we strongly oppose the place of Mayor London Breed's Navigation Center."

Prows said the area's residents fear that the center would lead to increased crime, like incidents of drug use, property crimes, assaults and public urination.

Because of the center's size, the largest to be built in the city, Prows also said residents were anticipating that the center could generate more than one emergency call a day, impacting traffic.

"Traffic in the area is already bad enough as it is, from the Bay Bridge to The Embarcadero," South Beach resident Wallace Lee said during the hearing's public comment portion. "Any emergencies would make it worse."

However, Lisa Gibson with the San Francisco Planning Department said the department stood by its decision to exempt the center from an environmental review and recommended denying the appeal.

"The project will not cause an impact on traffic, noise, air quality or water quality related to emergency services at the site," she said. "The department of Homelessness and Supportive and Housing generally has not seen an increase in the amount of emergency services required in the vicinity of navigation centers."

A police lieutenant also assured supervisors that the Police Department would be providing two officers to walk the area seven days a week, anytime between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m.

At the end of the hearing, Supervisor Matt Haney said the appellants hadn't argued their case and supervisors voted unanimously to exempt the project from an environmental review, meaning the SAFE Navigation Center at the South Beach site will move forward.

"I get that they oppose the project but it's going to move forward. I don't think any of us are served well by these constant delays and lawsuits. Let's actually come together and build something that works both for the people who are served and the residents," Haney said after the meeting.

"We've got a ton of folks who are going to be out there cleaning the area, we've got dedicated (police) foot patrols, which never happens anywhere, so it's a huge commitment that the city has made and let's make it happen," he said.

Prows said, "I expect we are going to file a lawsuit ... We'll be asking the courts to stop the project.

"I expect us to win in court. The board has now stuck its neck out for this and they'll be accountable," he said.

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