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Embarcadero neighbors ask court to nix city’s homeless center approval

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“San Francisco unilaterally approved a mega-housing project on San Francisco bay-front land burdened by the public trust,” says attorney for anti-homeless shelter group

One of three large temporary shelter buildings at the upcoming Embarcadero navigation center, Monday, October 21, 2019.
Photos by Brock Keeling

In its continuing attempt to quash a 200-bed homeless navigation center, a group of South Beach homeowners, currently suing the city of San Francisco, filed a motion Friday asking that the court order the city set aside its approval of the project.

Peter Prows, the lawyer representing nonprofit Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA), claimed that Judge Ethan Schulman already concluded that the city violated state law after approving the homeless transition center at Seawall Lot 330 in September.

Prows said the city failed to get the necessary approval from the State Lands Commission for the development and asked the judge for a writ undoing the decision.

“San Francisco unilaterally approved a mega-housing project on San Francisco Bay-front land burdened by the public trust, which prohibits housing without prior State Lands Commission approval, among other requirements, and without any environmental or design review. San Francisco violated direct statutory requirements the Legislature made specifically applicable to this special property,” added Prows in his request.

City attorneys argue that because the center is a temporary development, it falls outside the purview of those state laws. In September, however, Schulman called this argument “unpersuasive.”

In September, SEFA lost a bid for a restraining order to block completion of the shelter, which is now under construction and expected to open in December, but it’s that very decision Prows cites now.

Navigation Centers aim to get people off the street and toward housing and stability.

Schulman wrote in his September order that SEFA has a “reasonable likelihood of success” in its suit and that “the city conceded it did not obtain [the state’s] prior written approval” for the waterfront development. As such SEFA asks the court to undo the project’s permitting.

The next hearing for this ongoing case will happen November 12, when Schulman will consider the writ request.

As of Monday morning, the budding homeless navigation center, sitting atop a 2.3-acre South Beach parcel in front of the Watermark, a luxury condo high-rise, has most of its exterior work complete.

SF Department of Public Works Project Manager Rachel Alonso testified in Septmeber that stopping or stalling construction the project could cost the city at least $100,000 in additional expenses and create urban blight in the neighborhood.