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Embarcadero homeowners lose in final ruling to stop homeless center

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Contentious center by Bay Bridge will open in December

Photos by Brock Keeling

On Monday, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman dealt another and perhaps final blow to Embarcadero homeowners’ attempts to block the city’s new homeless navigation center in South Beach, ruling that construction on the center can continue.

Schulman’s decision noted that neighborhood group Safe Embarcadero For All (SEFA) “has dismissed all but one of its claims” in its longstanding lawsuit and that the only matter left to resolve was whether the city needed permission from the state before building on the seawall plots.

Over the last few months, SEFA lawyers argued that since Seawall Lot 330 was once part of the bay, it’s subject to the same California laws that puts waterways under the authority of the State Lands Commission, which did not approve the homeless center project.

But Schulman agreed with the city’s argument that such permission-seeking isn’t necessary. He pointed out that the port has already entered into “thousands of such interim leases” without requiring the permission of the state.

“The Attorney General and the State Lands Commission consistently have taken the view that [the] ‘public interest’ exception authorizes the Port to enter into non-trust leases of transferred properties,” Schulman wrote, thus scuttling the last of SEFA’s attempts to ground the seawall center.

A spokesperson for SEFA forwarded the judge’s decision but did not provide comment. The neighborhood group may appeal, but not in time to stop the final stages of construction on the 200-bed facility, which is expected to open by the end of the year.

“With these legal challenges put to rest, we can focus on what really matters—helping people get off the streets and into shelter,” Mayor London Breed said following the ruling.

In addition to jousting with the city over land use, SEFA and its representatives allege that the center poses a safety threat to this mostly upscale neighborhood, citing statistics earlier this year that showed crime going up in the South Beach.

But when KRON 4 compiled crime reports for a quarter-mile around navigation centers, most areas saw crime drop six months after their navigation centers, with only Dogpatch seeing a spike in complaints.

Navigation centers, which shelter homeless residents while directing them toward housing resources (often out of town), currently operate in five SF locations.

Although the process is generally praised, the waiting list to be admitted to a center remains long.