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Embarcadero homeless center approved—again

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City rejects appeals by nearby homeowners that would have blocked construction

A mostly empty parking lot in South Beach, with a nearby condo high-rise on the right. Photo by Brock Keeling

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors rejected appeals by neighborhood groups trying to block a homeless navigation center at Seawall 330 near the Bay Bridge, clearing the way for construction.

Mayor London Breed selected the Embarcadero site earlier this year, planning for the locale to host 200 beds as part of a campaign promise to increase the capacity of the navigation center system by 1,000 by the end of next year.

Despite complaints by South Beach residents—an April community meeting dissolved into jeers and shouts of “Go home” and “We live here”—the Port Commission approved the proposal on a 5-0 vote in April.

In response, the Portside Master Association and Portside Homeowners Association, representing disgruntled residents of two buildings on Bryant Street and Main Street, and Safe Embarcadero For All, which includes residents of Rincon Hill, asked the city to block implementation of the vote, citing technicalities in the Port decision.

According to the complaint forwarded to the Board of Supervisors:

None of the environmental documents/applications or review by environmental staff or the Port staff note that the site is entirely within the Waterfront Special Use District No. 3, and is subject to land use controls in addition to those set forth in the Planning and Port Codes. The fact that a project is entirely located within the Waterfront Special Use District MUST be included in any adequate CEQA review and analysis.

[...] There is also no reference to, or analysis of, the applicable and mandated Waterfront Design Review Process which should have been directed by the Port Commission before it rushed to approve.

The appeal highlighted potential oversights ranging from protections of “original/historic windows” at the current site to possible health hazards from “disturbance of approximately 43 cubic yards of soil for the installation of foundations and for utility work” to earthquake hazards.

Also included in materials presented by the appellants were reports from other city homeless navigation centers of “critical incidents”—crimes or potential crimes—alleging possible threats to neighborhood safety if the center goes ahead.

But city lawmakers seemed unimpressed with the case made by neighbors, voting 9-0 to reject the appeals. (Supervisors Hillary Ronen and Aaron Peskin were not present.)

In an emailed statement following the vote, Mayor London Breed said, “I am committed to making this site work for the people who need help and the surrounding neighborhood.”

The new center will initially host 130 beds, adding 70 more during the next six months.

After the supervisors vote, Peter Prows, a lawyer representing one of the appellant groups, predicted a lawsuit over the center plan in the near future, telling KPIX, “The courts get the last word on this.”

Presently, Seawall Lot 330 is mostly used for parking, with a few temporary uses throughout the year. The city presently operates six other centers.