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Republican-backed initiative wants to upend SF homeless navigation center plan

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“San Franciscans are outraged”

A tent-like structure cowers in front of a tall luxury condo building.
The Embarcadero SAFE navigation center.
Photo by AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

As San Francisco pushes to open more homeless shelters and navigation centers—and persistently jockeys over where to put them—a couple of local GOP politicos want to give voters the chance to stifle shelter expansion.

Last week the SF Department of Elections published a proposed measure with the working title “Limitations on Navigation Centers,” a potential addition to the November 2020 ballot.

Among other things, the initiative would limit new navigation centers to two years in one location, caps their size at 100 beds (depending on location, bed counts range from 64 to 200), and specify that “any new navigation center must open in the census tract with the largest number of unsheltered homeless” people in the city.

The last provision is a direct jab at Supervisor Matt Haney’s effort to open homeless centers in all 11 of the cit’s supervisorial districts; right now they’re clustered in just three, but the limitations proposal would concentrate shelters into even smaller areas.

The proposal also includes a proviso that if an area already has a center, the shelter can go to the tract with the next highest shelterless population, although it should go without saying that unsheltered homeless populations are rarely sessile in SF.

Former Republican candidate for mayor Richie Greenberg credits himself as coauthor of the measure, along with local GOP delegate Larry Marso.

Greenberg (who received 2.82 percent of the vote in 2018) accuses the city of a bait-and-switch scheme over homeless centers, originally pitched as temporary emergency provisions but now expanded beyond their original scope.

“San Franciscans are outraged,” he said in a press release.

The navigation centers have proved fairly popular with the majority of denizens; an annual SF Chamber of Commerce poll released last week found that 69 percent of voters surveyed said they would support a center in their neighborhood, and 72 percent said they want one in every city district.

But it is true that opening such locations brings out more entrenched neighborhood opposition. Greenberg, in particular, is a frequent critic of the city’s homeless policies, previously complaining on Fox and Friends that SF is a place “where the downtrodden are celebrated and coddled.”

Greenberg’s personal website alleges a “lack of political will” and “lack of voter enthusiasm” for fixing the chronic homeless problem—the latter of which is an interesting bid for someone attempting reform via the ballot box.

The measure has not yet qualified for the ballot, and backers are in the process of collecting voter signatures in hopes of making the cut for the November election.