SF declares homeless encampment on Division Street a public nuisance

The City of San Francisco is stepping up its efforts to clear tents from city streets by declaring a large homeless encampment on Division Street a public health nuisance today, city officials said.

Officials with the Department of Public Health planned to post 72-hour notices to vacate Division between 11th Street and South Van Ness Avenue, public health director Barbara Garcia said.

The area is “insanitary due to accumulation of garbage, human feces, hypodermic needles, urine odors and other insanitary conditions, and it is hereby declared as a public nuisance.”

Public health workers will be out at the camp over the next three days providing outreach materials and directing people to shelters, including a massive 150-bed shelter that recently opened on Pier 80.

But the Department of Public Works, charged with clearing encampments, has steadily been clearing campers for months, public works spokeswoman Rachel Gordon said today.

DPW crews were out on Division Street Monday clearing some people and otherwise cleaning up the sidewalks.

“It is a public health nuisance out there, there’s needles, feces, rotting garbage, it’s not conducive to a dense urban environment where there are people living in the area, people working in the area and people walking down the street,” Gordon said.

Declaring the entire area as a public health nuisance just gives city workers another tool in enforcement, Gordon said, in addition to existing laws against pitching tents on city streets and blocking sidewalks.

The enforcement action is similar to what happened over four years ago when city crews cleared Occupy SF from Justin Herman Plaza. That area was declared a public health nuisance and cleared by public works crews, with police standing by for security in case anyone tried to interfere.

Public works crews clearing campsites typically give people a chance to collect their belongings before confiscating them, but anyone who has their equipment confiscated can pick them up at the public works operations yard within 90 days, Gordon said.

Some people’s belongings are taken to the Pier 80 shelter if they can get a spot there.

Gordon said public works crews have been removing encampments this way for months, with a “hot spot crew” rolling out each morning, rotating through different camping areas in the Mission, Bayview and Potrero areas and cleaning up encampments. Even after an area is cleared, people may return there a few weeks later, so crews need to keep coming back to clear them again, she said.