SF moves closer to homeless emergency

Despite opposition from Mayor Ed Lee, legislation declaring a state of emergency on homelessness in San Francisco is headed toward the Board of Supervisors with what appears to be veto-proof support.

The emergency declaration, introduced by Supervisor David Campos earlier this month, is intended to let The City bypass some rules around structural and habitability requirements and speed up the opening of new Navigation Centers, special shelters offering more flexible rules to clients and access to intensive services and supportive housing.

Campos moved to introduce the emergency declaration after expressing frustration over the city’s slow progress in opening new Navigation Centers. The first such center, which opened in the Mission District a year ago, has been widely hailed as a success in moving homeless residents into permanent housing, but offers only 75 beds.

Lee has come out strongly against the emergency declaration and companion legislation Campos introduced Tuesday calling for the opening of six more Navigation Centers within a year, dismissing the proposals as political grandstanding and “rhetoric.”

However the legislation was approved unanimously today by the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee and has eight supervisors supporting it, meaning it has enough votes to potentially override a mayoral veto.

Campos noted Thursay that while officials with the mayor’s office had said earlier this month that it would take as long as six months to open a new Navigation Center, they acted quickly to announce a new site this week following the introduction of his legislation, as well as 200 new units of supportive housing. The new 93-bed Navigation Center will open at the Civic Center Hotel in June, the mayor’s office said Wednesday.

Campos said:

“I don’t mind being attacked or being a political piñata so long as we have results at the end of the day.”

The committee approved one amendment, introduced by Supervisor Norman Yee, clarifying that the legislation was not intended to override city policies around public outreach or planning processes around selecting locations for shelters. The amendment came in response to concerns from neighborhood groups that the measure could lead to shelter sites being chosen without community input.