Neighbors oppose plans for soup kitchen in SF

Plans for a soup kitchen in San Francisco’s Mission District are meeting with opposition from neighbors worried that it will bring more homeless people into the area.

The soup kitchen at 1928 Mission St. would be operated by nuns with the Fraternite Notre Dame Mary of Nazareth.

The nuns have operated a soup kitchen at 54 Turk St. in the Tenderloin since 2008, but they began searching for a new location last year after a steep rent increase. They are being assisted by philanthropist Tony Robbins, who has offered to help buy the Mission Street space.

UPDATE 5:42 p.m. Planners back Mission soup kitchen over neighbor complaints.

Their plans, however, are being protested by the homeowners association for the mixed-use building at 1930 Mission Street that includes the space they are purchasing, as well as by the owners of a neighboring building. The two groups have filed a request for discretionary review that will go before the Planning Commission on Thursday.

The homeowners association argues that the kitchen will draw long lines of homeless people that will inevitably congregate outside the building.

The association wrote in its letter requesting the Planning Commission review the project:

“The Association does not dispute that feeding the homeless is a wonderful thing to do. However, the Project Site is not the appropriate location…There is simply no way to accommodate the hundreds of homeless persons who will congregate outside at the location to gain entry to the 35 seats inside.”

The sisters, however, have the support of a number of community groups including the Mission Economic Development Agency and the Mission Neighborhood Health Center. The planning department has received at least 42 letters in support of the project as well as a petition with more than 3,000 signatures.

The sisters currently serve around 250 meals for lunch three days a week at their Turk Street site, bake pastries for sale elsewhere and make dinners that are taken to United Nations Plaza and the Bayview, according to their letter responding to the homeowners. The site is well managed and has not been the source of problems, the letter states.

The letter states:

“The Sisters at times have had a line outside their Turk Street location, but the line is orderly and does not cause problems in the neighborhood…The Sisters and their volunteers keep the sidewalk outside their space and their neighbors’ spaces clean and trouble-free.”

The Mission Street space is nearly twice as large as the Turk Street space, and close to both BART and a Navigation Center, a temporary homeless shelter located a site that is slated for affordable housing development.

The nuns would like to increase the number of days they serve meals if feasible, the letter notes.

Planning staff have recommended that the Planning Commission approve the project as proposed. In a report, planning staff members noted that the soup kitchen not only complies with relevant planning codes and zoning and also helps meet city concerns about food insecurity in a district where an estimated 31 percent of residents are considered at risk.

The report said:

“This number includes both homeless and low-income individuals, making the soup kitchen a very much needed land use within the neighborhood.”

The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday at noon in Room 400 at San Francisco City Hall.