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SF debates commission to oversee homeless agency

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A proposal to create an oversight commission overseeing San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing moved another step toward the November ballot.

The Board of Supervisors Rules Committee moved the charter amendment to the full board Monday. The proposal envisions a seven-member Homelessness Oversight Commission for accountability and a layer of supervision over the department, said Supervisor Matt Haney, the amendment’s lead sponsor.

Haney said last week the commission would provide a more streamline and coordinated effort to help The City’s homeless population. He added that almost every city department with a budget of more than $10 million has an appointed city commission that oversees their department.

Haney said:

“The fact that the department of homelessness does not have one is the exception and not the norm.”

Haney amended the proposal while working with the department and the mayor’s office to craft what became the final charter amendment.

Tweaks to the original proposal included an exemption of commission members from making shelter contract decisions, under the shelter emergency ordinance, and giving the city controller one appointment seat.

Jeff Kositsky, who heads the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, said he supports the idea of a commission as a centralized body where the public can provide feedback.

Kositsky said:

“We are in no way against and agree that more accountability and especially having a public forum where all of these can be heard is incredibly important.”

The department has six advisory committees — five of which are currently active, Kositsky said.

The public now relies on various different advisory committees to address issues, such as funding and shelter. Some homeless people are unclear where about where to turn.

Kositsky, though, argues that changes should be made by ordinance versus Haney’s charter amendment and questions if those changes will alleviate some of the most immediate needs.

Kositsky said:

“I don’t think a commission is going to speed things up or make us more efficient. It does provide accountability and it does provide a public forum.”

Kositsky added the charter amendment could potentially slow down the approval process of contracts not under the shelter emergency ordinance by six weeks.

Haney said his proposal as an ordinance would give all the appointment power to the mayor instead of allowing supervisors to have say on commission seats.

Supervisors would appoint three members to the commission and the mayor would choose another three. The controller would choose the final member.

Haney said:

“We think it’s important that we have something that has shared governance where the Board of Supervisors has appointments to it.”

The board will take up the charter amendment Tuesday, which requires the approval of six supervisors to make it to the November ballot.

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