16 August 2019
For Immediate Release: 

Safe Embarcadero for All: San Francisco’s Homeless Programs, Courts, A Failure

Group Requests City of San Francisco Halt New Homeless Shelter Voluntarily Until Court Decides TRO Request After Homeless Man Violently Attacks Woman

 Judge Criticized, More Police Patrols Demanded by Organization

San Francisco—The Embarcadero neighborhood where a woman was violently attacked this week is calling upon the City of San Francisco to voluntarily halt its plans for a new homeless shelter in the neighborhood until a court decides its lawsuit and request for a temporary restraining order against the city’s proposed homeless shelter.

“This violent, vicious and horrifying attack is all too real,” said Wallace Lee, a board member of Safe Embarcadero for All, an organization of neighbors and businesses that opposes the City’s plans for a new homeless shelter in their neighborhood where the attack occurred. “We call upon the Mayor and our District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney to halt it now. We believe it is the right thing for the City to stop its plans because of the public danger that already exists to women, seniors, parents, and children.”

Lee said the neighborhood group is shocked and saddened by the attack against one of its residents and outraged by Judge Christine Van Aken’s decision to release the homeless suspect, who was captured on security video violently attacking the woman as she tried to enter her apartment building on Beale Street in San Francisco.

“Enough is enough. Our streets are not safe, our homes are not safe. The City wants more shelters when it cannot deal with the ones it has currently. Judges allow dangerous, most likely mentally ill and drug addicted homeless attackers back on to San Francisco’s streets. If someone is looking for the definition of madness, this is it,” said Lee.

“Unfortunately, our predictions that this new shelter would bring danger to our neighborhood are correct,” Lee added.  “Since construction started, there have been an increase in homeless encampments and car break-ins in our neighborhood.  This violent attack by a homeless man amplifies our concerns.  The proposed new homeless center hasn’t been built yet and our worst fears are being confirmed.”

“Our hearts go out to the victim of the attack at the Watermark building, right next to the city’s proposed new Embarcadero homeless navigation center.  She is a tough person and was fortunate to be able to fight off the attack by what appears to be a deranged homeless man.  But look at how the City has handled this situation. It shows a lack of understanding of how dangerous our streets and homes have become because of the City’s failure to address the homeless problem properly,” Lee added.

Embarcadero neighborhood residents who opposed the City’s new proposed center, including parents, senior citizens, business owners and nonprofits, have been unfairly labeled “NIMBYs,” the acronym for “not in my backyard.” In fact, while the group recognizes the seriousness of the homeless problem and the good faith of all those looking for solutions, it strongly oppose the placement of the Navigation Center on the Embarcadero because it is the gateway to the city — its front yard.

Wallace said residents have generously supported homeless services facilities in our neighborhood. The neighborhood is proud to support the Delancey Street Foundation, for example, a leading residential self-help organization for the formerly homeless, drug-addicted and incarcerated.

More than 10,000 people live within three blocks of the proposed project. Many are concerned about the consequences of another shelter, including public alcohol and drug consumption, public urination and defecation, crime and police activity, and more homeless encampments. This week’s attack makes the building of a new center even more untenable.

Through public-records requests, the group has made public previously undisclosed documents that call into question the claims officials have been making about its proposed unprecedented 200-bed mega-shelter. One city email shows that in March, while officials were telling the public that navigation centers are assets to their neighborhoods, city Homelessness and Supportive Housing Director Jeff Kositsky was “getting a great deal of complaints about tents” around the Division Circle Navigation Center in the Mission and admitted that the city “needs to do a better job of complying with our good neighbor policy in the area.”

The city has also disclosed hundreds of “critical incident reports” generated by existing Navigation Centers over the last six months. They reveal deaths, overdoses and regular calls for emergency services. Based on the rate of calls to existing facilities, we estimate that a Navigation Center on the scale of the one proposed for the Embarcadero could be expected to generate more than a call a day. How would that affect traffic and emergency services for current residents?

The state granted San Francisco the Embarcadero property in trust starting in 1968 for particular uses. Neighborhood residents believe the city has not made the specific findings or secured the state approval required under the terms of the transfer to use the property for this purpose.

The mayor, the Port Commission and the Board of Supervisors have violated the public trust in both these senses, leaving the residents no option but to go to court, which will decide the fate of a lawsuit by Safe Embarcadero Now to stop the proposed shelter.  But they can stop this now, by voluntarily halting the process until the court decides the issue.

To learn more about the organization Safe Embarcadero for All, visit our website at https://www.safeembarcaderoforall.org.

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