SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)-- San Francisco and Oakland city officials today urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign legislation that would make it easier to build homeless shelters and supportive housing by easing some building and safety standards and streamlining the approval process.
Assembly Bill 932, introduced by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, creates a pilot program allowing a group of cities and counties to declare a shelter crisis and adopt local standards for housing habitability,
zoning and construction approval for temporary homeless shelters. The bill has been approved by the state legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature.
"Our legislation allows each of these jurisdictions to adopt a plan to streamline the production of housing for the homeless," Ting said.
"If we don't put up housing really fast we can't do justice to this issue," Ting said.
The participating cities and counties, which include San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Emeryville, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Clara County, include nearly half of the state's homeless population, according to Ting.
In San Francisco, city officials have opened several new "Navigation Centers" in recent years, shelters offering supportive services and less restrictive conditions than traditional shelters. Demand far outstrips available beds, however, with the waiting list for emergency shelter spots currently at more than 1,100 names.
San Francisco Board of Supervisors President London Breed said that the city needs to expand its shelter system "without the bureaucratic red tape.
"We see at an alarming rate tents popping up all over San Francisco and all over Oakland," said Breed, who said she plans to introduce legislation enacting the bill locally if it passes. "We have to find creative solutions to get people into permanent housing."
Oakland officials are looking at opening outdoor navigation centers of their own using portable "Tuff Shed" living structures and offering access to social services as a way of dealing with entrenched homeless encampments. Mayor Libby Schaaf has said the centers would be temporary solutions until the city can open a new rapid-housing facility.
City Council member Lynette Gibson McElhaney said AB 932 would help free up both the city and its partners to open more shelters for those living in encampments.
"Every time we have a spontaneous community emerge on a street corner on a sidewalk, obstructing ADA access and compromising our parks, we're dealing with a safety and sanitation issue, a crisis that is just over
the edge," McElhaney said.