Another legal challenge to San Francisco’s latest planned homeless navigation center

The legal battle to keep a new navigation center from opening in a San Francisco neighborhood was reignited on Friday.

A group called SAFE Embarcadero For All, filled a legal motion on to stop construction of the facility with a claim the proper permits were not obtained prior to construction. 

It is the second such legal maneuver filled by the group, made up of residents concerned an increase in crime, have sought to block construction of the center. 

"While Safe Embarcadero’s previous request for a temporary restraining order was denied by the court, the judge wrote it was likely that the City failed to get the necessary approval from the State Lands Commission for the development," said Attorney Peter Prows, who represents SAFE Embarcadero For All.

In early September, Judge Ethan Shulman refused to issue a temporary block on construction of the 200-bed navigation center just off The Embarcadero and Bryant Street. 

In response to the latest legal challenge, Andy Lynch, Deputy Communications Director for the Office of Mayor London N. Breed released a statement. 

"Construction of the Navigation Center is continuing to move forward. We're in a homelessness crisis and we need more resources like this Navigation Center to get people off of the streets and connected with housing and services," Lynch wrote to KTVU Friday.

Debate Over Navigation Center

While the issue works through the court system, San Francisco City officials continue to stand behind the location and cite that research shows the location had the greatest need to serve the homeless population. 

In response to criticism, the city said that unlike the current 6 Navigation Centers, this new location would be designated as a "SAFE Navigation Center."

City officials say the newer model will have an increased focus on safety for those who use the center and the residents who live nearby.

The San Francisco Police Department said it has committed to patrolling the facility at least four times every day with a focus on stopping loitering, drug use and drug sales. 

The Office of the Controller is facilitating an advisory group that will is building a framework to collect data on issues, such as police incidents and debris clean-up around The Embarcadero SAFE Navigation Center. 

The aim is to increase transparency with the community and examine how the navigation center affects quality of life.

Crime Concerns

Even though the group, SAFE Embarcadeo For All said it understands that programs for the homeless are necessary, they take issue with the location of the Navigation Center.

Currently under construction right off The Embarcadeo, it would be located in the South Beach, Rincon Hill and Mission Bay neighborhood, an area populated by families and a destination for tourists visiting San Francisco. 

"SAFE Embarcadero For All" felt their concerns were legitimized when a woman was attacked while entering her building that is located a few dozen yards from where construction is underway for the SAFE Navigation Center. 

SFPD released numbers in August that it said shows that crime has not increased around navigation centers. 

Their report showed serious crimes such as homicide, rape and robbery dropped around three of the city's most recently opened center.

Opponents who live and work around the facilities are not convinced that the numbers tell the entire store based on their observations. 

"They let them smoke weed in there--let them carry dogs in there--the dogs--excuse my language---but on the street. We call the people to come clean it. They break into cars back here. It's just been a problem," said Curtis Williams, an auto mechanic who works near one of the city's navigation centers. 

Despite the debate surrounding navigation centers, Fremont recently announced that it would open the city's first such location and the major of Vallejo is also considering such a move.