Group seeking to halt SF South Beach navigation center files lawsuit

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A group of residents in San Francisco's South Beach neighborhood opposing a SAFE Navigation Center in the area filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the city in Sacramento County Superior Court, seeking to stop the center's construction.

The group, Safe Embarcadero For All, alleges in the suit that the city hastily approved the 200-bed center without seeking approval from the California State Lands Commission, which they say is required since the center would create housing on property owned by the Port of San Francisco.

In addition to the lawsuit, Safe Embarcadero For All also filed a temporary restraining order and stay to keep the development from progressing while the suit is being litigated.

According to the suit, "San Francisco unilaterally approved a mega-housing project on San Francisco Bay-front land burdened by the public trust, which prohibits housing without State Lands Commission approval, among other requirements, and without any environmental or design review. San Francisco violated direct statutory requirements the legislature made specifically applicable to this special property."

Last month, at a hearing, city supervisors moved to exempt the center's site -- Seawall Lot 330 -- from being subject to an environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act. The exemption would allow for the temporary two-year center to be built faster.

While members of Safe Embarcadero For All have said they're not opposed to housing the city's homeless population, many have expressed fear that the center's existence would lead to increased crime in the area, like incidents of drug use, property crimes, assaults and public urination.

Residents have also complained that Mayor London Breed failed to include them in the decision-making process when she first announced plans for the SAFE Navigation Center back in March.

"We support the moral imperative to care for the homeless. It is also a moral imperative of our government and its leaders to afford due process to residents, families, children and businesses in this neighborhood and to protect them from harm," said Wallace Lee, a member of Safe Embarcadero For All's board of directors. "We did not want to file this lawsuit, but we had no other option when the city decided it was above, and not subject to, the laws of the state and city itself."

In response, Breed and the area's supervisor Matt Haney have said the center would have its own round-the-clock security, as well as police officers patrolling the surrounding area on foot daily.