Judge won't block construction of controversial navigation center in SF, for now

Image 1 of 2

A San Francisco judge on Monday said he will not block construction of a controversial navigation center on Embarcadero for the homeless. However, the court has agreed to another hearing on the matter in two weeks. 

The group Safe Embarcadero For All, wants to stop the city from building the center and is seeking a temporary restraining order. 

Inside a San Francisco courtroom, neighbors along the Embarcadero asked Judge Ethan Shulman to temporarily block construction of the 200 bed Navigation center. The judge declined to block construction for now, but agreed to have both sides return to court Monday, September 23 to debate the issue.

"I do not believe that the petitioner has met its burden. I really don't have any showing of irreparable harm here," said Judge Ethan Schulman. "That is not only a critical component, but a necessary component for the court to grant injunctive relief, such as a temporary restraining order."

Since Mayor London Breed announced the project in March, Safe Embarcadero has claimed violent crime has spiked in the area, including an alleged attack by a homeless man that was caught on surveillance video

Breed, has said the center would have its own round-the-clock security, as well as police officers patrolling the surrounding area on foot daily once it's complete. 

The lawsuit also claims the city failed to seek the necessary approval from the state land commission.

"It's violating the law every day it is proceeding with construction without complying with the law that it helped draft," said Peter Prows, an attorney for Safe Embarcadero.  

Neighbor Wallace Lee, a Safe Embarcadero member, said the project will have a negative impact on the area. "Our concern is that it's a low-barrier shelter, which means it will accept the mentally ill, drug users and sex offenders," said Lee.

John Coté, communications director for the city attorney's office said, they've abided by all land-use laws. 

Cote said: "We're pleased the judge denied their request to stop construction on this needed shelter. This project has undergone all of the required environmental review, and all appropriate land use laws were followed. San Francisco has a homeless crisis on its hands. The City is working to put roofs over people's heads and get them indoors as winter approaches. Others are filing baseless lawsuits to keep people out in the cold. Rather than trying to shift the problem to someone else's backyard, everyone needs to do their part."

San Francisco's mayor has been pushing the construction project, saying it's a necessary step in solving the city's growing homelessness crisis.

"It's about identifying places that we can use for this purpose and if they're available and it makes sense economically, then we should do it," said Mayor London Breed.

Supervisor Matt Haney, who oversees the area where the Embarcadero Navigation Center is being built, said to tackle a problem like homelessness the city cannot fall victim to a "not in my backyard" mentality.

"We've got to get navigation centers built particularly in areas where there is a need," said Haney. "But we also have to make sure that we're building them all over the city."

The city is hoping to open the doors to this temporary shelter in December. Eventually though, the long term plan is to build housing on this site.