Mayor Breed updates proposal for Embarcadero navigation center

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The hotly-contested proposal to open a SAFE Navigation Center for the homeless in an empty parking lot along San Francisco's Embarcadero saw some developments on Monday. 

Mayor London Breed, along with district 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, announced an updated proposal that would initially downsize the amount of beds going into the 24-hour navigation center-- essentially a shelter, but with more resources-- from 175 to 200 beds, down to 130. 

In a press release from the mayor's office, they state the navigation center would have the ability to add an additional 70 beds over a six-month period. 

“We are focused on addressing our homelessness crisis and helping our unhoused residents get the care and shelter they need while also doing our best to address some of the concerns that we have heard from neighbors,” said Mayor Breed. 

The land at Seawall Lot 330, near Embarcadero and Bryant, is owned by the Port of San Francisco.  The Port would lease the site for the center for two years, after which they'd have the option to extend the lease for another two years. 

The facility is part of the mayor's plan to open 1,000 new shelter beds by the end of 2020, but not everyone is on board with that plan when it comes to their neighborhood being included. 

As it was last debated in a very public forum, the mayor made an appearance at a community meeting earlier this month and spoke to a crowd mixed with proponents and opponents of the facility. At times Breed was shouted down. 

Many with the group, Safe Embarcadero, cited safety reasons as their main concern for not wanting the temporary residential facility in their neighborhood. They have dubbed the center a "mega shelter." The 'SAFER Embarcadero for ALL' group, which supports the Coalition on Homelessness competed with the former group in a highly-publicized battle of dueling GoFundMe campaigns

Breed had indicated at the April 3 community meeting that she was open to downsizing, but stressed that no neighborhood should be exempt from doing their part in pitching in to help solve the homeless crisis.

The navigation center would have an increased presence of beat patrol officers, according to the mayor's office.

“The Mayor’s Office and Department of Homelessness have committed to me and to the community that this Center will be well-run and safe, and be a true 'navigation” center', which effectively transitions people from homelessness into services and housing," Supervisor Haney said. 

San Francisco currently has six navigation centers, which are different from traditional homeless shelters because they allow pets and its residents to reside with their partners, which homeless advocates say have been barriers for those who are reluctant to accept help due to stipulations. 

As of this writing, the traditional SF shelter reservation wait-list has 1,334 people on it. 

A recent study indicates San Francisco has the third largest homeless population in the U.S., behind New York and Los Angeles and that a more regional approach is needed to solve the problem.

The Port Commission is scheduled to vote on the proposal at their April 23rd meeting.