Tale of two cities: SF's new war on the waterfront; dueling GoFundMe for richer or for poorer

Neighbors hoping to block a planned homeless shelter on San Francisco’s waterfront are crowdfunding to mount a legal challenge to the city’s plans. So far, their GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $70,000.  The effort prompted a counter-campaign to support the city’s Coalition on Homelessness, which has raised about the same amount.

The parking lot on the Embarcadero and Bryant Street is surrounded by high-rise luxury condos, and some residents are using the crowdfunding money to hire a lawyer to prevent the city from turning the lot into a navigation center, a 200-bed shelter with expanded health and social services for the homeless.

“I do not think it’s fair that we’re taking the brunt of the homeless within this very small area,” said Bergen James, a 13-year resident of the Watermark, a high-rise overlooking the parking lot.  “We have the highest concentration of children in a four block radius. I do not think it’s safe and fair to put them through what they could be put through.” 

In response to the online campaign, supporters of the navigation center started their own GoFundMe campaign raising tens of thousands of dollars.

“To me what it shows is that there are a small number of people who have hateful attitudes towards homeless people but we have far more people who are supporting people that want to see solutions,” said Jennifer Friedenbach with the Coalition on Homelessness.  

Friedenbach said the money raised would be used for educational purposes and toward making the navigation center a reality.

Not all the residents of the high-rise condos oppose the city’s plan.  Nearby resident Mike Milstein said, “I can understand the feelings of the people living in the area who’d rather not have it, but I think we definitely need it.”

The high-rise residents behind the GoFundMe campaign have hired San Francisco attorney Andrew Zacks. It’s not clear what his legal strategy will be. The Port Commission is scheduled to vote on leasing the land to the city on April 23rd.