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City moves to aid those living outdoors as new rainstorm hits

After heavy rains from an “atmospheric river” last month flooded a number of unhoused people out of their normal sleeping spots, the city has stepped up efforts to protect those outside–particularly people living in their cars at Candlestick Point.

Flooding at Candlestick and in other parts of the Bayview district during the earlier storm was “pretty bad,” said Emily Cohen, spokesperson for the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH). “There was serious flooding along the Hunters Point Expressway. Depending on where were you along the expressway area, it ranged from a few inches to several feet of flooding.”

Some of those who were hit by flooding have been moved to a temporary lot at 1236 Carroll Ave that’s owned by Prologis, a real estate company. After the city received the keys to the lot last Thursday at 4 p.m., people started moving in immediately, Cohen told Here/Say. By the time Friday afternoon came around, the lot was at capacity, with 52 vehicles currently parked.

Those who chose to relocate temporarily will have the opportunity to stay there for two months until the city’s new vehicle triage center at Candlestick State Recreation Area opens in January. The site will have 24-hour security and bathrooms.

A car stops on a puddle-covered street next to shelters in the Mission District. | Photo by Joel Aguero

Supervisor Shamann Walton said in a statement that other types of support were being mobilized for the upcoming storm. “The Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC) is coordinating the services being offered to impacted residents,” said Walton. “Outreach and street medicine teams are making daily safety and wellness checks to impacted residents, and Mother Browns is providing them with daily meals. Environmental health professionals are also monitoring the conditions on-site.”

For people living outside in other areas of the city, Cohen said that depending on the amount of rain, Moscone West could be an option as an emergency shelter.

“We would also provide transportation from different parts of town to that shelter, but it depends on if the weather will trigger the threshold to expand our shelter capacity,” said Cohen.”

Cohen said the city had been working to make improvements at the flooded Candlestick site, where about 150 vehicles being used as housing were parked before the storm. The Public Works department pumped out excess water and will be prepared to return to the site if it happens again, she said, while the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is moving some abandoned vehicles. 

A Public Works employee loads debris into a truck bed as rain begins to fall on Monday evening. | Photo by Joel Aguero

The new Vehicle Triage Center at the Candlestick Point boat launch parking lot was approved by the California Department of Parks last month. Neighborhood organizations like the Bayview Hill Neighborhood Association have objected to the facility, expressing worries about its impact on the neighborhood. But Supervisor Walton stood his ground in asserting that he will not move the unhoused out of the area, especially during a pandemic. 

Meaghan Mitchell can be reached at