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Politics & Policy

SF supervisors approve contract for controversial Lower Nob Hill homeless shelter

San Francisco City Hall reflected in nearby windows | Camille Cohen

The city’s Tenderloin Emergency Intervention Plan dominated Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. The board also dealt with a new homeless shelter and new funding for Muni. (As always, wonks looking for the full kit and caboodle can check out the meeting’s complete agenda.)

Progress Report on Tenderloin Emergency

The hearing on the mayor’s Tenderloin plan took up almost three hours of Tuesday’s nearly seven-hour meeting, with dueling presentations by city departments and a coalition of nonprofit groups, led by the Coalition on Homelessness. 

The city presentation outlined priorities in tackling drug dealing and crime, open-air drug use, lack of drop-in resources, street safety and quality of life issues, and overdose deaths.

So far, the city reported 117 people were connected to shelters, 893 were connected to treatment, 922 tons of street waste was cleaned up and 5,975 grams of Fentanyl were seized. Engagements with clients have roughly doubled since the opening of the linkage center, while service referrals have roughly tripled.

Meanwhile, the Department of Public Health has filled just half of the 200 needed healthcare positions required for the project. 

The nonprofit coalition’s presentation outlined engagement with the city to urge more impact- and equity-based goals and metrics into the plan.

Board President Shamann Walton, along with Supervisor Hilary Ronen, asked whether additional resources given to the Tenderloin were impacting services to other parts of the city. Ronen also urged acquisition of further shelter space and the hiring of behavioral health workers. 

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman urged greater attention to the reaction of families and households in the neighborhood. “Success or failure [should be] determined on whether families and households feel safe,” said Mandelman.

Supervisor Dean Preston used his questioning to amplify concerns over increased police activity and to urge postponing closure of shelter-In-place hotels. 

Both Supervisors Ahsha Safai and Catherine Stefani spent considerable time questioning staff about inclusion of abstinence-based programs in the services provided. It was eventually revealed that while the city made referrals to a number of abstinence based programs, such as Delancey Street, none were actually contracted by the city. 

Supervisor Matt Haney, who represents the Tenderloin, was not present for the hearing because his sister was having a baby.

Urban Alchemy’s Nob Hill Shelter

The board approved a three-year contract for service provider Urban Alchemy to run a former youth hostel at 711 Post St. as an emergency homeless shelter. 

The proposed 250-unit facility, which will offer some guests private rooms, has sparked controversy in the Lower Nob Hill neighborhood. Residents and businesses are alarmed over the neighborhood’s transition from tourist hub to Tenderloin-adjacent “containment zone” for the city’s homeless.

“This thing got off to a rough start,” said Supervisor Aaron Peskin, who represents the neighborhood, as he outlined an emerging agreement between residents and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing on administration and maintenance of the site.

Peskin also said he would remain “a constant presence” in the process to finalize the agreement. 

Rescuing Muni with $400 Million

The $400 million general obligation bond measure for the SF Municipal Transportation Agency, slated for the June ballot, was continued after additional amendments by Supervisor Connie Chan. The changes address policy goals to provide services to underserved communities and stipulate an annual hearing on the agency’s bond program.   

Most of the bond will speed repairs and upgrade aging infrastructure at Muni, including the subway control system. The remainder will go toward improving traffic signals and configuring streets to emphasize transit, walking and cycling, with lower speed limits

The continuance means that, if approved at the Board, the bond measure will have to be submitted to the Department of Elections as a “late item” by March 4, likely ruling out any further amendments to other measures being considered by the board.

Meanwhile, Chan’s monster charter amendment, which would have radically realigned appointments to commissions and made other major changes to city government, was tabled by her own motion at Monday’s Rules Committee meeting. 

Other Thorny Issues 

The meeting began with remarks from Mayor London Breed relating “hard news” from her recent trip to Chicago and other cities with SFTravel. 

“Companies love San Francisco but have serious concerns,” Breed said, noting the city’s rising housing prices and property crime rate, as well as quality of life issues.

She argued this could now overtake the ability to take the city’s charms for granted in a business environment now shaped by Covid and remote work options. 

Additionally, two issues related to the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin had mixed results this session: The reappointment confirmation of Commissioner Andrea Shorter was continued one week; and the $700,000 settlement in the case of the alleged police beating of Dacari Spiers was finally approved by a vote of 8-2, with supervisors Mandelman and Stefani dissenting.