San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced a law on Wednesday that would allow a nonprofit to open a facility where people can use drugs under medical supervision.
If passed by the Board of Supervisors, the law would ostensibly allow a nonprofit to operate a drug-consumption site using private funding, following a model first implemented in New York City in 2021.
In a press release, Breed’s office said that the city is barred from permitting such a site under a 2020 ordinance that restricted a consumption site from opening until state and federal legal barriers were resolved.
Breed and Ronen introduced new legislation that would repeal the earlier law, and asked Board President Aaron Peskin to expedite the new legislation so nonprofits can open sites more quickly.
“In addition to opening up these sites, we have to work with law enforcement to close the open-air drug markets and ensure that our neighborhoods feel improvements as we bring these resources to bear,” Breed said in a statement.
Safe-consumption sites are barred under federal law, and Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed legislation last year that would have legalized the sites under state law.
But several supervisors spoke out against Breed last year after she appeared to pause a plan by the Department of Public Health to open 12 drug-consumption sites across six neighborhoods.
A nonprofit called the Gubbio Project has said that it’s capable of opening a safe-consumption site at a church in the Mission neighborhood. The San Francisco AIDS Foundation also proposed opening a safe-consumption site at 444 Sixth St., according to public records viewed by The Standard.
The Tenderloin Center, a safe-consumption site that operated for just over 11 months in San Francisco last year, closed in December amid controversy over client outcomes and its impact on the surrounding neighborhood.
A legal case involving a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that attempted to open a site in 2018 may provide federal guidelines for operating these sites legally. But the Department of Justice has repeatedly delayed a determination in the case.
“The opioid epidemic continues to wreak havoc on our streets and claim the lives of far too many San Franciscans,” said City Attorney David Chiu in a statement. “To save lives, I have fully supported a nonprofit moving forward with New York City’s model of overdose prevention centers. Repealing this ordinance is one step towards that goal.”
David Sjostedt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org