UPDATED: What Are the City’s Plans for the 101/Cesar Chavez Encampment?


As you might have heard, the tent city encampment on Division Street in the Mission under the freeway was removed yesterday. Mayor Ed Lee belatedly approved the action in response to neighborhood complaints, and over the objections of D9 Supervisor David Campos.

Meanwhile, in northeast Bernal Heights, a neighbor from Holladay Street at Brewster writes to ask if there’s a plan for the encampment along Cesar Chavez under US101:

I’m wondering why the encampment under the freeways over here wasn’t a part of [the encampment removal], and whether/how it will be affected. Do you have any scoop?

I’m sick to death of repeated vehicle break-ins and scared for my kids. I most recently ducked under our living room couch at 4 am with my two-month-old and called 911 after two guys breaking into cars spotted me looking out the window … and that’s not the only recent incident.

I don’t know what has to do with the homeless encampment and what doesn’t, and I’m certainly sympathetic. But I’m at a point where I feel like everything’s got to be addressed, and that seems like a huge piece of the puzzle to me.

UPDATE: Hoodline reports that advocates are meeting with Supervisor Campos on Friday to discuss the possibility of turning the area under the Cesar Chavez/101 overpass into San Francisco’s first city-sanctioned homeless camp:

These camps, or “St. Francis Villages,” would provide the homeless with space to camp as well as essential services, including the ability to sleep in a monitored location, 24/7 access to restrooms, and transitional services, [Amy Farah Weiss] says.

The idea of providing monitored and serviced campgrounds for the homeless is nothing new, Weiss says. The Right To Dream Too nonprofit offers a refuge for unhoused residents in Portland; the city of Eugene, Ore. offers rest-stops for homeless individuals and couples to sleep safely at night; and Seattle opened its first sanctioned homeless camps last fall.

Weiss and her partners in the St. Francis Homelessness Challenge have identified Cesar Chavez below the 101 overpass — where roughly 50 to 100 homeless residents are camping — as a potential first site for a city-sanctioned camp and are meeting with District 9 Supervisor David Campos about the possibility this Friday.

However, that land is owned by Caltrans and under the jurisdiction of the California Highway Patrol, which has been directed to “crack down” on camping on state lands, Weiss said. At this point, it’s unclear whether a collaboration to use those lands will be feasible.

UPDATE: Friday, Feb 26: Neighbor Margo attended the “walk around” in the encampment under the Chavez/101 overpass today, and reports:

My neighbor Keith and I went to the walk-around today with Supervisor Campos, folks from DPW and Caltrans, Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) from the city, Coalition for the Homeless people, and a guy who seemed to be one of the “St Francis Village” folks. Making the under-the-freeway camping area into permanent, sanctioned homeless encampment DID NOT appear to even be in the discussion. The discussion was around ways to improve services, figure out how (long-term) to get these folks inside and (short-term) how to make the situation under the freeway less dangerous, unsanitary, divisive, inhumane, etc.

To repeat: Making this area a permanent, sanctioned homeless encampment WAS NOT discussed as a serious solution.

That said, there was talk of trying to establish one of perhaps 5 (citywide) “navigation centers” for the homeless somewhere near here, perhaps in the parking lot near the storage area on the east side of the freeway.

PHOTO: Portion of encampment under US101 at Cesar Chavez, February 24, 2016. Photo by Telstar Logistics

45 thoughts on “UPDATED: What Are the City’s Plans for the 101/Cesar Chavez Encampment?

  1. There was a lone tent this morning under the 101/280 junction at Alemany. It wasn’t there yesterday.

  2. While I’m completely supportive of removing the encampment under 101 (for a number of reasons, including the safety of the individuals ‘living’ there), I’d caution the writer to not conflate the car break-ins with the homeless camp. Unless the author actually saw someone he/she recognized from the camp breaking into cars, there is no 1 to 1 correlation with being homeless and being someone who does smash & grabs. Also, that camp has been there for a VERY long time. The uptick in car break-ins is relatively new (since prop 47 passed).

    • I haven’t seen proof linking the homeless with car break-ins either….as of yet. However, there is certainly a direct link between the homeless encampment and mentally ill people wandering around the area, including Precita Park and its playground. Combined with the sanitation and safety issues, and the general sense of lawlessness the encampment creates, it’s reason enough to clear it out.

  3. I understand that eyeballs are necessary for a blog, but I wonder if calmness is thrown out of window by printing a letter from someone who admits to not “know what has to do with the homeless encampment and what doesn’t”, and is already “sick to death…and scared…”.

    • The letter writer was being polite by raising the issue in a questioning way (and knowing that the soft-on-crime PC contingent will be on their back in a second if they went further).

      Let me say it less delicately: this crime uptick almost certainly is a direct result of the encampment. Get it removed. There – no ambiguity now. Much clearer.

      • “Let me say it less delicately: this crime uptick almost certainly is a direct result of the encampment.”

        How exactly did you come to that conclusion? Is it just a really strong feeling you have? The crime could just as easily be because of “those people” who live in the Alemany projects, or “those people” who live in the Bay View, or *gasp* those white, teenagers who live next door you! (did I just blow your mind?)

        People have lots of feelings about a lot of things. That doesn’t make those feelings facts.

      • No good ever comes of inserting scare quotes around “these people” or “those people” when the person you’re talking to never even used that type of language in the first place. Obviously you’re not paying attention to what’s going on. The encampment is larger than it has been in quite some time. The police have said that the encampment is one cause behind car break in crime uptick. Why haven’t you noticed these things? Why the need to go out and bash your neighbors for simply calling it like it is? Why the need to get so expansive too?

        Also the ridiculous, expansive logic that goes: Other people who aren’t in the camps have been arrested for crime therefore, because you blame some crime on homeless, what does that say about our [sarcastic, derisive] adorable community?

        You’re a big part of the problem. Have a heart, but don’t be so stupid.

      • Like the police wouldn’t have any idea, one. Personal attack? What’s personal about it? or an attack for that matter? Also, I’ve never seen you do anything other than quick drive by disses on here Caz. So who cares.

  4. Oh give me a break. If you don’t think there is a connection between the encampments and petty crime, you’re delusional. Look at today’s missionlocal article on the division encampment. One of the photos is a man proudly posing in front of his bicycle chop shop.

    • Oh, I see. You saw one photo of one homeless man in front of bikes, so the obvious conclusion is that all homeless people are the criminals breaking into the cars in Bernal. 1 + 1 = 100, right?

      Btw, the shooting that happened in front of Precita Park Cafe was done by non-homeless people. The mugging that happened on the stairs of north Bernal, again, not homeless. But you’re right. It’s probably the homeless! You saw a photo

  5. You know what’s sad is that I agree that the homeless should be moved out from under 101. I agree because it’s a sanitation issue, it’s a safety issue (for everyone), these people aren’t getting services for drug addiction or mental health issues, and a number of other reasons. You can literally pick about 100 reasons why we shouldn’t allow a homeless encampment to remain under 101, and yet (some of the) people commenting are using the completely unsubstantiated accusation that these people are directly involved in the uptick in Bernal crime as their one reason to remove the camp. This is despite the fact that the criminals that have been arrested recently for Bernal crimes haven’t been a part of that homeless camp. What does that say about our adorable little Bernal village…or more importantly, the people who live in it?

    • Well said. We absolutely need to remove the encampment from under 101 for many many reasons. I agree. I never meant to imply that all our crime is attributable to the encampments. I can only comment on what I’ve seen folks walking to and from the encampment do:
      –steal bikes
      –steal plants
      –defficate in public
      –shoot heroin in public
      –tear through garage cans and leave all the trash on the ground
      –assault women

      • As someone that lives about three blocks from this area (by Florida @ Precita) I can verify that in the last few months there have been far more problems with garbage being left all over the sidewalks on trash pickup days. While folks going through the cans for recycling has been common since I moved here ~6 years ago, prior to this I’ve never had an issue with them leaving the rest of my garbage all over the sidewalk

  6. Something does need to be done. While I don’t live close to the encampment, I frequently drive through it on my way to my in-laws. On at least 3 occasions, people coming from the encampment wandered right into the traffic. Much horn honking and general confusion ensued. Fortunately, no one was hurt. I drive with extra care, but how many coming off the freeway don’t expect to have a random person walk right into oncoming cars? Accident just waiting to happen…

  7. When it comes to suspicious people I found that a flash causes them to scatter quickly. They’re also unlikely to come back. I have a cheap ($50) digital camera with flash. When I lived in northwest Bernal and I saw something suspicious I’d snap a photo. Didn’t matter if I aimed the camera or not because just the thought that they might be photographed caused the miscreants to scatter.

    Now, as to encampments, I’ve just lost two F*cebook friends to this situation. I’ve volunteered with meal kitchens in SF and I’ve come to see that the people who go to the kitchens and use the homeless services are NOT the same kind of folks who camp on streets and under freeways. The latter folks do NOT want to move indoors or try to make their lives better. Generally, they engage in petty crime to get by and spend their days smoking dope. This is why the shelter at Pier 80 is going largely unused. They simply don’t want to get off the streets.

    I’m all in favor of living outdoors, BUT not in a city of 850,000 where thousands of people are affected. The other day going to the StreatFood foodtruck park, the smell of the crap and urine was so strong I nearly threw up. If people want to live outdoors, let them do it in the rural places such as off Little River Road outside Mendocino where a lot of them live. Low density population and nobody else is affected. But not in a city of 850,000.

    As for why Ed Lee and company are not doing much about the other areas is likely because Bernal people haven’t complained enough. That’s usually the way these things work. Every incident should be reported to the police because the incidents are counted and action on a problem is taken when the incident count reaches a threshold.

  8. Todd — I saw your update and emailed Campos about this. If folks want to participate, here’s the info for the meeting:

    The meeting is to brainstorm ideas around how we could activate the space once we move people into other housing/shelter options and we welcome you to join us. We are meeting at 3:30 at the corner of Cesar Chavez and Potrero on Friday, and will be walking around the area to talk ideas with DPW deputy director, HOT team director and others.

  9. Pls. do not send them to the Alemany underpass we already have enough transients plus a slum landlord at 992 Peralta! Those who are mentally incompetent need to be assessed by and cared for by the State of California.

    • Don’t forget the city has closed @ 120 psych beds in the last few years.

      …..Clearly there’s a flaw in the system, says Geoffrey Wilson, president of the Physicians Organizing Committee in San Francisco. He says that the beds are “the most expensive to maintain” and that Director of Public Health Barbara Garcia has elected to channel the money to other uses, like housing.

      The result is a steep decline in the number of beds for deeply disturbed psychiatric patients. “At S.F. General, they have gone from 88 psych beds to 19 in the last two years,” he said. “St. Luke’s Hospital shut down 32 psych beds and in 2009 another 20 were closed at the (California Pacific Medical Center) Davies Campus.”….


  10. Having worked with underhoused and homeless adults and seniors living with mental illness in San Francisco (not saying those living in these “camps” are necessarily living with mental illness, it’s just the population with which I am most familiar) — supported/subsidized housing is in extremely short supply. A room in an SRO in the TL with a shared, often not sanitary or working bathroom, in some of the most horrible looking buildings I’ve ever been in (privately owned — the ones managed by the city or contracted agencies tend to be better) will typically cost $800/month or more, and SDI for those without a significant work history is only a drop more than that (as in <$900 when I was doing this work.) SF General has had the number of beds reduced in recent years — it's still more than 19 beds, but woefully insufficient, and the goal is to stabilize people well enough to get them out the door QUICKLY. So, for that population the challenge is there really isn't any place to GO.

    This is not to say the camps shouldn't be cleared. It also is not meant to defend any criminal activity. I just wanted to give context for WHY people end up in these situations.

  11. My friends live under the bridge not because they want to buy she has stage 4 cancer and her ex husband threw her and her 3 boys out last year she didn’t have anything but found a tent and her and her boys ages 16-21 all live in it she has gone to shelters but her boys can’t come and has applied for housing and is on a waiting list she doesn’t steal or use drugs she is sweet and loving she has no family and my other friends also live down there they are all good I will say the “white homeless” people meaning the old veterans are CRAZY and mentally disturbed they are pushes away to the chained fence side those people are in desperate need of some mental institution that can help monitor them the woman are basically sex and drug dolls and as far as the break in cars it’s not them it’s mostly people from other neighborhoods if you don’t wnt ur package stolen ask a neighbor to sign and get ur package most people in bernal work from home I asked my neighbors and they said yea no package stolen after.

    • I love that lone period at the end of the paragraph. The amount of thought and bravery to insert one single punctuation mark when none was ever present requires some chutzpah and self-control. Bravo.


      Grammar Police 🙂

  12. Last night, somebody set some tents on fire on Division St while a group of young, queer homeless people were sleeping. How far is this hatred for the tent cities going to go?

  13. Yay for me, I’ve finally found something I’m a NIMBY about.

    Is the public really welcome to show up at 3:30 on Potrero and CC? I can totally see Campos putting a feather in his cap and saying he solved the homeless problem by shoving them all into CalTrans land that happens to be in our backyard.

    • I wanted to add a couple of points to this important discussion. I don’t believe that it is humane to remove people from encampments without giving them a place to go. Plus, it doesn’t solve anything; it only moves people to our smaller streets and front doors. That said, I don’t believe in and will not support making the encampments at Cesar Chavez near the 101 permanent. It is inhumane for people to live in the current conditions, under leaking freeways, dodging traffic. They should go to navigation centers where they have access to a bed, bathrooms, showers and services. My office and I helped to open the City’s only navigation Ctr a year ago. It took us 3 months, it is tragic that the City hasn’t opened more since. Thank you.

      • Supervisor Campos, I agree that it’s tragic that the City hasn’t opened more navigation centers, but you know what…you’re a District Supervisor. If anyone has any influence or the ability to persuade the City to do something about this it’s you. It’s great that you assisted in opening the one navigation center, but what’s stopping you from working with your fellow supervisors to open more? The homeless aren’t just in the Mission and in Bernal. I’m sure the other Supervisors are struggling with the same challenges. What’s stopping you from meeting with the Housing & Homeless program at HSA, or meeting with the workers at 311 who handle many of the calls about the homeless? What’s stopping you from meeting with Bevan Duffy (the homeless czar) to think through ideas? If you are doing these things, why not tell the people of your community so it doesn’t appear as if you’re just a sympathetic body saying “yeah, doesn’t it suck?”

        There’s nothing more obnoxious then someone saying that it’s tragic the City hasn’t done more about this when they are in a direct position to actually make a difference. You are “the City” and I agree, it’s shame the City hasn’t done more.

      • Actually, WE are the City.

        Supervisor Campos was elected to represent our collective interests.

        But I understand what you are getting at.

      • b – I disagree. There’s something more obnoxious than what you mentioned in your comment. It’s people talking at length about something they know very little about.

        Read Campos’ reply farther below and relax a bit with the accusations.

      • Caz, not that your uninformed comment warrants any response, I have worked directly with the Housing & Homeless program and with the City for 10 years, so I think I know more than “very little” about this issue

  14. 1. CalTrans and CCSF will never come to any such agreement allowing a permitted homeless encampment. Neither entity by itself could do so. Two separate government entities together? Logistically impossible. There may be a lot of political grandstanding and photo opportunities, but it will not, cannot happen.

    2. For those who don’t remember, opposite ends of the political spectrum came together to create the “mentally ill on the streets” problem. The Left protested that “warehousing” the mentally ill was harmful and insisted they be moved to small, community based facilities. The Right (Gov. Reagan) protested the high cost of mental institutions. Asylums were closed with no small facilities in place. The sad result is what we have now, where the cure is almost infinitely worse than the problem and the process cannot be undone or reversed.

    In the name of compassion, we cannot force people, even our own family members, to take medication except under extremely limited circumstances. We cannot force people to shelter, feed, clothe or care for themselves. And there is no last chance safety net for people who are permanently disabled–physically or mentally.

    Until society agrees that the evils of “warehousing” people are better than the evils of living on the street; until society agrees to a solution for people who cannot or will not support themselves in a minimally effective way, the complex phenomenon of people living on the streets will be our reality. And the industry surrounding that problem will continue to take in billions of dollars nationwide, and not solve or improve the problem in any significant way.

    This is not to disparage the organizations who task themselves to help the homeless. I certainly don’t have any idea what the solution is. But the inescapable fact is that what we are doing now is expensive and it is not working.

      • When I say that it is tragic the City hasn’t done more, it is not to say those of us on the Board of Supervisors don’t share responsibility for that. To the contrary, we too are responsible. The point that I didn’t articulate in the prior statement is my own frustration with the limited power we as District Supervisors have under the City Charter. We have the ability to pass legislation, appropriate money, and raise questions about what the City is or isn’t doing. We don’t have the authority and in fact are prohibited from telling a department what to do, including on the issue of homelessness. My office and I have tried to exercise the powers we do have but clearly all of us, and I take responsibility for this, must do more. With that in mind, I plan to continue to raise questions about what else city agencies could be doing with the hope that it will prompt action. By the way, you should know that Bevan Dufty is no longer the City’s Homeless Czar; that person now is Sam Dodge. Thank you.

      • David — I greatly appreciate you engaging in a dialog here. For those of us who live near the 101/Chavez encampment, it has become a significant health and safety issue. I have lived here for 15 years and campers have always been an issue. We need consistent enforcement of existing laws that ban camping anywhere in the city rather than allowing it to build to a crisis point as we have today. Why is this allowed to happen in the Mission and Bernal and SOMA when it would never be permitted in Pacific Heights? Thanks again.

  15. For the record, at the community meeting last night, Hillary Ronen said that this was an inaccurate report and categorically said that there was no plan to make that encampment permanent – the idea, in fact, would be to move people out to better options and then look at ways to secure that area so that the encampment would not re-form. They are meeting today with the activist group in that area and invite anyone interested to attend. I did not catch the time – maybe someone else did and can report here.

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