UPDATED: Mayor Lee Visits Site of Proposed Homeless Center at 1515 South Van Ness

Proposed mixed income housing site at 1515 South Van Ness, as seen on Nov. 16, 2016

1515 South Van Ness, as seen from Shotwell St. on Nov. 16, 2016

Amid mounting neighborhood opposition to D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s plan to establish a homeless Navigation Center at 1515 South Van Ness, Mayor Ed Lee paid a rare visit to the Cesar Chavez St. corridor yesterday to tour the proposed site.

As previously reported, Supervisor Ronen cut a deal last month with the Lennar Corporation to use the former McMillan Electric building at 1515 South Van Ness as a Navigation Center until construction begins on a 157-unit mixed-income housing development that will later occupy the site.  Navigation Centers are residential facilities operated by the City that act as triage centers where homeless people can stay for up to 30 days while receiving guidance and support services.

Craig Weber from the Inner Mission Neighbors shared this account of the Mayor’s visit:

The mayor and dept. officials (Fire, Building, Permits, etc.) were all represented [Monday] morning to walk through the McMillan bldg. with Peter S., Lennar VP and Sup Ronen. A few neighbors and I got the alert of the visit from a vigilant neighbor. I missed the mayor, but I did speak to Ronen.

Ronen will hold a community meeting in the next week or two. She has not announced a date because she is awaiting the mayor’s determination if the navigation center is a go or no go.

I did ask Ronen the purpose of the community meeting. She stated that once the mayor has made his decision, the community meeting will address neighbors’ “concerns” and not the existence of a navigation center at the proposed site.

I explained to her the anger and frustration that our neighbors share as a result of the failure of city government to locate a permanent location for the navigation center. She appeared to be very troubled by the letters and emails that she received from us. I do believe that she accepts our concerns as real and very serious. I don’t think she perceives us as NIMBY’s or selfish people. She realizes that we have a strong voice in this district and our concerns cannot be ignored any longer.

Hillary stated that the navigation center will be a temporary solution for 8 or 9 months. She indicated that she has found a site for a permanent navigation center in an “industrial” location. It is very tentative and she was unprepared to tell me the location.

We must decide the next course of action, I believe that the mayor will determine the outcome. I was told that Lee had asked his dept. heads to put together an analysis of the feasibility to proceed with the navigation center. We should plan accordingly.

Best regards,
Craig Weber
Inner Mission Neighbors

BTW – 4 police officers, DPW were on hand today to power wash the sidewalk and to clear away the tents an hour before the mayor arrived at the McMillian building. What happened to the 72 hour advance notice to vacate tent encampment?

UPDATE, April 19, 2017:  San Francisco Chronicle reporters Matier & Ross today provide additional detail about the proposal to create a “pop-up” Navigation Center at 1515 South Van Ness:

Mayor Ed Lee is moving to turn a Mission District warehouse into a “pop-up” 120-bed homeless shelter.

“The goal is to try and ramp up and get as many people off the streets as possible,” said Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who is helping in the shelter setup and whose aggressive cleanups of tent camps have drawn the wrath of advocates for homeless people.

The Mission shelter would be in a warehouse at 1515 S. Van Ness Ave., and be open for seven or eight months starting in early June. The center is expected to cost about $2.5 million and be open around the clock, with some counseling and support services on site.

It would be a scaled-down version of the city’s two Navigation Centers, which have larger staffs to help homeless people find jobs and deal with issues such as substance abuse and mental problems. Like the Navigation Centers, the goal at the Mission shelter would be to get at least some homeless people into permanent housing.

UPDATE, April 19, 2017:  MissionLocal reports on a meeting last Monday night that was organized by opponents of the proposed Navigation Center:

Several neighbors said they were worried that a homeless shelter would attract more homeless individuals to an area already impacted by tent encampments.

“My concern is if we accept these centers that we are attracting the homeless into our district and that to me is a problem,” said one attendee.

Neighbors discussed the effectiveness of the Navigation Center model. Unlike traditional shelters, Navigation Centers admit clients along with their significant others, pets and belongings. The model was originally designed to house the homeless for extended periods until they were connected to permanent housing.

One neighbor who attended Monday’s meeting said she works with housing the formerly homeless and attested to the the Navigation Center’s success in addressing the city’s homeless crisis.

“Navigation Centers are skill-building learning centers where folks can get off the street and start learning to live,” said the woman. “When centers are put in they are put in a planned place where encampments have started in order to start housing those people. It works because those folks are actually a community.”

But another Mission resident who said she lives a block away from the Navigation Center at 1950 Mission St. testified tearfully that the center’s presence in her neighborhood has had a drastic effect on her quality of life.

“I walk everyday with my daughter down the street,” she said. “I’ve been harassed, physically assaulted and my house has been broken into. I’m not a monster, I know when people are suffering, it’s horrible. But it’s also breaking up the communities where these centers are put. It’s a wound that festers and affects everybody.”

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

37 thoughts on “UPDATED: Mayor Lee Visits Site of Proposed Homeless Center at 1515 South Van Ness

  1. I”m all for this navigation center. I think there is as much mounting support as opposition. I’ve written the mayor and Supervisor Ronen with my support as has the rest of my family.

  2. Yes, count me as a supporter as well. The temporary location model is a good one, in my view, and each district should bear its share in addressing this city-wide crisis.

    • While I agree that each district should bear its share in addressing a citywide crisis, as far as I can tell, the Mission is the only district that is bearing its share. This would be a second Navigation Center for the Mission. Where are the Navigation Centers for the Sunset, Richmond, Nob Hill, Tenderloin, Haight, NOPA, Cow Hollow, Northeast and North waterfront, Bayview, Excelsior…ahem, Bernal…why are the *only* Navigation Centers in the Mission?

      • Shall navigation centers be built in all these other neighborhoods before this one get’s up and running? You’re coming off like you’re being asked to contribute your labor or something. You forget that it isn’t about you and your needs since intake it they’re met. But rather it’s about real people who are in dire need of services. The city should open these up as promised anywhere they can but it makes sense that they open navigation centers in areas where there are more encampments and we all know that the the district in question is stuffed with them. Also, just where in the Tenderloin would you have a navigation center installed? You don’t get down there much do you?

    • It’s amazing that even suggesting that a citywide problem be addressed by the whole city is ridiculed (really? we shouldn’t even ask the entire North and West side of the city to bear its fair share?). I didn’t say I had a problem with this being a temporary Nav Center — I have a problem with the fact that most of the rest of the city is being left out of the equation. As for finding locations in various neighborhoods, including the Tenderloin (where there are lots of new building sites – why not temporary locations at some of those sites?), there is no reason a center has to be huge; in fact, smaller centers might fit into more neighborhoods, may have less opposition and be able to focus more attention on the center’s population. Also, housing at-risk populations away from some of the known risks likely has benefits too.

  3. Why not? During its short tenure, it might steer a couple of people in the right direction. That empty building isn’t dong anyone any good.

    • Why not? Nav Centers attract more homeless, increase local crime, and make surrounding streets more dirty and less safe. Gentrification sucks but Tenderloinization is worse.

  4. I am all for supporting the Cesar Chavez Navigation Ctr and many more around the Bay Area. It’s impossible to do enough to shift this crisis. My good fortune has allowed me to be “housed” in Bernal for 3 decades and I fully appreciate the steps that Supervisor Ronen is taking on behalf of the unhoused.

  5. The permanent site will be located at 992 Peralta (at the corner of Tompkins) near Alemany Farmers’ Market. The Supervisor has no interest in hearing from anyone once she makes up her mind. They should put a center in Silver Terrace…oh that’s right…it’s her neighborhood…never going to happen!

    • not my supervisor – would you please share or site the source of the information regarding the permanent site on Peralta. I understand that apartments or condominiums are to eventually be built on this property. The current “tenants” or artists living there are in the process of fighting an eviction. This doesn’t seem to add up, or are things happening behind the backs of the nearby residents?

      • Hi. L. That is exactly what is happening. Hilary is (wants) to talk to the owner of the warehouse property to discuss possible use to address the homeless problem. My concern is that owner would do anything if there is a buck to be made and it’s expedient for them. They have shown us that they have very little concern for this neighborhood. Look at the article above, Hillary is having a community mtg. to discuss “how and when” not “if” there will be a center located at the van ness site. That doesn’t sound like a community meeting where she plans to listen to people and their concerns. She goes on to say that she does not want to divulge the location of the permanent site. She sees herself as a champion of the homeless and I believe will do anything to achieve that end. She states that she has an “industrial” location. Look around, there are very few industrial locations in Bernal especially one that is about to become available. Unfortunately, 992 Peralta which is zoned industrial also happens to sit next to a very fragile and troubled section of the larger south hill. If she has a location then she should be upfront with the neighbors but my recent contact with her tells me that they would prefer to operate secretly and undemocratically.

    • Myself, L, and a few others live directly across the street from 992 Peralta. We sent off an email to Supervisor Ronen asking for more information and will post back here if we hear back.

      • Supervisor Ronen is unlikely to answer your questions directly. She would prefer a backroom deal and then let us know what she has decided. When I called her office, the staff acted like they had never heard of 992 but, in fact, Hillary wrote a letter in support of the tenants living there illegally so I know she knows about it. She has indicated in past emails that she is interested in that property for the homeless. I know for a fact!

      • It’s not ideal in my opinion. Surely there are more suitable locations near Bayshore where there are actually a much larger number of folks housed in their vehicles as well as the adjacent encampment under 101/Cesar Chavez. They would also be more accessible to transit since we are at least a 10 minute walk from any bus stop.

        Our section of Bernal should be considered no different from any other. No one probably wants to see a Navigation Center on Cortland Ave, across from Holly Park, or in any other part of Bernal. Just because ONE warehouse exists doesn’t make our area “industrial.” It’s not even being used for industrial purposes since people are living in it.

        The other navigation sites seem to be in places where there are not a lot of residences around, the exceptions being where there is already a large concentration of homeless oriented services. Why should this one be any different?

      • Oh yeah, sounds like a great location, unless you live 1.5 blocks away from there like I do. I’m guessing you don’t live nearby?

        This is NOT and industrialized area. It backs up to single family homes. It’s isolated and not near public transportation, save one non-central bus line. People experiencing homelessness need access to public services and transportation, and quite frankly, I don’t want to deal with the uptick of crime and package theft that I’ve already experienced from homeless encampments moving into the area.

        I haven’t seen any further information on the Peralta location beside a home-made flyer left on my front door and some comments on this blog. I hope someone can provide a source or an update. I’d like to attend any public hearings that may result from this proposal.

    • not my supervisor – Thanks for the info. I think it is always best to have an open forum in regard to changes in property use and the potential impact to nearby residents. I believe that an open forum to hear all positions on the matter is best way all opinions can be heard. This is not “nimby”. It’s about what is real and relevant to all those who would be directly impacted. The operative word is ALL. The site on Peralta/Alemany Farmers Market already attracts a large number of homeless, along with a host of problems and no security or police around to keep things in order. The residents are left to their own devices. Having empathy is one thing. Residents left vulnerable to the unfortunate effects of the complex problems these souls suffer from must be factored into any such decision.

  6. Let’s see…it’s okay to open housing for street bums, but it’s not okay to build low-income housing for people over age 65. Something tells me it’s time to leave San Francisco, my hometown.

    • The location of a permanent navigation center is not about people 65 and over. That is the ultimate goal of the Van Ness property. Pls. keep the facts straight. But feel free to offer the lot next to your house for use as a navigation center.

  7. A couple thoughts:
    –it’s very interesting that the city spent months and multiple community meetings to plan a navigation center in the dog patch. Here we get nothing.
    –as part of that process, dog patch got an MOU from the city on how they will address homelessness in that hood. We get nothing.
    –this would not be a blighted site today if not for Ronen’s former boss voting against the deal HE CUT with Lenar.
    –this is not a Navigation Center. If you can stay past 30 days, it’s a good old homeless shelter. But navigation centers have proved popular so Ronen frames it as one even though it’s not.

    • I might also add that the dogpatch center is actually in an industrial area and has quite a large section around it without any homes or retail.

      The city’s really is a little tone deaf on this issue. They’re asking people who have already gone through a lot of quality of life issues regarding the homeless to then accept a permanent homeless shelter in their neighborhood. The fact is that although we all know that the homeless are real people who need our help, neighbors often are negatively impacted by the external issues homelessness can cause and that erodes the relationship between the two groups. I think Most neighbors want to help and are willing to pay for it through taxation, but I don’t think you can ask people to agree to possibly endure these nuscences indefinitely. There are still a couple areas in town that are heavily industrial and near large encampments – those are where these centers should be going. Either that or dense mixed use areas where their prescence might be less noticed

    • I’d be ok with a navigation center on my block for a year. But history has shown that D9 supervisors are dishonest and can’t be trusted to keep their promises, so I worry we’re not getting the full story.

      • I would definitely be open to something temporary – there to serve the community that has popped up and then gone once that community is housed. However there is the question of whether or not the center would attract more homeless to an area. It will be nice to see what happens with some of the existing centers so neighbors will have something to go on. That said, I still think there are a lot of places in town where these centers can go that are not in established residential areas.

  8. I just received confirmation from Supervisor Ronen that 992 Peralta is not under consideration by her or the City for the permanent navigation center. I consider this to be her word on the subject, and plan to keep her to her word while remaining vigilant (as noted by Greg) should the situation somehow change.

    • Totally agree with Greg and Not my supervisor. District 9 supervisors have been useless. The list is endless of what they not done to make sure certain areas of District 9 safe, clean. The district certainly does not need a navigation center or another public housing project [The southeast corridor of SF already has 60%]. 992 Peralta is prime real estate suited for a mixed use condo project. Hopefully, Supervisor Ronen keeps her word [Not holding my breath on this]. So far, she has only proved time and again on why I did not vote for her. Question: A friend lives on the same street as Ronen; friend is in District 11, Ronen is in District 9]; what gives?!

      • Because some city streets are long and some are split across districts. Stop trying to create controversy where there isn’t any.

  9. And so it begins…she has already made a qualification. She says she doesn’t count out any possibilities regarding affordable housing and refuses to be held to any statement about 992 Peralta. Wow…that was fast!

  10. This blog is funny. It bemoans NIMBYism when luxury housing is involved, but props up those who are saying “not in my backyard” to something that helps unhoused people.

    • Actually I think our community is quite diverse and people seem to have different concerns with regards to both luxury housing and homeless navigation centers. Of course many people will probably be less concerned with new single family homes going up because that conforms to this neighborhood.

      The luxury aspect is really up for debate. Some people think more of this type of housing will contribute to gentrification and some people think it will prevent people in older homes from being displaced. It’s hardly scientific and I think the jury’s still out on that subject. I think that’s why you will see many people commenting on this blog in support of those type of projects. Perhaps there is some inherent bias but at the same time, many people may feel it’s not their place to specify what type of person can buy a house. I personally would love to see more multi family units going up so that they could be more affordable than a 3,000 square foot SFH but I’m not going to tell the people who live next to the lots what to think.

      That said, I think more people are going to be concerned where a non-conforming use is potentially coming. A homeless shelter, although a worthy cause that most people will support, is naturally going to concern people. These people are not monsters. They are concerned with safety, cleanliness, and of course their property values. There are people of varying income levels in this neighborhood but I think the case for most is that most of their money is tied up in their homes. I certainly wouldn’t want to lose my hard earned money and I don’t think you would either.

      That said, it seems to me that your comments in general are not about trying to understand others motivations but more about judging other people who have different opinions to you. You seem to already have made up your mind about what “type” of people comment on this blog but in reality, most issues are hardly black and white and that’s why I read the comments in the first place – to understand other peoples’ views and perhaps why they are different than mine.

  11. Pingback: Monday: Community Meeting on Proposed Homeless Facility at 1515 South Van Ness | Bernalwood

  12. Thank your S for your thoughts. I think we need to start thinking about this issue differently. Why is this a City concern? It should be viewed with a state wide lens. This is just one aspect of the dilemma but an important one. Many homeless people have chronic mental health issues. I walk down the street and see that a lot of these people have no ability to care for themselves. It’s shameful that we don’t have the resources for this population. After Governor Reagan closed the State hospitals to save money, these people were displaced and they continue to have no recourse save the streets. If we can address the mental health issue then we can, at least, start to make a dent in the problem. This can only be resolved by the State. I’m not suggesting that we reopen the hospitals but there are other small community-based models that could be employed as opposed to warehousing them in a large facility like the Navigation Center (which is just a fancy word for homeless shelter).

    The other state-wide issue is that many cities don’t do anything to build more, let alone, affordable housing and so the burden falls on S.F./Oakland/S.J. All cities should be building housing for all income levels. Although there is also a local element to this as well. I know that the Marina/Pacific Heights is so expensive as to make it difficult to build in these areas, I’m pretty sure, though, that the City of S.F. has land there that could be used but they don’t because the City knows that the rich people living in those neighborhoods will sue them right away whereas those of us living in Bernal/Mission don’t have that kind of capital (because I’m living in my retirement egg). We are an easy target.

    Why am I expected to solve this crisis? If it were an equitable arrangement across and within cities then there might not be as much push back.

  13. Pingback: 95 Year-Old Woman Assaulted by Tent-Dweller at Proposed Residential Shelter Site | Bernalwood

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