Thursday: Second Meeting on Planned Homeless Facility at 1515 South Van Ness

Amid mounting community concern about D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen’s effort to use the existing building at 1515 South Van Ness as a temporary residential homeless facility, Supervisor Ronen plans to hold a second meeting about the plan tomorrow, ThursdayMay 4 at John O’Connell High School (2355 Folsom at 20th St.) beginning at 6 pm.

In an email obtained by Bernalwood, Ronen wrote:

Dear Mission resident,

I am holding a second community meeting next week, on Thursday May 4th at 6:00pm at John O’Connell High School to provide more space for community discussion on the proposal for a temporary Navigation Center at 1515 South Van Ness Ave. The content of this meeting will be identical to the content of our first meeting at Mission Cultural Center this past Monday.

I will be joined by the Director on the Department of Homelessness Director Jeff Kositsky, the San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, the Captain for Mission Station Bill Griffin, and representatives from both Public Works and the Mayor’s office.

For those of you who may not be able to attend this second meeting, I will be holding community office hours (first come, first serve) to discuss this proposal at Rincon Nayarit on Monday May 8th from 8:00am-10:00am.

Please see details bellow.

Community Meeting

Thursday May 4th, 2017
John O’Connell High School
2355 Folsom St, SF 94110

Community Office Hours

Monday May 8th, 2017
Rincon Nayarit
1500 South Van Ness Ave, SF 94109

If you have any questions about this meeting or my community office hours, please contact my Legislative Aide Carolina Morales at 415-554-7743 or via email at

The proposal to use the existing building at 1515 South Van Ness as a temporary homeless shelter emerged from a deal Supervisor Ronen made with the Lennar Corporation last March.

Under the terms of the deal, Ronen agreed to unblock Lennar’s plan to build 157 units of permanent, mixed-income housing on the site, with 25% of the units designated affordable, in exchange for a $1 million payment to a “cultural stabilization fund” operated on behalf of Calle24, a Latino cultural organization with close ties to Supervisor Ronen.  The deal also allowed the City to use the existing structure on the site as a temporary residential homeless facility.

The homeless facility, which the City calls a Navigation Center, would feature 120 shelter beds.  It would operate until Lennar obtains the permits needed to demolish the building and begin construction of the housing development. The facility would operate 24 hours a day, and Hoodline reports “the property’s parking lot will be configured to encourage shelter clients to congregate there instead of on the adjacent sidewalk.”

Though Ronen describes the May 4 event as a community meeting, she’s also indicated  it may largely be a one-way conversation. During a contentious April 24 meeting about the proposal, Supervisor Ronen told critics that community input on the matter would have no bearing on the proposal. “The decision has been made,” she said, according to a MissionLocal reporter who attended the meeting.

The next next day,  Ronen introduced an ordinance at the Board of Supervisors to expedite the creation of the shelter:

[Temporary Housing for Homeless People During Shelter Crisis – LMC San Francisco I Holdings, LLC – 1515 South Van Ness Avenue]
Sponsors: Mayor; Ronen

Ordinance approving an agreement between the City and LMC San Francisco I Holdings, LLC, to allow the City to use the property at 1515 South Van Ness Avenue to utilize and operate a facility to provide temporary housing and services to homeless persons; directing the City Administrator, Public Works, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, Department of Building Inspection, and other City departments to make repairs or improvements, consistent with health and safety standards, to use the property for temporary housing to address encampments in the Mission District; authorizing Public Works, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, and Department of Public Health to enter into contracts without adhering to competitive bidding and other requirements for construction work, procurement, and personal services at the facility; and affirming the Planning Department’s determination under the California Environmental Quality Act.
ASSIGNED to Land Use and Transportation Committee.

UPDATE, May 3, 7:30 pm According to the Bay City Beacon, further evidence that “the decision has been made” emerged from today’s meeting of the SF Board of Supervisors. The Beacon reports:

Supervisor Ronen and Mayor Lee’s agreement with the developer Lennar Multi-family passed the Board of Supervisors today, establishing a temporary Homeless Navigation Center at 1515 South Van Ness. 1515 South Van Ness is currently owned by Lennar, who is loaning it to the city for homeless services.

PHOTO: 1515 South Van Ness at 6:32 pm on April 19, 2017, by Telstar Logistics

SFMTA Faces Criticism During Tense Meeting on Northwest Bernal Permit Parking Plan

SFFMTA parking policy manager Hank Wilson at the April 18 community meeting.

“This is a really good focus group.”

That’s  what Hank Wilson, the manager of parking policy at SFMTA, told a crowd of Bernal Heights residents last week at a contentious April 18  community meeting about SFMTA’s proposal to implement a new residential parking permit program (RPP) on select streets in northwest Bernal Heights.

During the meeting, more than a dozen Bernal Heights residents took turns scolding SFMTA for failing to provide timely information to local residents, repeatedly contradicting or redefining its own data about non-resident parking in Bernal Heights, and arbitrarily changing the rules that  will govern the proposed RPP in northwest Bernal.

The net result, as one Bernal resident pointed out, is that “[SFMTA is] pitting streets against each other, and neighbor a against neighbor.”

That was a recurring theme throughout the evening, as Bernal neighbors who both supported and opposed the parking plan described how the RPP program seems to have been designed from the outset to fuel neighbor-on-neighbor antagonism.

Source: SFMTA

Quite rationally, neighbors who want RPP in northwest Bernal are thrilled that SFMTA seems determined to make the new permit parking zone happen, regardless how much the agency botched the process along the way.  Meanwhile, Bernal neighbors who either oppose the RPP zone, or who live on streets just outside of it, or who never ever heard about it at all because SFMTA failed to notify them, were told that the new zone is more or less a done deal.

“These people have more of a right to park here than those people,” explained SFMTA’s Wilson. “That’s the basis of the program.”

SFMTA data shows that 32% of cars that currently park on proposed RPP streets belong to other Bernal residents living within 1/4 mile. (Source: SFMTA)

And so, on that cheerful note, what’s next for the Northwest Bernal RPP?

In a strange concession to SFMTA’s mismanagement of the Bernal RPP process, Wilson said that the agency has re-opened the petitions used to determine whether or not individual streets will be included in the northwest Bernal RPP.

SFMTA’s rule is that at least 50% of the households on each block must sign the petition to be included in the RPP zone.  Yet because SFTMA decided to reduce the maximum permit allocations from four permits per RPP household to two after the original petitions were submitted, Wilson said the petitions would be re-opened until May 17.

That means residents who previously voted yes on the RPP proposal, but who now disapprove of the proposed change, could use this opportunity to change their votes from Yes to No.

Meanwhile, Wilson said, northwest Bernal residents who previously voted No, or didn’t vote at all, now have until May 17 to sign the petition to get their street included in the new RPP.

If at this point you’re wondering, “Since SFMTA seems hell-bent on on implementing the northwest Bernal RPP, who would possibly vote now to remove their own street from the RPP zone?” — well, you’re right to wonder that. At this point, simple self-interest dictates that keeping your street in the new RPP is the rational thing to do. (cf. The Prisoner’s Dilemma)

And likewise, if you previously voted No to the RPP, but would now like to change your vote to Yes, well, that’s also a very rational thing to do, because who wants to live on a non-RPP block right next to a street that’s part of the RPP program? When the RPP program is implemented in northwest Bernal, parking on streets included in the RPP zone may or may not get easier. But it’s quite certain that the establishment of the new RPP zone will make parking on non-RPP streets nearby significantly more difficult.  (cf. The Prisoner’s Dilemma)

Of course, if you didn’t attend Hank Wilson’s community meeting on April 19, you probably wouldn’t know any of this.  To date, SFMTA hasn’t sent out postcards to northwest Bernal residents informing them of the re-opened petition, and SFMTA’s Northwest Bernal Heights Parking Pilot website hasn’t been updated to explain the outcome of last week’s community meeting or to indicate the new petition deadline.

And beyond that?

Sometime after May 17, SFMTA will release the tallies of the re-re-revised block-by-block petitions. With the final list of RPP blocks in hand, SFMTA will then push the northwest Bernal RPP proposal through the legislative process.

Because SFMTA is treating northwest Bernal RPP as an experiment,  it will require approval by the full SFMTA board of directors as a calendar item at an upcoming SFMTA board meeting (exact date TBD).  By all indications, this is likely to be a rubber-stamp gesture; Hank Wilson told the crowd at his Bernal Heights community meeting that he has never heard of an instance where the SFMTA board voted against an RPP proposal.

Monday: Community Meeting on Proposed Homeless Facility at 1515 South Van Ness

1515 South Van Ness in Jan. 2017 (via Google Street View)

D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen just announced plans to hold a community meeting about her proposal to establish a “pop-up” Navigation Center for the homeless at 1515 South Van Ness, near Cesar Chavez.

The meeting will be held on Monday April 24 at the Mission Cultural Center (2868 Mission) beginning at 6 pm.

Supervisor Ronen’s meeting announcement says:

I would like to invite you to a community meeting that I am holding this coming Monday April 24th at 6:00pm at the Mission Cultural Center regarding the proposal for a temporary Navigation Center at 1515 South Van Ness Ave.

I will be joined by the Director on the Department of Homelessness Jeff Kositsky, the San Francisco Police Chief William Scott, the Captain for Mission Station Bill Griffin, the Director of Public Works Mohammed Nuru, and representatives from the Mayor’s office.

For those of you who may not be able to attend the meeting, I will be holding community office hours to discuss this proposal at Rincon Nayarit on Monday May 8th from 8:00am-10:00am.

Please see details bellow.

Community Meeting
Monday April 24th, 2017
Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts
2868 Mission St, SF 94110

Community Office Hours
Monday May 8th, 2017
Rincon Nayarit
1500 South Van Ness Ave, SF 94109

If you have any questions about this meeting or my community office hours, please contact my Legislative Aide Carolina Morales at 415-554-7743 or via email at

Hillary Ronen
District 9 Supervisor

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

Wednesday: Community Meeting on Controversial SFMTA Parking Permit Plan


On Wednesday evening the SFMTA will hold a community meeting about the agency’s much-debated plan to implement an experimental residential parking permit (RPP) system in northwest Bernal Heights. The meeting will happen on Wednesday, April 19 at 6:30 pm at Flynn Elementary School (3125 Cesar Chavez Street).

The postcard SFMTA sent to neighbors living in the proposed Northwest Bernal RPP zone says:

The SFMTA and Northwest Bernal Heights Residents invite you to a public meeting to discuss permit parking in Northwest Bernal Heights.

Residents on the following blocks have voted with over 51 percent to move forward with residential permit parking in Bernal Heights: Mirabel and Montezuma, Shotwell (1400-1599), Prospect (1-99), Esmeralda (200-299), Coso (1-299), Precita (1-299), Coleridge (1-99), Winfield (1-99), Lundy’s Lane (1-16) and Powers.

Please join use to hear details about next steps in the permit process, which includes a discussion about how this will affect residents in the area.

The Northwest Bernal RPP proposal, which started as a routine petition drive in 2015, has since become a polarizing exercise in  bungled communication, ad hoc rulemaking, and bureaucratic unaccountability.

After RPP petitions were collected from Bernal neighbors in 2016, SFMTA officials decided  Bernal Heights would become the test site for an experimental parking permit regime that de-emphasizes the impact of parking by non-Bernal residents to focus instead on curtailing parking by adjacent Bernal residents and restricting the number of parking permits each household may obtain within the RPP zone. Under the SFMTA’s experimental system for northwest Bernal, RPP permits would be limited to one RPP permit per driver, with a maximum of two RPP permits issued per household.

Source: SFMTA

Advocates for the RPP zone say parking in northwest Bernal has become increasingly competitive because of daytime parking by non-residents, long-term parking by travelers, and residents who park in the street while using their garages for storage.

Opponents say SFMTA’s plan to use northwest Bernal as a test site was not disclosed in the original RPP petition drive, which renders those petitions invalid. After the petitions were received, SFMTA altered the requirements used to determine is whether a neighborhood qualifies to become a new RPP zone while repeatedly declining requests to define their new requirements. The agency has also faced allegations that SFMTA officials colluded inappropriately with RPP supporters by sharing private emails with RPP petition organizers.

As Bernalwood wrote last month:

The SFMTA is moving ahead with plans to use Bernal Heights as the site of an experimental Residential Parking Permit (RPP) scheme that will no longer emphasize preventing non-residents from parking on neighborhood streets. Instead, under the new system, the RPP program will also seek to limit the number of cars residents can park on the streets of their own neighborhood.

As previously reported, the SFMTA’s Bernal parking survey showed that roughly 70% of the cars parked on northwest Bernal streets on a typical weekday afternoon likely belong to other Bernal Heights residents. Under SFMTA’s longstanding rules, at least 50% of parked cars would have to belong to non-residents in order to establish a new RPP zone.

Yet after some residents organized a petition drive last year to establish a new RPP zone in northwest Bernal, the SFMTA moved its own goalposts. The 50% non-resident requirement was quietly disregarded, but SFMTA has not explained what the updated criteria for establishing a new RPP zone will be.

For current information about the Bernal RPP proposal, visit SFMTA’s Northwest Bernal Heights Residential Permit Parking Pilot page.

PHOTO: Top, by Telstar Logistics

What Happened to the Big Tree in the Bernal Heights Library Playground?

Bernalwood has received several shouts of alarm from Central Cortlandia, where neighbors report that the big shade tree in the playground behind the Bernal Heights Library was suddenly and summarily cut down.

Neighbor Melissa writes:

Sad news for the younger set: The Bernal library playgrouind tree has been taken down without comment. This was really the only source of shade on the playground, so many youngsters (including my own) loved this tree. No word from Rec and Park on the tree’s removal, and no word on what’s next for the hundreds of families that use this park. What gives?

Neighbor Kathryn adds:

The beloved library tree was taken out. Apparently, it was dying. People are really missing this tree.

I know a lot of trees are dying due to the extra rain after our long drought, but how do we know the tree was dangerous? Lots of things are dying, but they may still be around for years or even decades to come.

One thing that is baffling – there is no plan to replace the tree yet – or even a plan to remove the stub.

Apparently, SF Parks and Works doesn’t have access to a stump removal machine, which strikes me as very bizarre considering they remove trees often.

If it takes an act of God for homeowners to get approval to remove a tree – why can Parks and Recs just swoop in and cut down a tree? For homeowners, there is a long drawn out process for notifying the community. Most requests are denied – and if a home owner appeals, they must provide proof of why the tree is an endangerment. If any tree is removed, there must be an approved plan for replacing it BEFORE it is removed.

Why is this not the case for Parks and Rec?

Questions of arboreal equity aside, Bernalwood reached out to the San Francisco Rec and Park department to learn more about the situation.

Connie Chan from Rec and Park tells Bernalwood:

The tree was assessed as hazardous and deemed unsafe by the Department’s Urban Forestry crew. At this time, our crew is working to remove the remaining stump so that it would allow new tree planting in the area in the near future.

We definitely plan to plant a new tree, but in order for that to happen, we have to remove the stump so that it has the space to plant the tree.

Chan adds there is currently no timeframe or estimate when the tree in the Bernal library playground will be replaced.

PHOTOS: Top, Bernal library playground with no tree, by Neighbor Melissa. Below, tree stump by Neighbor Kathryn

UPDATED: Neighbors Say Fertilizer Used in Precita Park Made Dogs Sick

Two Bernal Heights neighbors say their dogs became ill after visiting Precita Park last week, shortly after City workers applied a chemical to the grass.

In an email to D9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, Neighbor Linda writes:

Last week, the day that fertilizer was applied to the grass in Precita Park, our dogs started foaming at the mouth and throwing up. My dog became seriously lethargic for 24 hours.

We need to know:

  1. What fertilizer was used? so that we can tell our veterinarians.
  2. What is the schedule for applying fertilizer on Precita Park grass and can it be posted in the park?
  3. How do we stop the use of this/these chemicals in Precita Park?

This must also be dangerous for babies and small children. It couldn’t be healthy for larger children and adults either.

I expect that the rain has diluted the chemicals for now, but Precita Park will get fertilizer again.

In a follow-up note to Supervisor Ronen, Neighbor Roman adds:

My dog Yogi went to the park around the same dates and has gotten very sick. He has been vomiting and foaming at the mouth. Please do advise us the type of fertilizer and if any new type of grass has been used to replace dry spots. We have taken our dog to surrounding parks and not encountered these issues. I will continue to ask other dog owners if they are experiencing similar issues. This is a major concern for us and we are taking this matter very seriously.

Supervisor Ronen says she will follow-up with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department to learn more. Bernalwood will provide additional information as it becomes available.

UPDATE: 1:30 pm: Connie Chan from Rec and Park sent this response to Bernalwood:

The Department received feedback including possible concerns about dogs getting sick after visiting Precita Park last week.

Recently, the Department has roped off newly seeded areas in Park as these areas were re-seeded some time ago with standard grass mix, and the grass mix should not have any negative effect on humans and animals, including dogs. We have checked in with our park operations staff about their maintenance activities, and they confirmed that there were no fertilizer applications at the Park for well over a year.

It should also be noted that the Department utilizes Integrated Pest Management (IPM) throughout our park system, which means we minimize any use of herbicide (and no rodenticide or any toxic chemical are allowed) and all herbicide application that meets the SF Environment regulations would be posted at the site for public notice and documented in our records. Here is more info on IPM from SF Environment.

However, with abundance of precaution, we are still looking into our maintenance activities last week and would welcome any input from the public on any incidents that they might have possibly witnessed and believed to be related. At this point, the only other maintenance activity of note that was occurring at the park, was our spring irrigation system tune-up. We will be inspecting the Park this week to see if we can identify any potential hazards that could be related to this incident.

PHOTO: Magic, one of the dogs that recently became ill. Image of Magic shown in Precita Park prior to the sickness incident, courtesy of Neighbor Linda.