Tue, Apr 23, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Shelter and IPOs have San Francisco on edge


A man reads a Bible across the road from the proposed site of a homeless shelter in San Francisco on Thursday last week.

Photo: AP

San Francisco’s renowned waterfront hosts joggers, admiring tourists and towering condos with impressive views. It could also become the site of a new homeless shelter for up to 200 people.

Angry residents have packed public meetings, jeering at city officials and even shouted down San Francisco Mayor London Breed over the proposal.

They say they were blindsided and argue that billionaire Twitter executive Jack Dorsey and other tech executives who support the idea should lobby city officials to build a shelter by their homes.

The waterfront uproar is among recent examples of strife in an expensive city that is both overwhelmed by tech wealth and passionate about social justice.

San Francisco companies Pinterest Inc and Lyft Inc recently went public, while Uber Technologies Inc and Slack Technologies Inc are coming soon, driving fears that newly minted millionaires will snap up the few family homes left for under US$2 million.

San Francisco Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer fought tears at a testy hearing over a housing density development bill, inviting her critics to visit poor seniors in her district who eat cat food for dinner.

Opponents of the bill stood and turned their backs on San Francisco Supervisor Vallie Brown, who vigorously defended the legislation.

As the city continues to grapple with a housing shortage, the entire San Francisco Board of Supervisors was roasted on social media this month for rejecting a 63-unit housing project because it would cast shadows over a nearby park in an area with little green space.

“We’re definitely at the boiling point, whether it’s the housing crisis, whether it’s quality of life, which is exacerbated by the worst traffic congestion in America, or the affordability crisis,” San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin said.

The market for single-family houses under US$2 million is going nuts in the city, especially in neighborhoods attractive to millennials and young families, realtor Monica Sagullo said.

The initial public offerings (IPO) are “in the back of people’s minds and the people who have to buy are the ones who are going for it — the families that need houses, the double-incomes,” Sagullo said.

A family of four earning US$117,400 a year is considered low-income in the city, where the median sale price of a two-bedroom home is US$1.3 million.

Yet every night, the city of 885,000 also has about 4,400 people sleeping unsheltered, in alleys and doorways and tucked away in Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco opened its first homeless “navigation center” in 2015 and currently operates six throughout the city. Unlike traditional shelters, the centers allow people to bring pets and do not kick them out in the morning.

The proposed navigation center in the Embarcadero is a critical part of the mayor’s campaign pledge to open 1,000 new shelter beds by the end of next year. It would sit in a parking lot owned by the Port of San Francisco.

Commissioners are to vote today on whether to lease the land to the city.

After Breed’s plan was announced, opponents started a GoFundMe campaign to fight it, called “Safe Embarcadero for All.”

Shelter supporters quickly called out the campaign on social media and a sometimes-nasty battle ensued. The campaign against the shelter has raised US$100,000, while the campaign for it, called “SAFER Embarcadero for ALL,” is at US$175,000, including US$25,000 from Dorsey and US$10,000 each from Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff and Twilio Inc chief executive officer Jeff Lawson.

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