At last, Embarcadero Homeless Navigation Center Set to Open Despite NIMBY Outrage

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Publication: SF Curbed

Game-changing facility will open by year’s end

Some of San Francisco’s neediest residents will soon live a few yards away from the city’s most expensive housing, despite the earnest efforts of angry condo owners in South Beach.

Mayor London Breed and other city honchos announced Tuesday that the divisive homeless navigation center at Seawall Lot 330—just a skip and a jump from the Bay Bridge along the Embarcadero—had finished construction and is set to open by the end of the year.

The new facility, built on a city-owned parking lot, consists of a cluster of two long tent-like structures that will eventually house up to 200 people at a time. It also comes with one administrative building, private bathrooms and showers, and outdoor tables and benches. The pristine white interiors of the dorms, tightly insulated from the cold and impending drizzle outside, somewhat resemble how we might imagine a moon base in a far-flung Utopian future. And the center’s exterior gate is made up corrugated steel, wood trim, and assorted greenery used for landscaping.

Expensive East Cut and South Beach condo buildings, like One Rincon Hill and the Jasper, are visible from the courtyard. Some of the homeowners inside those high-rises spent most of 2019 trying to scuttle the project with protest and a series of lawsuits. But in the end, Breed’s plan outreached the long arm of NIMBYism.

During a press tour of the facilities, the mayor and other lawmakers used the occasion to promote—over and over again—the theme of more housing. “We all know the statistics—more than ever we need housing,” said Breed.

“This is not normal, this is not how it plays out in the rest of the country,” State Senator Scott Wiener said, commenting on both the homeless crisis and local opposition to housing development.

“It’s not rocket science,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting. “Everybody says they are for more housing—in someone else’s neighborhood or city.”