Rival factions launch competing fundraisers to contest fate of Embarcadero homeless center

Many opposition donors are residents at the Watermark, whose rooftop pool overlooks the site in question. | Image: Vanguard Properties
By Camden Avery - Published on March 28, 2019.

Just weeks after Mayor London Breed announced plans to build a homeless navigation center at the foot of the Bay Bridge by the summer, two rival groups have begun soliciting public donations to influence the center's fate.

The site, known as Seawall Lot 330, is Port of San Francisco property, located adjacent to Pier 30 at the Embarcadero and Bryant Street. Under the current plan, it would operate for four years, providing room and board to an estimated 225 unhoused people. The center would also be staffed with case managers to connect them to jobs, public benefits, health services, and housing. 

At two public meetings held on March 12, the navigation center drew vociferous opposition from a group of Rincon Hill, South Beach, South Park and Mission Bay neighbors opposed to its construction. 

Last week, a group of those neighbors, working under the moniker "Safe Embarcadero For All," launched a fundraising campaign seeking $100,000 to fund a legal case against the proposed center.

The fundraiser quickly gained notice for its rapid rise — it's currently halfway to its goal with a series of markedly large donations, including one that weighed in at $10,000. Some argued that it represented income inequality in San Francisco in a nutshell.

According to a search of public records, many of the campaign's named donors live in The Watermark, a luxury condominium development at 501 Beale St. The Watermark's rooftop pool, which overlooks the bay, has an immediate view of the lot where the proposed navigation center would sit.

The Watermark building, from which many of the donors hail, overlooks Seawall Lot 330 (in purple). | Image: SF Port

Wallace Lee, a neighborhood resident who's part of the Safe Embarcadero group opposing the navigation center, said the group is concerned about safety, property crime and drug use.

"Our community isn't traditionally very politically active," Lee said, but they felt caught off guard by the speed with which Mayor Breed is trying to move forward with the plan.

"We'd rather keep the money and not spend it" on a legal case, Lee said, but the group, which he said is about 500 people strong and growing, believes that "homeless shelters are associated with crime."

If a third of the center's proposed 225 beds are occupied by active drug users, he said, then "75 people are going to be out in the streets in the neighborhood using drugs. We don't really have a problem with syringes and needles [in the area] right now." 

In response to the "Safe Embarcadero" campaign, San Francisco resident William Fitzgerald launched a parody campaign, "Safer Embarcadero For All," whose language mimics the initial campaign.

Seeking $10,000 to help fund the Coalition on Homelessness, whose staff has spoken out in favor of the new center, the counter-campaign hit over a third of its goal in the first three hours.

Hoodline could not reach Fitzgerald for comment by press time. But he told the SF Weekly that he was "so surprised how brazen these people were."

“Hopefully, the supervisors will step up, and not support this class warfare,” he says. 

The San Francisco Port Authority Commission will vote on the proposed use of the site for a navigation center on April 28.

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