It is now two months since Mayor London Breed announced a plan for the city of San Francisco to purchase four hotels to convert to housing the homeless population. And at the snail’s pace at which SF City Hall works, getting three out of four of them in two months ain’t bad. That’s where the project stands now, as Tuesday the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the purchase of two of those buildings, including the Panoramic, a former student housing facility at Ninth and Mission Streets that is the largest proposed purchase of the bunch.
The board already approved the first purchase, of the Excelsior’s Mission Inn, two weeks ago.
The supervisors actually combined the purchases of the Eula Hotel (25 units, $5.7 million) and the Panoramic (160 units, $86.3 million) into one item, and passed both unanimously without discussion. Much of this money will be reimbursed through Governor Newsom’s state program Project Homekey.
To be fair, there was public comment and discussion at the supervisors’ October 6 Budget and Finance committee meeting, where a significant number of neighbors voiced their disapproval of the idea. But there is so much consensus on the board about these purchases they did not spend any time debating it before approving the two purchases Tuesday.
Plenty of SoMa residents did sound off at a September 15 community meeting. “This makes our streets unsafe,” said one resident who identified herself only as Kristin. “It’s unsettling to walk by crowds of individuals on the sidewalk, junkies shooting up, dealers just itching for that next sale, people screaming and threatening.”
But the budget committee was supportive because so many families could be housed in the Panoramic’s three-bedroom apartments. “We have really little opportunity to get these kinds of buildings where we have multiple bedrooms where we can serve families,” Coalition on Homelessness executive director Jennifer Friedenbach said at the September meeting. “We have thousands of children in San Francisco that are experiencing homelessness, but we have very few large units. Three bedrooms. It makes a huge difference for large families, [there are] very few options for them.”
The Mayor’s office botched this one from the start, blindsiding J-town and union workers. We continue to urge the Mayor to move forward on other D5 hotels we have previously suggested to seize the opportunity to create more permanent supportive housing. https://t.co/lODmh1JieX— Dean Preston (@DeanPreston) October 19, 2021
This is great news for advocates who support these purchases, but the overall project did take a hit today. The Buchanan Hotel in Japantown, which has also generated significant community opposition, is officially out of the running to be purchased. The hotel's owners backed out of the sale Tuesday, telling the Chronicle that they reconsidered “after a lot of consideration and feedback from the community.”