On May 15, the City announced that 730 Stanyan (formerly McDonald’s) would become the second sanctioned homeless tent site in San Francisco; the first being in the Tenderloin / Civic Center. In response to this decision, neighbors in the Upper Haight and District 5 have organized, forming a new group — Safe Healthy Haight — to represent the legitimate concerns of residents regarding this site that have so far been ignored. See the bottom of this post for ways you can get involved and click here to sign up for our email list.
While everyone agrees that homeless residents need help during these difficult times, we don’t believe Supervisor Preston’s haphazard solution to create a sanctioned tent site in a high foot traffic area is the appropriate response, and we’re disappointed by his lack of responsiveness to the concerns of residents.
A Reckless Approach
Supervisor Preston and his supporters claim to have handed out nearly 1,000 tents without City approval or coordination for where these tents would be placed or how they would abide by the COVID-19 health orders. As a result, District 5 saw an influx of dense tent encampments on sidewalks, particularly outside of the Fell Street DMV in NOPA and at the corner of Haight and Masonic in Haight-Ashbury. This action was reckless and created a public health and safety crisis on our streets. Residents have shared countless stories detailing the negative behavior in these encampments, as well as emails with City officials regarding tent dwellers refusing to follow health measures requested of them by Homeless Youth Alliance outreach workers.
Safe Healthy Haight will hold Supervisor Preston accountable and not allow him to continue blaming others for the situation he and his supporters created.
A Public Health Risk
Installing a tent site at 730 Stanyan will put the health of the neighborhood (and the City) in jeopardy by merging several separate tent encampments in the middle of a high foot traffic area during a pandemic, with up to 60 tents and up to 2 people per tent. To date, most of the major COVID-19 outbreaks have been in close living quarters, so an outbreak and community spread resulting from merging several separate encampments is certainly possible (even with social distancing).
The City’s Healthy Streets Operation Center previously stated that there are many important reasons to not allow large tent encampments, including: 1. Higher levels of substance abuse and communicable disease in large encampments. 2. Increase in public health and public safety concerns in and around the encampment.
The 730 Stanyan site is across the street from:
- the area’s largest grocery store (with lines stretching to the sidewalk);
- the entrance to Golden Gate Park (with attendance numbers highly increased since shelter in place);
- the beloved Amoeba Records and other local merchants;
- summer camps for children at Kezar Pavillion and Kezar Stadium beginning June 15;
- a skatepark; and
- two childcare facilities (a daycare in Kezar Pavilion for essential workers and a preschool on Waller).
Additionally, 730 Stanyan is bordered by a residential family neighborhood and is at the junction of two commercial corridors (Haight Street and Stanyan Street) with many essential businesses. This is in stark contrast to the City’s other sanctioned tent site in the Tenderloin / Civic Center, which is in a more secluded location buttressed by Civic Center Plaza to the west, Asian Art Museum to the north, a SF Public Library to the south, and a federal building and Orpheum Theater to the east, all of which are currently empty and closed.
If this site continues to move forward, Safe Healthy Haight will emphasize the serious health considerations that seem to have been glossed over thus far.
Exclusionary to Residents
For the past two months, longstanding neighborhood associations such as the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association, Cole Valley Improvement Association and Haight Ashbury Improvement Association have attempted to work with Supervisor Preston on this matter. Unfortunately, he has made it clear that if you disagree with him, then you’re excluded from the conversation. To date, he has shown that he only listens and responds to those who share his views, such as the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council and the homeless service providers of his choosing.
Safe Healthy Haight will present a more representative and organized voice to ensure that Supervisor Preston listens to everyone he was elected to represent.
Undoing Years of Work
The Haight and Stanyan area and the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park has had a troubled history. The area previously was infamous for drugs, violence, crime and countless quality of life issues. Over the last 10 years, the community and City officials finally started to make some significant headway in improving the area:
- 2009 — Off the Grid at Waller and Stanyan
- 2010 — Farmer’s Market at Waller and Stanyan
- 2012 — Skatepark installed at Waller and Stanyan
- 2012 — Bike rentals at Haight and Stanyan
- 2013 — Community garden replaces the recycling center near Kezar
- 2016 — Professional Soccer comes to Kezar Stadium
- 2017 — 730 Stanyan (the McDonald’s lot) is purchased by the City for affordable housing
- 2019 — Street Soccer USA submits a interim use proposal to activate 730 Stanyan
- In progress — $5.5 million renovation of the entrance to GGP at Haight and Stanyan
- In progress — Exploratorium Installation in Alvord Lake at Haight and Stanyan
- In progress — Coffee Kiosk (operated by Flywheel) in Alvord Lake at Haight and Stanyan
In the San Francisco Chronicle’s article “Be not afraid of Golden Gate Park’s Stanyan Street entrance — changes coming,” Recreation and Park Department General Manager Phil Ginsburg said “The redesign of the area was informed by neighbors, who wanted a safe, welcoming place that inspired community while preserving the natural beauty.” Developments such as the ones above helped lead to a 77% drop in homeless individuals in Golden Gate Park from 2017 to 2019.
Presently, the area surrounding 730 Stanyan has the largest number of child-serving sites than anywhere else in the Haight (by a significant margin), making the selection of this site even more puzzling. Homeless Youth Alliance, who will have major oversight responsibilities at the site, has posted job postings for Camp Counselor positions asking applicants “What are your feelings about drugs and alcohol and working with active often chaotic users?” Intentionally concentrating this population in the area of the Haight with the most child-serving sites is understandably extremely troubling for families with children, and many parents have reported that their voices have largely gone unheard.
If this site continues to move forward, Safe Healthy Haight will advocate to make sure these positive improvements and the are not undone by this site.
Neighbors have been largely excluded from the discussion of how the site will be managed, if it moves forward. The Community Action Made 4 People (CAMP) plan has been circulated and is referenced in Homeless Youth Alliance’s job postings, but this was crafted in a blackbox without real community input, with language such as “CAMP is also committed to creating an environment free from punitive or paternalistic rules including curfews, hiring security or involving law enforcement.” We have received many photos and videos from the Haight and Masonic encampment which demonstrate that rules need to be put in place.
Homeless Youth Alliance, which was formed after merging the San Francisco Needle Exchange and the Haight Ashbury Youth Outreach Team, historically has had a strained relationship with residents, especially in light of the Haight Ashbury Youth Outreach Team’s distribution of booklets to youth in the neighborhood (housed and unhoused) with instructions regarding IV drug use (“Enjoy your high”) and sex work (“Hustling in bars or turning tricks”).
Safe Healthy Haight is supporting our neighbors that have requested the City provide written assurances about the term and management of the site and of tents in the neighborhood. We support adding provisions to the site’s contract to clearly outline matters such as:
- Establish that this is a short-term site specifically opened to address the COVID-19 emergency with clear timelines for closure, such as within two weeks of San Francisco lifting the shelter in place order.
- Clearly defined benchmarks for this site’s success, and commitment to closing the site if those benchmarks aren’t maintained.
- Tents will not be allowed to continue on sidewalks and that only those tents in the Haight-Ashbury are eligible to move into this site (as opposed to being overflow for tents outside Haight-Ashbury).
- Establish a code of conduct and good neighbors policy based on resident feedback, as well as policies and procedures for what happens if the site rules are violated.
- A health officer must make daily visits to the site to ensure the health of the tent dwellers and ensure that they are following CDC guidelines.
- In the immediate term, increased security presence for the area surrounding 730 Stanyan.
- Requiring the City to pay for any medical expenses for housed and unhoused residents that arise as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak that can be traced back to this site.
In the next week, we’ll be soliciting additional neighborhood feedback on provisions to be added to the contract and will publish a separate blog post outlining these efforts. Officials in at least one adjacent District will not open a sanctioned homeless tent site without provisions similar to above.
What can you do?
Since Supervisor Preston has been largely ignoring resident feedback, we encourage residents to cc us at firstname.lastname@example.org when they send an email to him. At least once a day, we will be tweeting a snippet of every email we receive (with the sender’s name redacted).