S.F. 'safe' parking site at Candlestick Point would host 150 homeless people living in vehicles

San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 14, 2021

By Mallory Moench


San Francisco wants to open a new secure parking site at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area with 150 spots for unhoused people living in RVs and cars to support a growing contingent of people sleeping in vehicles.


Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton introduced the plan, co-sponsored by Mayor London Breed, at Tuesday’s Board meeting in the wake of neighborhood complaints about people living in vehicles on the streets.


“The concerns that residents have will not be solved overnight, nor were they created overnight,” he said during the meeting. “Our office is working overtime to address these concerns and provide services for people who are unhoused. We are working on compassionate, successful ways to provide housing and support our unhoused population.”


It would be the city’s second safe parking site — where homeless individuals can park vehicles and receive services — but much larger than the temporary one that closed earlier this year. The first was created at Balboa Upper Yard with 29 parking spaces from December 2019 to March 2021, also in response to complaints about trailers and vans parked on the streets.


Walton said the proposed new site was prompted by neighborhood concerns about trash as well as supervisors’ conversations over the past year about opening more safe parking sites. The sites, which aim to make life better for people living on the streets and get them long-term help, is yet another example of San Francisco trying anything and everything to address its exploding homeless population without adequate affordable housing options.


The targeted Candlestick site is a roughly 3,000-square-foot space known as the boat launch parking at the state park. Community members recommended the site because it’s private, remote and has been closed for many years, Walton said. The proposed site will be fenced off by the city’s homeless department and include a guard booth, toilets and shower trailers, electrical poles for lights, pet and picnic areas and 15 parking stalls for staff. Residents will also receive case management to help them find housing.


The city estimates it will take $5 million to set up the program, $2 million to run it for the rest of this fiscal year, until the end of June 2022, and $4 million for operations and services in the second year.


The need is evident. Walton said people sleeping in their vehicles accounted for two-thirds of the increase of homeless individuals in the city from 2017 to 2019.


In August 2021, the city counted 1,088 inhabited vehicles, with 677 in his district, he said.


The more than 150 vehicles parked around Candlestick Point State Park and neighboring areas have prompted concerns about inhumane conditions for people living in cars and effects on the neighborhood, including trash on the streets and waste dumped into the Bay. The city and community organizations, which met for 19 months to come up with a fix, proposed the safe parking site, but not all residents back it.


Walton said that while state park staff and multiple city departments have placed unhoused people living in vehicle encampments into housing and shelter, there’s still an “immense need that can’t be addressed unless there is an alternative location for unhoused people to go.”


The city will pursue a sub-lease with the state for the property. Walton said he hopes to have the site up and running after community outreach.


Steven Currier, who was co-chair of the Balboa Upper Yard safe parking program’s community working group, said the six-month outreach process before the site opened was at times “very volatile, very vulgar.” He judged the site a success, leading to a safer and cleaner neighborhood and services for people in need.


Data from the city’s homelessness department shows only a fraction of people who lived at the site during the year got permanent housing. Of the 75 people who stayed at Balboa Upper Yard, 11 exited to housing.


That site closed so that affordable housing could be developed on the property.

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