San Francisco Chronicle, April 29, 2020
By Trisha Thadani
Two San Francisco supervisors are considering legislation that would turn open spaces around the city — including parking lots and parks — into spots where homeless people can pitch their tents at a safe distance from each other amid the coronavirus pandemic. Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer and Supervisor Gordon Mar said Tuesday that they are working with the City Attorney’s Office to explore the possibility of such legislation. The move comes as San Francisco struggles to lease enough hotel rooms for the city’s 8,000-plus homeless population, and leaders desperately search for alternatives where the unhoused can socially distance from each other. “We have all been grappling with the challenges of housing our unhoused population even before the emergence of COVID-19,” Fewer said at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. “We recognize that all our unhoused neighbors are vulnerable and need a safe place to shelter in place even if they are unable to obtain a hotel room.” The possible legislation follows a resolution by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman last week, which urged the city to create such spaces. While the idea of sanctioned encampments has been floating around City Hall for years, the supervisors are exploring the idea with increased urgency as tents crowd sidewalks in neighorhoods like the Tenderloin, Castro and the Haight-Ashbury.
Fewer said that she has identified “specific areas” in Golden Gate Park that could be “perfect” for safe encampment sites, though she did not specify exactly where. Other potential sites that have been mentioned are Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park and the DMV parking lot on Fell Street in the Panhandle — but city homeless managers have told The Chronicle that those sites are unlikely. The sites would provide bathrooms and enough room for tents to be at least six feet apart.