HANC Blog

Coalition on Homelessness Talks to Homeless People in Buena Vista Park: More Conversation Needed

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By Colleen Rivecca, HANC President
 
During the month of March, volunteers from the Coalition on Homelessness conducted outreach to homeless people in Buena Vista Park (from now on, I'll refer to them as "park dwellers") to talk about neighborhood concerns with the park and with homelessness and to understand park dwellers' needs.

 Here is a summary of what they learned from and about the park dwellers:

  • Park dwellers who spoke to volunteers from the Coalition on Homelessness said that they want to meet with neighbors about park issues and that they want to respect the park.
  • Park dwellers are looking for an escape from poverty and homelessness, and many expressed the desire for employment, especially in helping keep the park clean and maintained.  Some of the park dwellers said that they'e be interested in working with neighbors to help clean up the park even if they weren't getting paid to do it.
  • Park dwellers are frustrated with the removal of garbage cans from the park.
  • Lack of bathroom facilities is a major challenge for park dwellers, who are frustrated about the human waste in the park.  With the closure of the bathrooms in the Panhandle and the loss of the drop-in space at Homeless Youth Alliance, it can be very difficult for homeless people to find a place to go to the bathroom in the neighborhood.
  • Park dwellers said that they understand that people in the neighborhood don't want them to be in the park.  The problem, from their perspective, is that people don't want them anywhere.  
  • Park dwellers consider the people who live near Buena Vista park to be "their neighbors" and they are interested in talking to neighbors about how they can work together to make the park a safer and better place.

It seems like a logical next step would be to set up a meeting between the housed and homeless neighbors so that they can talk further about park issues and how to solve them together.

On a related note, San Francisco has just started keeping track of requests for shelter beds with an online wait list, which is available at this 311 website.  As of the writing of this article, there are 661 homeless people who have requested shelter who are on the wait list for a bed.  That's right.  661 people who have no where else to go and want to be able to stay in shelter are waiting for a shelter bed to become available.  Where are they waiting?  Until San Francisco can provide basic shelter for the people who need it, we are always going to see homeless people outside.  


Free Speech or Blight?: Guidelines for Posting Signs

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One of our members sent HANC a letter which began, “I received this letter accusing me of a crime; levying a fine of $145 and telling me what a selfish, thoughtless person I am.” The enclosed 3-page, single-spaced letter was on letterhead from “Community Action, 1 Dr. Carlton Goodlett Place, Room 348, San Francisco, CA 94102,” which is the address of City Hall. But the letterhead included the line, “Community Action is not affiliated with a Government Agency.”

The letter complained about signs our member had posted for a garage sale as “a malicious trespass and harmful misuse. Such postings are incompatible with community goals and aesthetic standards, recognized as a public nuisance and criminal misdemeanor in particular instances.” The letter continued for two pages with similar language, in the midst of which was a request to “submit a check to cover an $145.00 abatement charge. Make check payable to “BSUM” addressed to Department of Public Works, 875 Stevenson Street, Room 460, San Francisco, CA 94103.” The letter ended with a page of excerpts from various laws, and then with a proof of service.

Although the letter may look somewhat official, the Department of Public Works has posted a warning about letters like this one on its website: “Please Note: If you receive any correspondence from The SF Cleanup Project (endorsed by Quinn Cooper), Neighbors for Livable Neighborhoods (endorsed by Tom Miller or Jessica Miller) or Community Action (endorsed by Denise Johnson), please note that none of these entities are affiliated with the Department of Public Works or any City Agency in the City and County of San Francisco. If you receive a letter from one of these entities, about signs you have posted, please submit it to DPW, Director’s Office, City Hall, Room 348, San Francisco, CA 94102, and DPW will deliver it to the City Attorney’s Office for investigation. For more information contact DPW’s Bureau of Street Use and Mapping at 554-5810.”

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San Francisco Tenants Push Back: More to Come

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By Calvin Welch, HANC Housing and Land Use Board Member

Facing the most broad scale pressure in recent years as a result of Mayor Ed Lee's constant boosterism for the high rolling tech industry -from an increasing rate of state mandated Ellis Act evictions to historically rapid increases in rents- San Francisco tenants are “pushing back” and making some real headway in addressing their concerns. 

Propelled by the overwhelming vote against the 8 Washington project last November, tenant leaders have taken the offensive in defining that victory not as some sterile anti-height vote aimed narrowly at the waterfront but instead as a cry of opposition to the assault on San Francisco’s large majority of low and middle income tenants as a result of the tech boom.

At the February 4th Supervisors meeting Supervisor David Campos introduced an ordinance that would require landlords who want to file Ellis Act evictions pay their tenants the difference between the rent on that unit and market rent for a comparable unit in the same neighborhood, for two years. This follows Supervisors Mar's proposed legislation introduced last month which would raise the bar locally on tenants-in-common conversions by requiring that the Planning Department review conversions to make sure the units are up to code and require a finding of “extraordinary circumstances” before approval of the conversion.

 

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HANC Supports Closing International Loophole on Chain Ban Legislation

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At the December board meeting, HANC directors supported Supervisor London Breed's amendment to the Planning Code to require international chain stores to be treated the same way local and national chains are treated on Haight Street.

Currently the “formula retail” ordinance requires a public hearing on the “necessity” for any national chain of 11 or more stores to open a local “branch” on Haight Street. However, international chains are exempt from such a requirement. Two such international chains, CeX (between Masonic and Ashbury street) and Happy Herbs ( at Masonic and Haight), each of which have more than 50 locations internationally, were allowed to open without a public hearing.

HANC argued in its letter to the Supervisor:

“Section 719 of the Planning Code recognizes  the Haight Street Neighborhood Commercial District as a shopping area that 'provides convenience goods and services to local Haight-Ashbury residents'  and establishes controls which seek to 'maintain a balanced mix and variety of neighborhood serving commercial uses and regulate …more intensive commercial uses….'”


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Project Updates - Four Projects Moving Ahead on Page Street

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As members might remember, this last summer we devoted two of our monthly meetings (see May and July, 2013 Voice) to a set of presentations and discussions of four development sites occurring on Page Street, between Stanyan and Broderick: the reuse of 1500 Page Street (at Masonic) for a permanently affordable,16-studio independent living residence for developmentally disabled people; the expansion into the St. Agnes Oak Street parking lot of the Urban School; the expansion of the French American International School at 11 55 Page (between Baker and Broderick), site of 9 pre school and kindergarten classrooms for 180 children; and the pending sale and reuse of the Boys and Girls Club at 1950 Page (between Stanyan and Shrader).

One of the projects (1500 Page Street) was recently approved by the panning commission and two others- the Urban School and the French American International School made major headway in the last four weeks.

At the December 19th Planning Commission hearing the adaptive re-use of 1500 Page Street was unanimously approved. HANC endorsed the project and testified in support at the hearing. The 16 studio rehab of the old Page img 0239Street Guest House at Masonic will result in minimum changes to the attractive building with the greatest exterior change being the addition of a wheelchair-accessible entrance on the east (Masonic Street side) of the building (see developers rendering at right).

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