SF neighbors: We don't want a parking lot for homeless living in RVs

Residents of San Francisco (along with most major cities in California) are up in arms over their growing homelessness problems and demanding that someone do something about it. That’s proving easier said than done, however. We recently looked at one proposal to begin construction on some temporary housing that would provide hundreds of beds for displaced residents. That project was immediately shut down by neighbors who went to court to stop it.

Fair enough. So you don’t want a shelter near the baseball stadium scaring away all of the tourists. But here’s another idea. Lots of the homeless are living in RVs and other vehicles parked on the streets and creating a mess. What say we put in a parking lot where they can keep their vehicles overnight and get them off of the roads? Turns out that the locals don’t much care for that idea either. (CBS San Francisco)

“It seems like you’ve spent a lot of resources to develop this plan and Trojan horse it down our throat, so will it actually go to a vote of the people who own property and live here?” asked SF resident Shane McGrath.

“No. It goes through the legislative process,” answered City Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

Shane McGrath has lived near Balboa Park for 17 years and was visibly frustrated after Saturday’s community meeting.

“My concern is that they’re going to turn Balboa Park BART station and make it look like the 24th and Mission BART station or the 16th and Mission BART station where it is overrun with homeless people, it’s an open air drug market,” said McGrath.

The parking lot is located next to the Balboa Muni and BART Stations and currently serves as a parking lot for Muni employees. The proposal would clear room for 33 vehicles that could park there for up to three months while the city tries to move them into more permanent housing. Of course, officials estimate that there are currently more than 400 people in that neighborhood living in their vehicles, so this is only scratching the surface of the problem.

From the sound of it, homeless advocates and government officials are in favor of the plan, but the local residents don’t want it there. They fear to see their neighborhoods turning into hubs for homeless people, drug dealing and crime. It’s a reasonable concern that’s probably shared by most homeowners, but in this case, these are homeless people who are already living in the neighborhood. They’re just not as visible because they sleep in their cars rather than on the sidewalk.

In the end, this is more NIMBYism on display. Everyone wants a solution to the homelessness crisis, but nobody wants that solution plopped down in their backyard. Yes, help the homeless, but just be sure to help them somewhere else, please.

What’s becoming clear is that California needs to build more transitional housing and hire professional staff that can work with the homeless to transition them into a more permanent arrangement. They also need to provide additional security wherever these facilities wind up being located, both through private and public law enforcement. All of this is going to cost money, but if they’re serious about addressing this issue they’ll need to take a fresh look at their priorities and find it. And the residents of these cities are going to have to get used to the idea and the fact that it has to be in somebody’s neighborhood.