BREAKING: City Is Cleaning Out Division Street Homeless Camp

Call the cops.

It's the end of Camp Lee. City Public Works crews are at this minute cleaning out San Francisco's Tent City, the collection of tents and homeless people gathered underneath the US-101 overpass near 13th and Division streets.

The demise of Tent City was imminent, after word leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle that the Department of Public Health was planning to declare the area a public health hazard. (It's hard to keep a camp clean without a latrine.) But DPW, apparently, did not need to wait for that, and began a “deep clean” of the area this morning, according to agency spokeswoman Rachel Gordon.

People living in the area can be relocated to Pier 80, and can have their belongings recovered at a city-owned yard, Gordon said. California Highway Patrol has arrested one person for causes not yet known; SFPD is there on-site for “security” purposes only, a spokesman said.

This was a long time coming, as the city's power structure had made its displeasure about Camp Lee known for weeks. Nevertheless, homeless advocates are, of course, apoplectic. 

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Jennifer Friedenbach, the director of the Coalition on Homelessness and the subject of a recent C.W. Nevius column, said Tuesday that she had met with Mayor Ed Lee's office over the past two days and knew a sweep was forthcoming, but was not aware it would be today.

As for the declaration of a 72-hour notice to clear out, and then clearing the camp out within the first few hours of that notice? “I think they're creating some political cover to clear out folks who have nowhere else to go but the sidewalk,” she said. “I think there was a process underway to do this the right way… and then they went with a police response.”

There were as of Tuesday an estimated 75 people living in the camp, which stretched from 13th and Mission streets past Rainbow Grocery to the Division Street area nearer to Potrero Hill, down from a couple hundred. Many of the ex-campers are now at the city's new shelter at Pier 80, which is now reportedly at its capacity of 125 people.

DPW's Gordon reported another 20 campers sent to Pier 80 on Tuesday. 

The camp existed in some form for almost six weeks, right around the time when the Embarcadero was closed off to make way for Super Bowl City. In that time, the camp steadily grew — as did locals' disgust.

“It was a pretty challenging situation,” said Gordon, noting that pedestrians complained of being edged off into the street by the tents. 

But how long will Tent City's demise last? According to the Coalition's Friedenbach, standard procedure is to relocate folks as close as a block away — with their belongings. It's possible that by nightfall, Tent City could be back. Check back for updates.

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