Mayor Told Chronicle About New Homeless Center Before Supe, Neighborhood

The hotel as it appeared in January 2015.

The San Francisco Chronicle is in the know — so in the know that the city's main major daily newspaper knew about Mayor Ed Lee's plans to put a new Navigation Center in a Mid-Market hotel notorious for poor conditions before the area's elected representatives, and — apparently — some of the hotel's own tenants.

A definite throwback to the city's bad old days for many years, the Civic Center Hotel is located a block west of Van Ness Avenue on Market Street, between a Honda dealership slated for redevelopment and the union hall for the city's plumbers' union. Tenants have sued both the plumbers and the hotel's former management for ills including rats, broken plumbing (ironic), and shoddy facilities.

Not great, but good enough to house formerly homeless people, which is what the city used to do here, referring street dwellers to units here via the Homeless Outreach Team program. (Your tax dollars at work.)

[jump] In November,  management of the hotel was transferred to nonprofit housing manager Community Housing Partnership. Luckily, the hotel's former manager — Bill Thakor, well-known to tenants' rights attorneys and to the City Attorney, both of whom have sued him for keeping subpar properties — kept enough units vacant for the site to be of use to the city.

There are 154 units in the building, and only about 50 holdover tenants from the Civic Center's days as a notorious slum. 

Lee's administration approached CHP about using the site as a second location for the city's new, vaunted “Navigation Center” model of homelessness-solving about a month ago, executive director Gail Gilman told SF Weekly on Friday. 

There are already 25 units in use as “stabilization” housing for the recently-homeless. There are 10 units taken off of the housing market for use as CHP offices, Gilman said.

That's all good, but this was news to everybody in the area — Kim, the tenants, according to their attorney, and anyone not in the Mayor's Office or at the Chronicle. Earlier in the week, Kim called foul on this, and demanded an “immediate community meeting” with the Mayor, an erstwhile Kim confidant, to have Lee explain this “unilateral” decision.

Gilman regretted the lack of a public process, she said, adding that “in hindsight, we should have had those conversations.”

The mayor's choice to communicate with the public and with his fellow electeds in City Hall via the Chronicle aside, there are a few other question marks. There are still active Notices of Violation at the property, according to the Department of Building Inspection, and some individual tenants' concerns with rodents and other problems are still active.

The hotel will be a Navigation Center for no more than two to three years, the time required for a 100-unit affordable housing project to be built nearby, part of a total redevelopment of the area. Once that building is built, the Civic Center Hotel's current tenants — who enjoy rent control — will be given the chance to move into the new building, and the old hotel will be demolished. That, at least, you don't need to wait to read about in the Chronicle until it's too late.

View Comments