YIMBYs and NIMBYs Battle over New Navigation Center

A new residential center that would provide homeless services at 26th Street and South Van Ness Avenue is being hotly debated by opposing sides.

The potential site of a new Navigation Center in the Mission. (Courtesy Google)

A Town Hall meeting scheduled Monday evening (tonight) to discuss a prospective center for homeless services in the Mission District will draw two opposing sides together to work on a solution. Mayor Ed Lee and Supervisor Hillary Ronen have proposed converting a 16,000-square-foot building on the corner of Van Ness Avenue and 26th Street into a temporary Navigation Center — a successful new model of shelter that provides housing, healthcare and employment services for the city’s diverse homeless population. 

The Navigation Center model was first launched in March 2015 as a pilot program, and since then three centers have been established — one at 1950 Mission St., one at 20 12th St. near Civic Center, and a third at 600 25th St. in the Dogpatch.  The centers provide room and board to San Franciscans and their pets who are living on the streets, while case managers connect them to a stable income, public benefits, and permanent housing.

This newly-proposed Navigation Center at the old McMillan Electric building in the Mission would provide 100 to 120 beds, and would only exist for nine to 12 months before the building is torn dow and construction beings on a large residential housing project. Lennar Multifamily Communities, the developer of the site, has struck a deal with the city to allow the building to be used while its future development wends its way through the Planning Department. 

This all sounds neat and tidy, right? Nope. While Navigation Centers have helped hundreds of people on the streets find housing and access city services, not everyone wants such a facility in their backyard. A group of neighbors operating under the name “Protect the Mission” have launched a website in opposition to this latest move. “Enough is Enough! The Mission should not be expected to house all the city’s homeless, it is a city-wide challenge,” the site states. Concerns listed include increased crime and drug abuse in the neighborhood, which they say has three public schools and several daycare centers. Neighbors have created a Facebook event page, asking community members to attend and speak out against the center.

In response, another group has put a call out for a counter voice at tonight’s Town Hall, fearing that those neighbors who oppose the center will delay progress in assisting the city’s homeless. “The process for getting anything done in San Francisco is completely broken. Whether it’s a vitally needed homeless shelter, much-needed housing, or the Geary BRT, a small group can stymie the process and bring everything to a crawl. We need a streamlined process so that communities can get the housing and transportation we so desperately need,” Laura Foote Clark, the Executive Director of YIMBY Action, tells SF Weekly.

But there is one common opinion between the two groups: that Navigation Centers shouldn’t just be built in the Mission. “There should be a navigation center in every neighborhood. There should be subsidized affordable housing in every neighborhood. We need a lot more housing at every level to end this chronic housing shortage and a slow, broken process is not capable of addressing that need,” Clarke says.

Mission Local covered a small meeting that was held last week, which drew approximately 40 people. We’re going to make a wild guess that tonight’s meeting will draw a slightly bigger crowd.

The Town Hall will be held tonight, Monday April 24 at 6 p.m. at the Mission Cultural Center (2868 Mission St.).

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