Homeless shelter, looming IPOs have San Francisco on edge
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco's renowned waterfront hosts joggers, admiring tourists and towering condos with impressive views. It could also become the site of a new homeless shelter for up to 200 people.
Angry residents have packed public meetings, jeering at city officials and even shouting down Mayor London Breed over the proposal. They say they were blindsided and argue billionaire Twitter executive Jack Dorsey and other tech executives who support the idea should lobby city officials to build a shelter by their homes.
The waterfront uproar is among recent examples of strife in an expensive city that is both overwhelmed by tech wealth and passionate about social justice. San Francisco companies Pinterest and Lyft recently went public, and Uber and Slack are coming soon, driving fears that newly minted millionaires will snap up the few family homes left for under $2 million.
City Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer fought tears at a testy hearing over a housing density development bill, inviting her critics to visit poor seniors in her district who eat cat food for dinner. Opponents of the bill stood and turned their backs on Supervisor Vallie Brown, who vigorously defended the legislation.
And as the city continues to grapple with a housing shortage, the entire Board of Supervisors was roasted on social media this month for rejecting a 63-unit housing project because it would cast shadows over a nearby park in an area with little green space.
"We're definitely at the boiling point, whether it's the housing crisis, whether it's quality of life, which is exacerbated by the worst traffic congestion in America, or the affordability crisis," said Supervisor Aaron Peskin.
A March New York Times story about the upcoming IPOs set off frenzied activity among potential homebuyers and a call from City Hall for a hearing on how all that new wealth will affect gentrification and city revenue.
Realtor John Townsend had the article on hand as he showed a 1,500-square-foot (139-square-meter) three-bedroom, one-bath condo listed at $1.15 million. He said he had double the traffic the weekend after ride-hailing company Lyft went public in March. The condo, which needed updates, sold above asking price.
"You're going to have a period of incredible demand not just from tech, by any means, but by (interest) rates being lowered in the last week," Townsend said. "The real problem is we can't even remotely meet demand."
The market for single-family houses under $2 million is going nuts, especially in neighborhoods attractive to millennials and young families, said Realtor Monica Sagullo.
The IPOs are "in the back of people's minds, and the people who have to buy are the ones who are going for it — the families that need houses, the double-incomes," she said.
A family of four earning $117,400 a year is considered low-income in San Francisco, where the median sale price of a two-bedroom is $1.3 million. Yet every night, the city of 885,000 also has about 4,400 people sleeping unsheltered, in alleys and doorways and tucked away in Golden Gate Park.
San Francisco opened its first homeless "navigation center" in 2015 and currently operates six throughout the city. Unlike traditional shelters, the centers allow people to bring pets and don't kick them out in the morning.
The proposed navigation center in the Embarcadero is a critical part of the mayor's campaign pledge to open 1,000 new shelter beds by the end of 2020. It would sit in a parking lot owned by the Port of San Francisco.