A San Francisco supervisor is calling a “travesty” plans to close 118 shelter beds at the Port of San Francisco.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced a resolution calling on the port and the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) and its oversight commission to keep the facility known as “Site F” open and operating.

Walton, whose resolution has the support of four other supervisors, said that the agreement between the port and HSH to wind down and close the site amounted to “forcing homelessness by our very own city departments.”

He noted angrily that the closure would mean that “over 100 people, mostly Black, mostly minorities, will be put out on the street with no alternative placement and be evicted by the Port and the [HSH] and sent right back to the street.”

The resolution is a response to an agreement negotiated between staff members of the port and HSH that ends new intake at the site by Oct. 2 and commits to a full closure by the end of the year.

The agreement was previewed for the Port Commission at a meeting on April 11. At that time, port staff said they would return to the commission with the agreement for final voting on April 25, although it was not discussed on that date.

Port staff said it would be considered May 9.

Site F in limbo

Site F was originally set up during the pandemic and was to close at the end of the public health emergency. Although the emergency declaration ended on Feb. 28, the site has continued in operation while the port and HSH negotiated over its future.

HSH sought a two-year extension, but the port pushed HSH to present a detailed wind-down plan with specific milestones that would assure that the site was being closed to the port’s satisfaction.

“We will continue to work with all stakeholders for a coordinated wind-down that puts the well-being of the residents first and eventually returns industrial land for industrial use.”

Justin Berton, Port of San Francisco spokesperson

The agreement comes at a time when the city is facing an acute shortage of shelter beds. A federal judge has enjoined the city from clearing tent encampments because there are not enough shelter beds available for the city’s unsheltered population. Testimony in that litigation showed that the city-wide shortfall of shelter beds exceeds 4,000.

Walton’s resolution was co-sponsored by Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Dean Preston, Aaron Peskin and Ahsha Safai.

Walton’s office said they expected the resolution to be adopted May 9 if there is unanimous support from the supervisors. Otherwise it will be referred to committee.

Ensuring placement

HSH declined to say whether it would support further discussions to keep the site in operation beyond the wind-down period.

However, HSH spokesperson Deborah Bouck said on Tuesday in response to an email request for comment that the department “is already working to assess everyone at the site for housing and will be matching people to the most appropriate available housing in our system and in the community. For anyone who may not be eligible for housing placement we will ensure they have a placement into other temporary shelters in the district.”

Justin Berton, a spokesperson for the port, said “The temporary site is located in the heart of a busy industrial area and is not suitable as a long-term place to live. … We will continue to work with all stakeholders for a coordinated wind-down that puts the well-being of the residents first and eventually returns industrial land for industrial use.”

While the port is run separately from the city, Mayor London Breed appoints and the Board of Supervisors confirms the members of the commission.

Joe Dworetzky, Bay City News

Joe Dworetzky is a second career journalist. He practiced law in Philadelphia for more than 35 years, representing private and governmental clients in commercial litigation and insolvency proceedings. Joe served as City Solicitor for the City of Philadelphia under Mayor Ed Rendell and from 2009 to 2013 was one of five members of the Philadelphia School Reform Commission with responsibility for managing the city’s 250 public schools. He moved to San Francisco in 2011 and began writing fiction and pursuing a lifelong interest in editorial cartooning. Joe earned a Master’s in Journalism from Stanford University in 2020. He covers Legal Affairs and writes long form Investigative stories. His occasional cartooning can be seen in Bay Area Sketchbook. Joe encourages readers to email him story ideas and leads at joe.dworetzky@baycitynews.com.