The most San Francisco story of 2019 began on March 4, when Mayor London Breed signed off on a plan to build the city’s largest Navigation Center to date on Seawall Lot 330 along the Embarcadero.
Seawall Lot 330 is a 2.3-acre parcel that’s currently being used as a parking lot.
In other words, it’s exactly the kind of site that should be used for a higher purpose.
But the Lord left this town a long time ago.
Seawall Lot 330 abuts South Beach. If you’re not familiar with the kind of neighborhood South Beach is these days, in 2016 the IRS collected 7,020 returns from ZIP code 94105, and 2,180 of them were from households earning an adjusted gross income exceeding $200,000 a year.
Their complaints have been the usual NIMBY-ish stuff about how visible poors need to go somewhere else.
After years of housing crisis, there is a growing sense in California that this kind of rhetoric won’t help us solve our problems.
That’s probably why the residents decided they needed insurance in the form of litigation.
On March 20, Wallace Lee created a GoFundMe campaign called Safe Embarcadero for All to collect lawyer’s fees for a fight against the city. Lee lives near many senior technology executives, Stanford professors, human resources VPs and others who have been eager to throw money at the problem of being forced to see unhoused people on a daily basis. As of Friday afternoon, the fundraiser had collected $94,500.
“My clients are certain this is not the right spot for this,” Andrew Zacks, the residents’ lawyer, told me. “My clients feel like they should bear some of the city’s problems, but to put 200 beds on this site and not have plans for other locations for other parts of town is wrong.”
Lee’s fundraiser also caught the eye of an Outer Richmond resident named William Fitzgerald.
A former Google public policy and communications staffer, Fitzgerald is fluent in both San Francisco’s passive-aggressive doublespeak as well as the language of internet trolling. He was perfectly prepared for this incident.
“A legal fund to stop people from getting shelter just seemed crazy,” Fitzgerald told me. “I thought it would be a way to show that San Francisco is not this terrible place where people are just spending money to prevent other people from getting their basic human rights.”
Fitzgerald launched his own GoFundMe fundraiser, called SAFER Embarcadero for All, on March 28.
When I asked him why the proceeds are going to the Coalition on Homelessness, Fitzgerald said it is because “they’ll continue to spend this money to fight for housing for everybody in San Francisco.”
Already, we were at Defcon Three for San Francisco’s current readiness condition: wealthy, progressively minded San Franciscans claiming they supported homeless efforts everywhere but their own neighborhoods; unreasonable demands for the democratic process; the use of technology to inflict unseen violence on one’s neighbors and a fundraiser as meme generator.
Then Big Tech jumped in.
Benioff opened the floodgates, bringing Twilio co-founder Jeff Lawson and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey along with him. The national media started pontificating, and we are now at Defcon Two — the point at which a heated local spat becomes A Battle for San Francisco’s Soul™.
A well-worn tale is comforting. But there are a few wrinkles in this one.
The first change is the fact that Big Tech is taking part in politics at all.
It’s happening under duress, of course. Just last year, Dorsey was campaigning against Proposition C, the homeless services tax.
But everywhere you go, lawmakers are turning on tech, whether it’s Facebook bracing for global regulations or the Board of Supervisors seeming loath to renew the Twitter tax break. Tech leaders are wising up and realizing that the best way to seem responsible is to look charitable for the right causes.
That brings us to the second change: Building homeless shelters in wealthy neighborhoods now looks like the right cause.
The South Beach residents are absolutely correct about the fact that for too long, San Francisco has forced just a few neighborhoods to bear the burden of providing the city with not just homeless services but also new housing and office space and all the growing pains that come with them.
Fitzgerald’s neighborhood, for example, has no Navigation Center. His supervisor, Sandra Fewer, has no plans to welcome one.
That’s unfair, and it has to change.
But it’s also true that well-heeled South Beach residents have never imagined they’d be responsible for accommodating others.
Now, it’s not just the city’s government but their own peers saying they must.
That’s a huge difference, and it’s one that the rest of the city’s residents are clearly relishing. Fitzgerald’s fundraiser is at $167,875 and counting.
Caille Millner is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: [email protected] Twitter:@caillemillner
- San Francisco group creates rival GoFundMe to support homeless Navigation Center
- 'We should put them in jail!' Joe Biden wants to prosecute fossil fuel executives for environmental damage—but doesn't mention son Hunter who helped run Ukrainian natural gas giant
- SF jetliner crash kills 2, seriously injures 49
- Newsletter: The L.A. Democratic debate is back on
- Some Mission Bay neighbors fuming over Caltrain’s diesel dust
- For months, he lingered in a purgatory between wakefulness and nothingness
- When you vote, choose trustworthy leaders who command respect
- Top 20 TV Shows of 2017: A Best-of List in a Year of Ickiness
- The Long Swim: Lewis Pugh's daily blog
- EXCLUSIVE: Joy Reid’s Blog Promoted Anti-Semitic Conspiracies, Vicious Personal Attacks
- The best free-to-play games of 2020 will help frugal gamers survive
- Who's Cashing in on California Oil Drilling?
- The science stories likely to make headlines in 2020
- Searching For Google CEO Sundar Pichai, The Most Powerful Tech Giant You've Never Heard Of
- Yellow Vests Losing Steam One Year on, Likely to Be Overshadowed by Pension Reform Strikes
- Climate change became a burning issue in the 2010s, but also an opportunity ǀ View
- #Omagate: Kids' song inflames German culture wars
- 2019's Biggest Political Stories: From Impeachment to Scandal to Shutdown, it was an Historic Year
- EPA science advisers slammed the agency for ignoring science. Here is what they said
- Jill Stein: The Cold War is used to stifle dissent, differing opinions in Democratic Party
Only in SF: Dueling GoFundMe campaigns fuel Navigation Center debate have 1130 words, post on www.sfchronicle.com at April 5, 2019. This is cached page on Game Breaking News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.