The year in homeless policy

By TJ Johnson : 48hills – excerpt

For a short while in 2020, it wasn’t always “all COVID, all the time.”

That was for about two and a half months into the new year.

The first year into a new decade almost seems like eons ago, but early 2020, at one point, is where homelessness in San Francisco and the US might have turned a corner — starting as early as December 2019.

That’s when the Martin v. Boise case in Idaho was upheld. The US Supreme Court declined to hear the city of Boise’s appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s decision on the city’s urban camping ban. The federal appeals court found that enforcing anti-homeless ordinances without providing services amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, making the law unconstitutional.

In January, the director of San Francisco Public Works, the city agency that has been at the forefront of encampment evictions and the improper seizure of residents’ property, was arrested by federal investigators in connection with a wide-ranging bribery scandal. The ensuing complaint also alleged that Mohammed Nuru, who has since resigned, sought to fix city contracts for homeless bathroom trailers.

Meanwhile, Mayor London Breed’s administration started receiving demands to decriminalize homelessness on two separate fronts — homeless advocates and the Police Commission. The newly formed Solutions Not Sweeps coalition sent Breed a list of demands, including abolishing the confiscation of homeless people’s property and towing the vehicles of people living in them, as well as leading with services rather than enforcement. The SNS coalition also rallied in front of City Hall while performing a mock sweep of people into jail as a bit of street theater…(more)

Someday people will write books and make movies about how we got through 2020. This article outlines some of City Hall’s known homeless policy flip-flops. Not much more could happen this year to throw us off kilter. At this point we are primed to anticipate bad news.

Exposes of corruption with multiple city departments and agencies, accompanied by the breakdown of legal protocols under emergency orders and the craziest election in recent history made us want to hide under a rock or tree until it is over. We all wanted to stay indoors when confronted by blankets of poisonous air from smoke and a mysterious virus. People living on the street, who might have balked were ready to go inside this year. San Francisco was primed for a change and we got one.

Seeing the housing policy deck of chairs laid out on a single timeline helps us put that into some perspective. As we experienced a breakdown in city services we learned to rely on friends and neighbors as we battle against car break-ins, stolen mail, and packages delivered to the curb. This author’s vision of the shifting state of affairs helps us understand how the system failed us so miserably. Regardless of how people feel about the solution for the homeless situation, we can all agree that there are gaping wholes in the system that need to be addressed. The steady stream of citizens leaving the city and state is testament to the need a change in priorities and policies.

Personal Freedoms are Taking a Hit During the Pandemic

Editorial by concerned citizen

Our homes are our refuge. Leave them alone.

If we believe the story running on 48hills and San Francisco local media, there is an effort to curtail smoking in San Francisco homes in buildings with 2 or more tenants. So far the no smoking rules apply to tobacco and marijuana. A fine of $1000 per day would apply to any tenant or homeowner who is caught smoking under these new regulations. If this is a new ploy to run more tenants out of San Francisco, they couldn’t have come up with a better plot.

We witnessed a serious attack on due process protections during the pandemic. A recent ruling against some of the Governor’s emergency powers may signal a return to the rule of law is eminent.

At a time when patience and unity are most needed, some San Francisco supervisors are heading down a path that could backfire and create a lot more animosity between neighbors.

Why do San Francisco supervisors feel the need to curtail our personal freedoms during the pandemic? How many ways can city authorities find to add to our stress, misery, and discontent? Are they trying to force more people out of the city by threatening us with fines and fees for smoking in our homes and waving the specter of congestion pricing in our faces during a pandemic when the streets are largely empty, or would be if the SFMTA quit removing traffic lanes and parking.

In this time of stay-at-home politics, and self-imposed house arrest, city officials should waste no time or money on methods to control what we do in our homes.

If any controls are needed they are corporate controls. When the emergency is lifted, and evictions are allowed, many people will face the decision on whether to stay in debt or leave the city. We also can surmise that there are many vulture investors and corporate interests ready to pounce on the underwater properties. They are waiting in the wings to snatch up leases, mortgages, empty condos, and single family homes as soon as the evictions resume. City authorities need to prepare for the big problems ahead and leave eveyone who is fortunate enough to be housed and debt free alone.

San Francisco lead the effort to keep government out of our bedrooms. Are they seriously considering spying on us in our homes or turning our neighbors into snitches now to get a few more bucks out of us?

San Francisco did not elect the most progressive city council because we want to give up our personal freedoms. We want to be left alone and extend that right to everyone else. Whatever we do in our homes is our business, not that of the government or nosy neighbors. And we are not alone. Most Americans feel the same way.

After the last election, marijuana is only fully illegal in 6 states – Idaho, Wyoming, Kansas, Tennessee, Alabama, and South Carolina. Trying to control the use of a legal substance in our homes is the least popular move anyone can make, especially during a pandemic when many people are stuck at home, feeling frustrated, and losing patience with health protocols. Americans voted for a shakeup of the criminal justice system not piling on more government controls that strip away our personal liberties.

Tobacco is a legal sedative that satisfies the user in a manner that is still somewhat affordable and generally does not add to the crime rate. There are plenty of controls already on the books for regulating how and where this product is consumed. We don’t need any more. You cannot eat, drink or smoke with a mask. The safest place for these activities right now is in your home.

Get off our backs and stay out of our homes.

Dissatisfied San Francisco citizen who doesn’t smoke.

The sleaze reaches high tide at City Hall

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

How can this level of seemingly endless corruption have happened — and how far does it go?

The FBI investigation into city corruption has moved higher up the political ladder with the indictment and arrest of SF Public Utilities Commission General Manager Harlan Kelly, some indications that his wife, City Administrator Naomi Kelly may be at least peripherally involved – and evidence that the late Mayor Ed Lee was routinely mentioned by the players.

These are the highest-ranking city officials fingered by contractor Walter Wong, who was among the earlier indictments.

Mayor London Breed announced today that Harlan Kelly had resigned:…(more)

Could we start by protecting whistleblowers that see corruption but are powerless to do anything about it? That would be a cheap solution and get faster results than setting up a new position. That could come later if it is needed. We need to empower people to speak out now.

Landlords blast proposal to require annual report on rentals as invasion of privacy

by Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

Housing inventory could give city better data on housing vacancies, affordability

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will vote Dec. 1 on whether to require landlords to provide information annually about approximately 230,000 rental units, including how much tenants are paying in rent or if they are vacant.

Backers of Supervisor Sandra Fewer’s proposed housing inventory legislation say it will provide crucial information to protect tenants and inform policy decisions to help address housing affordability.

But many property owners are calling it burdensome bureaucracy and an invasion of privacy.

Owners of rental properties would need to register their name and contact information with The City and provide details every year such as what rent tenants are paying, what utilities are included, square footage of the units and date of occupancy or vacancy…(more)

City officials will benefit from seeing which kind of units are empty and where they are located in order to better understand where the housing demand is greatest and what kind of housing is needed to meet that demand. Landlords could benefit from a better understanding of the rental market as well. There is no point in investing in more units that no one want to inhabit.

Stop the ban on smoking weed!

By Dan Karkoska : 48hills – excerpt

Doesn’t City Hall have better things to do then send law enforcement after people who light up in their own homes?

It’s a simple question: Do you like to smoke weed in your own home, that place you pay crazy high rent on so you can live in this amazing city? Well, there is a supervisor in San Francisco who wants to take the right to smoke cannabis away from you. After all the work we have done to legalize weed in this state and bring valuable medicine to those who need it, the city could move to stop you, fine you $1,000 a day for smoking cannabis.

Who the hell thought this one up?…(more)

The government needs to leave people alone. Voters did not elect the most progressive board to have them limit our freedom. Comments at the source and letters to the Board are in order for this one.

From an RV to Four Walls and a Pantry: One New Mom’s Story

By Yesica Prado : sfpublicpress – excerpt

In a dimly lit living room, Tantay Tolbert reaches for a warm bottle of milk on the glass coffee table. Her month-old baby, Supreme Samuel Lloyd-Vaughn, softly cries in her arms. She caresses his black curls as she tilts the bottle into his mouth. “You were hungry, my baby?” Tolbert asks with a smile. “You eat a lot, baby.”

It’s an ordinary day for Tolbert — comforting Supreme and dressing him in cute clothes. And yet, what seems ordinary now represents dramatic change and newfound stability.

On June 16, Tolbert moved into her new apartment after a year of living in a recreational vehicle that she parked on various streets in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood…

Through a subsidy support program, Hamilton Families secured a lease for Tolbert and paid her first and last months’ rent. Under the initial 12-month agreement, Tolbert was set to pay $546 — about a third of her current income — each month. The monthly payments fluctuate based on her earnings, which she updates in reports to the nonprofit every three months. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the program has been extended for an additional year…(more)

Supes to push measure keeping homeless hotels open

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

Proposal would set up another confrontation with the Mayor’s Office over keeping unhoused safe during COVID.

Four supervisors are introducing legislation to keep open the Shelter-In-Place hotels, setting up another confrontation with the Mayor’s Office, which despite the rising COVID numbers and the onset of rain and cold weather is insisting on moving people out of the rooms.

Sup. Matt Haney is the primary sponsor of the legislation, which also has the support of Sups. Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronen and Dean Preston…(more)

On homelessness, no more about us, without us

By Tiny : 48hills – excerpt

People who have lived unhoused and in poverty need to be part of the official policy conversation.

“To discuss the Encampment Management Policy, we will bring in the department staff members who designed the plan to present their powerpoint,” announced the clerk of the Oakland City Council. The announcement launched what felt like hours of bureaucrazy-speak on a proposed bill implementing apartheid of houseless people in Oakland…

Does studying poverty at Stanford make you a poverty skola? Does reporting on homelessness for your journalism degree make you a homeless skola? Does getting a degree on disability, make you a disability skola? Does writing a thesis, going to different, exoticized locations in the Global South as a missionary or translator, or working in social work or getting appointed to the Department of Homelessness make you an expert on poverty? Does being part of an Anthro-Wrongology expedition in some indigenous lands anywhere on Mama Earth make you an indigenous ancestor skola? Does leading a research paper on incarceration, race, poverty or criminalization make you an incarceration skola?...(more)

SF to launch COVID-19 testing site at Alemany Farmer’s Market

By Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – except

Following the closure of the South of Market testing site, access to free COVID-19 testing will begin Tuesday at Alemany Farmer’s Market and operate five days per week, city officials announced Monday.

The site will have the capacity to test to 500 persons per day.

The City decided to relocate the SoMa testing site to the Alemany site to better serve the southeast area of San Francisco, city officials said…

The City is currently testing about 5,800 people daily…

The testing site, called Alemany CityTestSF, is located at 100 Alemany Boulevard. People can walk up for tests and drive-through. Appointments can be scheduled at sf.gov/gettestedsf but residents and essential workers can obtain tests without appointments.

The hours for the Alemany CityTestSF will be 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday…(more)

Housing advocates protest mayor’s plan to close hotels

By Gerrett Leahy : 48hills – excerpt

‘Closures of the SIP hotels will put thousands of people at risk of returning to the streets and hundreds of essential workers being laid off.

About 30 people gathered this morning outside of 2588 Mission Street — the site of a former apartment building that was destroyed in a January 2015 fire that killed one tenant, Mauricio Arellano, and displaced 60 others — to protest the city’s decision to end the SIP hotel program, which has allowed 2300 homeless San Franciscans to shelter in place in hotel rooms since April, starting in December

It was one of two protests against the closure of the SIP hotels this morning, with the other at 420 Montgomery Street. The protests were organized by Hotels not Hospitals, a group of housed and unhoused community activists which rents hotel rooms with community-donated funds…(more)

During her presentation to the board Tuesday, Stewart-Kahn said that one reason for ending the SIP hotel program is because homeless people with guaranteed housing in hotel rooms could lead to having “no motivation to take steps to exit homelessness.” … (more)