SAN FRANCISCO—On Tuesday, January 15, Mayor London Breed introduced legislation to declare a shelter crisis in San Francisco, which would allow the city to take immediate action to deal with homelessness.

According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, the two ordinances introduced by Mayor Breed would notably expand a more limited shelter crisis ordinance now in effect and streamline administrative, contracting, building, and planning code red tape that pauses the construction of new shelters and the delivery of services to those in need.

“We cannot just say there is a homelessness crisis and continue moving at our normal pace,” said Mayor Breed. “We need immediate action to address this public emergency, and we need to move faster to add more beds and get our unsheltered residents the services they need to help them exit homelessness. I am committed to opening 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020 to clear our nightly waitlist for shelter and bureaucracy and red tape should not delay our efforts to bring help to the people who are suffering on our streets.”

The first ordinance would allow San Francisco to streamline the contracting and permitting process for the construction of new homeless shelters, and the contracting process for homelessness services. The Departments of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) and San Francisco Public Works (DPW) would be responsible for evaluating a pool of contractors who can provide construction support and homelessness services and would then select from this pool for future projects, rather than having to go through the usual three to six month contracting process for each project individually. For accountability, the ordinance requires HSH and DPW to submit thorough annual reports on all contracts awarded under the expedited procedure.

The ordinance would remove planning code barriers to opening shelters in certain zoning districts that currently have limitations or restrictions. HSH would be required to undergo a vigorous community process prior to the opening of any site-based service like a shelter. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors would have oversight of all contracts rewarded under this expedited procedures and would be able to veto proposed shelter locations by a majority vote.

“We are facing a crisis in our community. These ordinances reform City processes and expedite our ability to respond to the crisis before us,” said Shari Wooldridge Executive Director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul-San Francisco. “These ordinances will allow the City to open shelters more quickly, expand homeless services and make a positive impact in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in our community.”

The second ordinance would opt-in San Francisco to AB932, authored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, which streamlines the building and planning code approval process for homeless shelters by implementing expedited approval procedures that would decrease the process by a matter of months. This ordinance would require approval from the California Department of Housing and Community Development before going into effect.

“With thousands of homeless youth and adults sleeping on our streets every night the City must take action to ensure that we are able to shorten the time it takes to open new shelters and expand services for people experiencing homelessness,” said Sherilyn Adams Executive Director for Larkin Street Youth Services.

Mayor Breed announced a plan to open 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020, 212 of which have been opened so far. She proposed spending the $181 million in discretionary funding from the recently announced windfall on affordable housing and homelessness programs, including the expansion of 300 new spaces in homeless shelters and Navigation Centers. The shelter crisis would stay in effect for 5 years, or until there is a 30 percent decrease in homelessness as measured by the Point in Time Count, the City’s biennial survey of homeless individuals. The legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisors Vallie Brown, Shamann Walton, Rafael Mandelman, and Matt Haney.

Written By Casey Jacobs