Tent City Legislation That Could Have Been
Housing and homelessness: no two issues are more important to San Francisco’s voters today. In true California fashion, the city will have two competing ballot measures regulating homeless encampments in this year’s November election. Though voters will get to decide on incremental reform, more sweeping, radical changes have not come to fruition.
Supervisors Mark Farrell and Aaron Peskin have introduced two measures that vie for opposite voter bases. Both measures are similar, with differences primarily hinging on a 24-hour notice before clearing (Farrell) or 72 hours (Peskin).
Both measures also make the clearing of “tent cities” contingent on available shelter beds and supportive housing. With no provisions to increase public safety or shelter funding, these measures are not designed to bring about major change on their own.
In the wake of a massive tent clearing on Division Street, Supervisor John Avalos suggested a much more radical proposal, essentially sanctioning established tent encampments until the city could guarantee shelter. In addition to requiring 15 days’ notice before clearing, the city would be required to provide bathroom and garbage services to encampments of 30 or more people if alternate housing options were unavailable. The proposal came from a joint effort by Avalos and the Coalition on Homelessness to develop more humane legislation, but Mayor Ed Lee immediately slammed the proposal, citing “unhealthy and unsafe” conditions that made permanent encampments “dangerous.”
Avalos initially claimed he would be sending a draft to the City Attorney’s office. Upon further inquiry, SF YIMBY learned from Avalos’ staff that the legislation never progressed past the outline stage. Insiders have suggested that Supervisor Jane Kim urged a more modest compromise. Kim, who is running for State Senate, would have been hesitant to support such a radical proposal while seeking votes across the city, but would also have not wanted to appear callous toward the homeless among her home district in SoMa.
SF YIMBY has compiled the following table to compare the existing ballot measures with Avalos’ defunct proposal: