Supervisors Sandra Lee Fewer and Gordon Mar have proposed adapting parks and parking spaces to create a safer space for homeless than on the sidewalk. The Chronicle has an excellent Fifth & Mission podcast which devoted an episode to interviewing Rafael Mandelman about his thoughts on this issue.

The basic idea is to take real estate that is underutilized and adapt it for safer tent encampments that are socially distant instead of blocking the sidewalk. While it superficially seems like a common sense logical idea, as with most things political the details are where people can have different perspectives. One question is whether participating in safer encampments should be encouraged or mandatory. Before shelter in place orders, some members of this community strongly preferred the independence of living on the street to the close confines of being in a shelter. (And in this crisis one of the biggest hotspots has been the MSC South shelter in our neighborhood at 525 Fifth, so this might well have been a good idea.)

San Francisco remains notorious for NIMBY politics, despite a vocal group of YIMBY activists. While people may prefer to have the sidewalk in front of their residence or place of work free of tents, how will people feel if their favorite park or a parking lot adjacent to their building is repurposed to provide a safe encampment. Located in the mid-town part of San Francisco, as an evolving neighborhood Central SOMA has many amenities, but precious park space. If a safe encampment space is designated in the neighborhood might it presage that area evolving into a park or something else that would benefit the neighborhood.

At this web site we strive to have a neutral, yet positive, voice about neighborhood issues. Homelessness is super complicated because in no small part there is a tension between what people need, want and what voters are willing to pay for. It is also both a hyper local issue driven by regional, state or nation-level policies. For people who want to learn more about the different tribes of the unhoused the book Hobos, Hustlers and Backsliders provides an interesting historical reference frame.