Last week, officials from the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) appeared before the Board of Supervisors’ Budget and Finance Committee to ask for a five-year extension of a provision authorizing HSH to enter into no-bid contracts with homeless nonprofits. Though technically in place since HSH’s inception in 2016, use of the provision massively increased around 2019, when no-bids jumped from 1 to 43 percent of total department contracts. At the time, Mayor Breed championed the increase, arguing that the usual bidding process unduly slowed the city’s response to an increasingly dire homeless crisis.
On Monday, nearly five years later, Breed took to social media to defend the proposed extension. “This law has expedited thousands of units of housing, shelter, & prevention resources…[it] is one of the reasons we saw a 15% reduction in unsheltered homelessness,” she wrote on X, in response to supervisors who expressed misgivings about no-bids. “The choice here is to bring more people indoors quickly or leave them out on the streets indefinitely.”
There is so much wrong with this line of reasoning it’s difficult to know where to begin. At a high level, we could critique the “Housing First” philosophy which says the best way to fix homelessness is not by giving temporary shelter and care, but permanently subsidizing housing for all — an unworkable policy whose perverse incentives have all but ensured the crisis worsen as HSH’s budget balloons.1
More narrowly, we could question Breed’s claim that the city has seen a 15% drop in unsheltered homelessness; that number is based on a one-night head count conducted nearly two years ago — hardly a reliable source of data — and the HSH’s budget nearly doubled in the relevant time frame (2019 to 2022). We could also wonder about the recipients of some of those no-bid contracts, like Urban Alchemy, a nonprofit that got around $20 million to employ formerly incarcerated or homeless people to patrol streets and ‘manage’ shelters. (Numerous reports have emerged about UA employees harassing or intimidating people.)
But the simplest question to ask is just why? Why should the city exempt homeless nonprofits from defending the cost and efficacy of their services? To “expedite” the response to the crisis? It’s already been ‘expedited’ for years and the results are in: runaway spending, abysmal shelters, and thousands of bodies still on the streets. Isn’t it time to try something new?
policy, power struggles, and more from the legislative and executive branch (and their sprawling army of unelected hall monitors)
- Addressing the Board of Supervisors at yesterday’s meeting, Mayor Breed said the city had reached a “new milestone” on homelessness by helping around 13,000 leave the streets. She also said the city is moving “full speed ahead” on pushing conservatorship policies for addicts.
- Elsewhere, Breed said around 60% of homeless people offered shelter last month refused it.
- The Board approved a Breed-sponsored ordinance allocating almost $37 million to nonprofit Heluna Health, contracted to provide “comprehensive outreach and case management” to homeless people.
- Supervisor Preston has called for a hearing on artificial intelligence’s impact on elections, citing concerns about “false and misleading information,” like AI-generated fake robocalls.
- The Board unanimously approved Supervisor Dorsey’s ordinance removing the public art requirement for 100% affordable housing projects. Previously, developers were required to pay for public art equal to at least 1 percent of total construction cost.
- Facing a $421 million budget deficit, SF Unified School District officials are planning to cut around 900 jobs.
- Some links on SF’s Department of Public Health website reportedly lead users to scam websites selling things like pills to “increase semen volume’ and synthetic urine kits.
- State officials have approved permit streamlining measures passed last week by the Board of Supervisors, allowing the city to narrowly avoid massive fines and loss of control over its housing approval process.
- City data appears to show traffic violations are not being widely penalized.
a brief, essential spotlight on the state of california
- In a recent interview, LA Mayor Karen Bass takes stock of how her “Inside Safe” program, which attempts to move people out of the city’s largest encampments and into permanent housing, has fared in its first year. (TL;DR — tents keep popping up faster than city officials can house people. Is anyone surprised?)
- California’s budget deficit is projected to hit $68 billion, according to a new report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office.
- Officials from the CA Department of Public Health are warning that xylazine (aka ‘tranq’), a powerful sedative that can rot tissue and cause overdoses unresponsive to Narcan, is beginning to infiltrate the state’s drug supply.
- The State Water Resources Control Board is set to approve rules allowing local agencies to convert sewage directly into tap water.
- Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s announcement that he is resigning from Congress has triggered a flurry of rumors about who will mount a campaign to replace him. Potential candidates reportedly include former Rep. Devin Nunes (who left his seat in 2020 to take over Donald Trump’s social media app Truth Social), CA Assemblyman Vince Fong, and state Sen. Shannon Grove.
notes from the bay area’s beloved class of local activists
- Employees at Farley’s East café in Oakland have been fired after footage circulated of them refusing entry to the bathroom to a woman trying to photograph messages like “Zionism is fascism” graffitied on the walls. “I want to go into the restroom,” the customer reportedly said, to which employees responded: “I know Israel loves taking private property and saying it’s their own, but we gotta head [out].”
- In response to the termination, other café employees are speaking out against owners for failing to “protect their longtime staff after a right wing doxxing campaign targeted our fellow coworkers with violence and hatred.”
- A group of protesters hoisted the Palestinian flag beneath the American flag near the Golden Gate Bridge last week. The flag hung for around 45 minutes before it was taken down, and one protester was arrested for scaling the flagpole.
- Anti-harassment training at Stanford reportedly coaches participants to identify discussion of whether “DEI has gone too far” as a form of prejudice and workplace discrimination.
MAN WITH MACHETE
crime and intrigue around the city
- The alleged murderer of the man found dead last month in Crissy Field is a transgender prostitute who told authorities she shot the victim after he became upset when she disclosed her trans identity.
- Thieves drove a stolen truck into the CVS on 32nd and Clement to steal the store’s ATM, the latest in a series of ATM jackings across the city.
- The CVS in the Lower Haight, which infamously locked up everything from ice cream to soda due to high theft, will close next month.
- The boyfriend of Kimberly Wong, the 27-year-old tech worker found dead in her apartment in Presidio Heights last month was charged with murder.
- A brawl broke out between family members of Fernando Madrigal, a Norteño gang member and self-described “justice reform advocate” convicted of murdering a 15-year-old boy (insane story — read more here), and family members of the victim. The prosecuting attorney was forced to intervene to stop the fight.
stories from the neighborhood you should know about
- A fast-moving fire that erupted on Monday on Masonic Avenue damaged three homes and injured two people (including a woman who jumped from a third-floor window) before over 100 firefighters managed to control the blaze.
- The former Tradeshift CEO who was ousted over allegations brought by an employee who claims she was his “sex slave” says the employee’s accusations are motivated by a desire for personal financial gain.
- The executive director of the SoMa West Community Benefit District, a “street-cleaning nonprofit,” says her group spent over $8,000 to buy and install large rocks on Harrison Street to deter homeless encampments.
- Software analytics company New Relic announced it will sublease half of its nearly 37,000 square-foot downtown office space.
- The Castro Theatre will close for renovations for at least a year in early February.
- Sushi Salon, an omakase restaurant whose menu includes rare fish sourced from Japan, opens tonight in Oakland.
- Thrillist recently dropped the “Ultimate Guide to Eating, Drinking and Killing Time” at SFO.
- Let’s Glow SF, a yearly holiday tradition in which laser images are projected onto skyscrapers downtown ended Monday.
Projection on the Pacific Coast Stock Exchange Building (Source: dougsf on Flickr)