Statement on Embarcadero Navigation Center at SF Port Commission

Below is the statement I read as a public comment for the San Francisco Port Commission’s hearing on whether to build a temporary Navigation Center. The center would replace part of a parking lot on Port land and house 200 homeless individuals. Read more at nav.yimbyaction.org.

I’m Max Ghenis, and I’m a resident of the Infinity, two blocks from the proposed site. I’m excited that our neighborhood has an opportunity to help house some of the over 4,000 San Franciscans sleeping without shelter. The status quo is a human rights crisis, and every day we delay is a day we’re condemning our neighbors to misery.

That misery affects us all, and not just when we live near it. About a month ago, I explored the Mission with my brother, who uses a wheelchair. Our return trip was delayed by about 20 minutes because someone had relieved themselves in the elevator. Almost every time he uses a BART elevator in SF, it smells of urine.

Do you think that person wanted to use an elevator as a bathroom? That it wouldn’t be a last resort? I want them to have a home with a bathroom here, so they don’t have to make transit a biohazard for families with strollers and people with disabilities.

We need 20 more Nav Centers like this to end unsheltered homelessness. What’s decided today will set the precedent for meeting that goal. When the city proposes the next Nav Center in the Sunset or Pac Heights, they’ll either be able to say that we did the right thing at the Embarcadero, that officials did the research, shared information, and acted as voters elected them to. Or, they’ll leave opponents an opening to block it on whatever supposed grounds have been suggested — that the neighborhood is too residential, or the police aren’t responsive enough, or we’re too wealthy.

I want my neighborhood to be an example of the good we can provide the less fortunate, not an example of the powerful insulating themselves from shared goals. Please approve the Nav Center, thank you.

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Overflow room at the Port Commission hearing. Hundreds of people showed up, and I waited two hours to speak.

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Economist. Founder and president of the UBI Center. Studied at MIT and UC Berkeley. YIMBY. Former Google data scientist.

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