San Francisco leaders are pushing to extend a lease for an RV parking lot for the homeless, despite the program becoming the “most expensive homeless response intervention” initiative in the city, according to a report.
The city established a safe parking site at Candlestick Point in January 2022, with city officials saying the area could hold 155 recreational vehicles for homeless individuals, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. As of this year, however, only 35 RVs are on the lot due to a lack of electricity.
All in, the annual cost per parking spot sits at about $140,000, according to the Chronicle. A budget analysis drafter for the Board of Supervisors noted that the initiative is “by far the most expensive homeless response intervention” in San Francisco.
The city carried out a pilot program at a different location on San Jose Avenue back in 2021, which allowed enough space for 29 vehicles. The city spent a total of $1,793,003 on that pilot program, meaning each parking spot cost about $61,828, less than half of the cost at Candlestick Point.
Despite the high costs, the city’s board of supervisors’ Homelessness and Behavioral Health Select Committee unanimously recommended in September that San Francisco extend the program for another two years. If approved, the city would spend an additional $12.2 million to continue funding the site, the Chronicle reported.
“This is an expensive endeavor, but it will be more expensive — and we cannot afford the alternative — of leaving the unhoused and housed, quite frankly, to fend for themselves,” Supervisor Shamann Walton said, according to the outlet.
Costs include the city renting or buying trailers that have toilets and showers and providing drinkable water, according to the report.
“There’s a lot that goes into making it a safe, dignified location,” Emily Cohen, deputy director of the city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, told the outlet.
Officials said the site hasn’t been able to accommodate its full capacity of 155 vehicles due to a lack of electricity. The city instead installed diesel generators to help power the site and accommodate the 35 vehicles on the lot, which sparked a federal lawsuit from residents who said the generators violate the Clean Air Act. San Francisco installed solar-powered lights following the suit.
Walton and Supervisor Hillary Ronen slammed electricity company PG&E as “evil” and “a big part of the problem” at the site, but the company said it is not at fault for the lack of electricity.
A spokesperson for PG&E told the outlet that the city first applied for a temporary service connection in order to power a COVID testing site. That project was delayed and the city reportedly pulled its application a month after permits were approved to complete the project in January of this year.
PG&E said that months later the city applied for a different permit at the same address in order to power the RV site.
“The SFPUC’s application was missing key information and was not deemed complete until Aug. 15, 2023,” the PG&E spokesperson told the Chronicle. “PG&E is now estimating the cost of the requested interconnection for the SFPUC. Federal regulations governing interconnections between utilities allow 45 business days to complete estimates. PG&E is on track to provide its estimate within the regulatory timeline.”
The Chronicle reported last year that the city had more than 7,754 homeless people, with more than 4,000 of those individuals living on the streets or in vehicles. The RV lot has served 115 people since it opened, according to the report.
The city’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing said it made 13 placements from RVs to permanent housing. It is unclear if that means 13 people have found permanent housing through the program, or if more than 13 people found permanent housing due to multiple individuals living in one vehicle.
Neighbors living in homes near the RV site, however, have spoken out that the project is inefficient and that officials need to increase how many people are referred to permanent housing.
“At less than one placement per month, it would be more cost-effective to provide each VTC client with a monthly rental stipend,” Marsha Maloof of the Bayview Hill Neighborhood Association wrote in a letter to supervisors opposing continued operation of the site, according to the Chronicle. “It is inconceivable that the City would continue to extend such a program with metrics of success at this level.”
Offices for supervisors Walton and Ronen, as well PG&E and San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for additional comment.