Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Housing Homelessness Protesters say city needs to keep SIP hotels open -- and people...

Protesters say city needs to keep SIP hotels open — and people in them

Members of the Prop. C oversight panel call for city money to buy hotels.


On a cloudy Sunday afternoon in Union Square, still bedecked in Christmas decorations, 30 people gathered to share a singular message: The Board of Supervisors’ emergency ordinance meant to delay the closure of the city’s Shelter In Place hotels will not be enough to keep people off the streets.

TJ Holsman says the city should use Prop. C money to buy hotels.

“We’ve been asked multiple times if our messaging will shift because of the recent Board of Supervisors’ emergency ordinance, or the announcement that FEMA will continue reimbursing [shelter-in-place] hotel rooms throughout the pandemic… hell no!” said TJ Holsman, an organizer with Hotels not Homelessness, an organization that crowd-sources money to independently rent SIP hotel rooms for homeless people and organized the gathering. “Our messaging will not shift until the city has guaranteed no more evictions from any kind of shelter.”

One of the main problems organizers had with the ordinance, which was signed into law by by Mayor London Breed December 23, was an amendment proposed by District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman.

Originally, the ordinance directed all of the city’s approximately 2,000 SIP hotel rooms currently being used to remain available for use as SIP hotel rooms, even as people vacated them to move into other housing, for the duration of the emergency ordinance—60 days. However, after the amendment, the new requirement was that for every 10 hotel rooms that were vacated, only six rooms would need to stay available as SIP hotel rooms. The other 40 percent of rooms could be removed from the city’s SIP hotel room program.

Mandleman told me that one of the main reasons that this amendment was added was to strategically wind down the SIP hotel program to a more manageable size in advance of the end of FEMA reimbursements of SIP hotel rooms, which would occur once they deem the COVID-19 emergency has ended, and to put the city in a better position to absorb the ongoing costs of operating SIP hotels as residents are transitioned to permanent housing without cutting funding to other homeless services.

“It was, ‘did we want to have 2000 people in the hotel rooms at the moment that FEMA turned off the funding?’”

He said that “inevitably we would have to continue operating them to manage some kind of orderly transition and that would be on our county general fund budget…Hotels, when FEMA’s paying for them, are a very inexpensive form of shelter. When FEMA’s not paying for them, they are very expensive, and the fear is that they would displace permanent supportive housing investments.”

However, organizers were worried that the ordinance’s plan of putting people into “stable housing placements” after transferring SIP hotel residents out of their rooms was nebulous, since there is no clear definition of what constitutes permanent, stable housing, and the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing has only identified roughly 300 suitable placements for all those currently staying in SIP hotels.

Holsman said that the best solution for long-term housing for homeless folks in San Francisco is one that has been kicked around since the early days of the SIP hotel program—for the city to purchase now-vacant hotels and motels and convert them into long-term housing. That, he said, could be financed using funds from Prop C, which passed in November 2018 and raised the gross receipts tax on businesses with more than $50 million in gross receipts from 0.175 percent to 0.69 percent and has since accumulated more than $400 million in funds earmarked for acquiring housing for the homeless.

However, Prop C funds have since then also been used to finance services rather than housing. The Budget and Finance Committee decided Dec. 16  to release $30.3 million in funds to the Department of Public Health to finance services, including $9.8 million to provide 24/7 access to care at the Behavioral Health Access Center and Behavioral Health Pharmacy, which provides Narcan and Buprenorphine, which are used to treat opioid overdoses and withdrawal symptoms, as well as $4 million to add 150 mental health and substance abuse treatment beds.

While these are incredibly important services and an integral part of the city’s response to the homelessness crisis, organizers said that Prop C funding should not be used to finance expansion of those services, as Prop C was originally intended to fund housing acquisition and development for homeless people.

“The voters of San Francisco voted for Prop C to pay for housing for unhoused San Franciscans, so it’s a misuse of funds to use anything other than directly housing unhoused people,” said Holsman.

Shanell Williams, who chairs the Our City, Our Home Advisory Committee, which was created by Prop C to provide oversight and recommendations into the allocation of funds generated by the tax, opposed the Budget and Finance Committee’s decision to allocation Prop C funds towards DPH services, with the exception of expanding the number of treatment beds.

“We as a committee said … that it’s not in line with the intention of the fund,” Williams told me. “Proposition C is really about expanding existing housing that we have across the board, from shelters to permanent, supportive housing to acquiring mental health facilities, it’s about the actual place, rather than the services. But the beds are moving people off the streets, which is what Prop C is for.”

Williams said that services should be financed with other funding sources, such as the general fund or the “CEO tax,” created by Proposition L which passed last month and placed an additional gross receipts tax on companies whose CEOs earn more than 100 times the median employee salary.

Protesters build a home with Origami tulips — a flower that shelters underground in the winter so it can bloom in the spring.

“We’re not in support of providing for costs which are not in line with the fund. Behavioral health is definitely connected to the issues that we’re having in regards to our homeless population, but that does not mean that Prop C funding is geared to support those services, even though they are serving a large portion of unhoused folks. The voters passed this proposition with a specific use attached to it,” said Williams.

Behavioral health needs differ among the homeless population in San Francisco and those needs factor into the housing needs of unhoused folks as well. Sylvia Viviana, an organizer with Hotels not Homelessness, pointed out the importance of tailoring housing options to the needs of homeless on a more individualized level.

“Let’s treat our folks in the street with some consideration and respect for their needs whether that is supportive housing with a full-time staff, or just leaving them be in their homes in buildings that are up to code and well-maintained. There is no one-size fits all,” said Viviana.

To symbolize the estimated 10,000 homeless people living in San Francisco and the importance of safe housing during the winter COVID surge, organizers created a two displays in the shape of houses decorated with origami tulips, a flower that shelters underground so it can bloom in the spring, with each tulip representing 20 homeless San Franciscans.


  1. Geek, the excusifying you slather on to explain why progressive/liberals are stuck in neutral compered to moderate/conservatives is legion.

    You all have transformed political time into geologic time.

    The last Victorian in San Francisco will be replaced with a luxury condo before prog/libs get their act together. If the prog/libs are really junior partners with the moderate/conservatives, then this is all just marking time and cashing checks.

  2. Gorn, it wouldn’t matter. She has Newsom and health officials to back up such a ploy. Recalls cost money, and there are time limits on the process. If the recall is not certified within a time limit, it fails, and has to start over.

    You are awfully quick to make claims that are total fiction born of your imagination. Your strategy is as transparent as it is ignorant. Goad the progressives into acting hastily, and have Breed win because of technicalities. The recall will move forward at a time when Breed is not at an advantage. The pandemic offers her too much coverage to pull dirty tricks. Unlike the state, much to Newsom’s horror, San Francisco does not allow online signature gathering. If it did, things could move faster. You keep goading, and we will keep ignoring you. There are times when it is right to act. Breed has lots of Republican money available, and you know it. If the progressive forces pour money into a recall and fail, Breed will avoid actually facing the voters, and drain her opponents resources. Corruption is her biggest advantage. A

  3. Geek, don’t you think that if Breed had the cops interfere in citizens exercising their democratic rights, the right to recall HER, that would go down in public opinion better or worse for Breed than her French Laundry gaffe?

    You go through the motions of pretending to oppose Breed. But in reality, you’re quite comfortable in a dependency relationship with her.

    “The progressives are letting Breed hang herself. Her abuses of power, and failure to actually deal with issues, along with her allowing corruption, are all adding up. You really are laughable.”

    Yep, the progressives really stood up up to POA crimes, in sync with popular progressive opinion against cop impunity, every chance they had. And those PROGRESSIVE Charter Amendments that we all voted on to check corruption last year really did the trick. They’re marking time until Auntie Kamala can call off the FBI/DoJ dogs and SF can get back to corrupt business as usual and progs can heave a sigh of relief that their Good Thing is still going on.

    In reality, the progressives NEED the police. That’s the muscle they need to administer displacement and gentrification, to weaken insurgencies like OSF by sending in CCHO to coopt it and then what the community got wise to that, sending in the cops to violently bust up. All of that after the “progs” took photo ops at the encampment.

    Without the police, without the city funded nonprofits, progs would have to face actual political competition from below and to the left. Progs fear that more than they fear the moderate/conservatives. So progs go all Christian on us, promising that if we sacrifice with austerity now, like a good supplicant, that we will be granted eternal life sometime later, maybe, to try to keep the herd in line.

  4. Gorn, that went right over your head, or perhaps, more likely right through the empty space where your brain should be. Breed would quickly have the police round up signature gatherers, and justify it as enforcement of the stay-at-home order she just extended indefinitely. You are exactly why Breed is in increasing danger of a recall. The progressives are letting Breed hang herself. Her abuses of power, and failure to actually deal with issues, along with her allowing corruption, are all adding up. You really are laughable.

  5. Geek: so you’re saying that it is okay for rich people to not do politics while poor people languish on the sidewalks in squalor and poverty in the rain and cold because it is uncomfortable for rich people like you to organize during a pandemic?

    Outdoors is the best place to be during a pandemic as outdoor transmission is very difficult.

    Progressives in SF political are timid and domesticated by the moderate/conservatives as pets, rarely do anything too difficult. That would require risk taking and actually organizing outside of the comfort zone. And SF progressives are not paid to do that. Instead, the compassioneers and non profiteers will kayfabe their opposition while cutting deals and selling us out, marking time, getting paid.

  6. Perhaps because there is a pandemic, and people are waiting until we are not under a “stay at home order.” Seriously, do you think before posting silliness like that.

  7. Gorn, it is sort of like Newsom. The Republicans have started the ball rollin, but the Democrats are realizing that Newsom can be replaced by a Democrat. And that Newsom has risen to the point that his incompetence is a real threat. And unlike Newsom, recalling Breed does not include opening up the replacement to the voters. The President of the BoS becomes Acting Mayor, and rhen the BoS votes on the Interim Mayor. And this ends the rule of the so-called moderates. Breed is out, and then the fun starts as she gets closely examined by the Feds.

  8. Gorn, you speak of, “no plan from anyone on how to spend those dollars while homeless people languish in streetside squalor, open air psych wards,” which simply put is how Breed wants it. It’s the political football she inherited from Ed Lee, and her continued use of it is an outrage. No wonder many are talkin RECALL. And I know what her abuse of power means. The thing is, that BS doesn’t sell any more. It is why Breed is no longer popular.

    Time to face reality.

  9. Geek, here we are more than one year after Prop C passed with no plan from anyone on how to spend those dollars while homeless people languish in streetside squalor, open air psych wards. You’re going to learn real quick what unitary budgetary authority of the Mayor means under this charter.

    On the positive side, turnout more than tripled from 9 to 30 from the previous die-in in November at Moscone, a total groundwell of support for “the community” for telling everyone else how wrong they are.

    I bet this crowd would whine were Prop C funds to be used to finance Mental Health SF, demanding they be used for housing.

  10. Gorn stop lying. Breed cannot touch the Prop C money. That was a major part of the design. There is an oversight committee that has say over how it is spent. Breed got her ample posterior kicked on this one. You can’t spin your way of that fact.

  11. Gorn why are you so intent on shilling for the mayor. And stop your lies. The only money Breed gets is what she would have received if Prop C had not passed. That is why she oppose Prop C. It denies her direct access to that money, establishes a separate group to make decision, and designate where the money is to go. It was designed to counter her policy of using the homeless as a political football.

  12. Is the reason why 48 Hills is covering this issue incessantly is that CCHO is expanding their claim on Prop C $ to buy hotels so they can manage them?

    A noted above, Prop C’s ballot language called for a mix of services and capital investment. The measure’s language was so loose that it could be read any number of different contradictory ways. As usual, there was no plan, has been no planning while the measure was in court, and as homeless rages, we’re seeing a battle between the various nonprofit and political factions for control of those dollars.

    Proponents got what they want. They really showed London Breed up, punishing her by giving her $350m/yr to use against them and their nonprofits.

  13. “organizers said that Prop C funding should not be used to finance expansion of those services, as Prop C was originally intended to fund housing acquisition and development for homeless people.”

    Straight from the “organizers” website

    25% ($75 million) targets people experiencing severe mental health and substance use crises

    This funding is for intensive wrap-around services, street-based care, treatment, drop-in services, residential facilities, and housing for people suffering from mental illnesses and substance use disorder.

    These are the interventions that would be funded under street based care and medicine:

    large expansion of mental health intensive case management
    drop in services,
    pop up peer-based clinics
    Street based addiction medicine such as buprenorphine
    permanent drop in crisis and therapeutic clinics
    overdose prevention services.

    Seems like the city is using funds exactly as the “organizers” intended.

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