SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – The new 200-bed Navigation Center on the Embarcadero is expected to open next month despite a second lawsuit aimed at stopping it.

Those opposed to the idea of putting a homeless shelter in a residential area say they are concerned about an increase in crime.

It’s the city’s position that the shelters actually reduce crime.

Those who work at the auto shop next door to the Bryant Street Navigation Center say they’ve seen a spike in burglaries since it opened. 

“I don’t want to put it all on them but it’s definitely been bad since they’ve been here,” said Curtis Williams, who works at the auto shop.

The shop is located in an area not unused to the homeless. 

A traditional shelter has existed across the street for years.

“We’ve had probably three break-ins to the building since December and maybe three times in the 20 years before that. You know, um, cars out front, broad daylight. I’ve got a broken window in my car that I haven’t fixed. We catch people weekly in my car just going through my stuff weekly. Someone stole my wheelchair wheels out of there,” George Cook, with Bryant Transmission Center, said. “Brazen, brazen as heck and of course defecating on the sidewalk and whatnot has increased.”

They say there have also been instances of people scaling the fence and breaking into their client’s cars parked in their lot.

“Even in the afternoon, there was one person who in one of them, we saw him get out of there and we go ‘hey, what are you doing in there’ and he goes, ‘ah man I’m just chilling.’ And he’s on our property in a car that he broke into and he could care less about it,” Ed Golts, with Bryant Transmission Center, said. 

Their anecdotal experiences are exactly what those living next door to the Embarcadero Navigation Center fear will be their reality once it opens in December.  

One adjacent building is the Watermark Condo Complex, where back in August a violent frenzied attack of a female resident was captured on video.

The victim says her alleged attacker told her he was trying to save her from robots.

The suspect, Austin Vincent, is being held without bail for being a public safety risk.

Those fighting the opening of the shelter says this case and another a week later, where a man ran up and punched another victim in that same location, are part of a trend of increasing criminal behavior that they fear will escalate when the Navigation Center is up and running.

Navigation Centers are different than traditional homeless shelters.

In order to make them more appealing to those who might resist the idea of getting off the street, they allow 24/7 access and those temporary residents can bring their partners, their pets and their possessions. 

In addition to the Embarcadero Shelter underway and the Bryant Street location, there are three other navigation centers that are similar.

Formerly under-developed lots transformed into temporary refuges for the homeless: Central Waterfront, Bayshore, and Division Circle.

KRON4 asked the city for crime reports for a quarter-mile radius of each existing site and compared the six months before they opened to the following six months.

They turned over data submitted to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program covering more serious crimes ranging from homicide to car theft.

Those numbers show that three of the Navigation Centers saw crime rates drop: 

  • Division Circle by 17%
  • Bayshore by 4%
  • Bryant Street by 11% (despite the experience of its immediate neighbor)

However, Central Waterfront saw crime spike of 60%. While that is a steep increase percentage-wise, it only represents 18 actual reported crimes in those six months.

“Certainly, I have not seen or experienced an increase in any kind of crime from, break-ins to anything else. It’s really been a nothing burger of an event in terms of change in the neighborhood,” Mc Allen, who lives near Central Waterfront Navigation Center, said.

Mc Allen lives seven blocks away from the Central Waterfront Navigation Center.

The shelter generated controversy in the Dogpatch neighborhood when it was first proposed but he says some of it’s most vocal opponents have changed their minds about it since.

“None of the fears that they had came to pass in the now two and a half years since it opened. Really none of the feeling of insecurity that people thought they would have, none of this idea that there would be an attractive magnetic quality for people who are unhoused to come here that otherwise wouldn’t. None of that has come to pass and so, people have had that experience and have been able to say, in fact, it’s fine and the evidence of that is that entire Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to extend the lease of the Navigation Center,” Mc Allen said.

He is so in support of the concept he says he’d welcome a second one closer to his home.

“There’s a parking lot across the street from my house, I would welcome a Navigation Center at that site,” Mc Allen said.

The group, Safe Embarcadero for All, says comparing the Central Waterfront to the Embarcadero Waterfront Navigation Center is not an apples to apples situation since the Dogpatch location only has the capacity for 64 people.

This compared to the 200 expected to move in at the Seawall Lot 330.

The Central Waterfront location is also in a very isolated, industrial area. 

“There’s a Muni depot and a construction storage site, so it’s very different from this site where’s there 10,000 residents within a three-block radius,” Wallace Lee, with Safe Embarcadero for All, said.

The owner of Bryant Street Transmission, who says the neighboring Navigation Center has brought so many problems at his work, lives only a block away from where the Embarcadero Navigation Center is being constructed.

Even still, he’s not worried as much about that one.

“I live in a condo there on the second floor with, you know, there’s a lot of barriers between my unit and the sidewalk. You know, I’m not concerned they’re going to come in there,” Cook said.

While a closer look at the city’s crime stats does not point to one clear trend with three of the four Navigation Centers showing a decrease and one showing an increase in crime, when combining the stats together, the overall major crime around those centers dipped 12-percent.