SF community feeling blindsided after communication breakdown over possible sober living site

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Wednesday, February 21, 2024
SF community feeling blindsided over possible sober living site
The Chinatown community is feeling blindsided by news of a proposed sober living facility. Now the mayor is acknowledging the lack of communication.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Plans to put a sober living facility in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown are being scrapped, ABC7 News learned on Tuesday.

It would have been located at the North Beach Hotel on Kearny.

There was considerable push back from the neighborhood and the city heard the concerns.

The mayor's office in statement said the support wasn't there for the facility, so it will look for an alternate location.

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The Chinatown community is feeling blindsided by news of a proposed sober living facility. Now the mayor is acknowledging the lack of communication and assuring the public no plans have been finalized.

Eva Lee, chairperson for the Chinatown Merchant's Association says she learned about Mayor London Breed's proposal last week by reading about it in a newspaper.

"It couldn't have happened at a worse time, in the middle of Chinese New Year," said the lifelong Chinatown resident. "I was alarmed. It was a little unsettling."

The 150-bed North Beach hotel at 935 Kearny St. will house those who have been clean for a year, in hopes residents can maintain sobriety. Lee understands the need for solutions, but believes there are better locations than the densely populated intersection of commerce and tourism.

She points out how a few doors down from the hotel is a bar. The other direction, there's a liquor store.

"Chinatown is suffering already. We've been through the pandemic, the lack of tourism, the anti-Asian hate...we don't need this right now, we're suffering enough."

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Supervisor Aaron Reskin says he was made aware of the proposal for the sober hotel last spring. However, it wasn't until January he was asked by the city to participate in that community meeting.

To which he responded in an email obtained by ABC7 News "No. I don't support this and have been clear on that for some time. You're on your own."

When asked about the communication confusion on Thursday, Mayor Breed acknowledged how many in the community felt, saying it was indeed a surprise, but that she has since engaged in conversation.

"It's so important to talk to the community and you build community trust... that unfortunately didn't happen." She said, along with stressing no permanent plan has been established.

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Recovery advocate Tom Wolf agrees that the rollout of the proposal was botched, but believes these facilities give former users a fighting chance.

"For some people they're going to be upset and I'm sorry. I'm here to tell people we need to start thinking differently about how we're going to solve this crisis, we can't lock everyone up and we can't put everyone in the Tenderloin."

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For Lee, who represents many business leaders in the area it's not the right solution...and wants to make something loud and clear to city leaders.

"Asians are 30% of the population and I'm saying, don't mess with us. They think of we're quiet, we're passive, we don't say anything, but this is changes. That's not true anymore."

The next community meeting is scheduled for March 21.

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