San Francisco has opened a Bayview parking lot for homeless people living in RVs. That’s how it goes

James Keys hasn’t moved far from where, several months ago, he lived inside his 40-foot motorhome. In fact, that vehicle is still his home, and the south end of Bayview-Hunters Point is still his neighborhood.

On the streets last year, Keys had to bury his trash, without access to a bathroom or shower. Now, at the city site, he can use a portable toilet, a shower trailer, two microwaves and an electronics charging station. He receives two hot meals a day, and since last week the city has planned to send more services, including case managers who can help place him in more permanent housing.

“It’s much better,” Keys told The Chronicle as he walked through the sanctioned parking lot site last week. “I give them an A-plus.”

RV site on Carroll Avenue after the atmospheric river event in November flooded much of the highway, initially resisted moving the Carroll site , but has since supported the triage center and its support services despite being unable to use generators and open flames for warmth and cooking.”/>

James Keys looks out from his motorhome parked at Bayview Vehicle Triage Center in San Francisco, Calif., Thursday, March 3, 2022. Keys, 59, who previously lived in his motorhome with his brother and girlfriend along Hunters Point Expressway and subsequently to a temporary city-run RV site on Carroll Avenue after the atmospheric river event in November flooded much of the highway, initially resisted moving the Carroll site , but has since supported the triage center and its support services despite being unable to use generators and open flames for warmth and cooking.

Stephen Lam / The Chronicle

Officials say about 50 households live at San Francisco’s Bayview Vehicle Triage Center, the name of the sanctioned Candlestick Point parking site the city set up to cater to the growing ranks of people living inside recreational vehicles or of cars. The site, operated by the Urban Alchemy association, should expand to accommodate 130 households in the coming months.

San Francisco opened the Candlestick Point site in January and simultaneously closed a nearby lot on Carroll Avenue where the city had let people living inside RVs move in temporarily. Authorities had opened the Carroll lot as a short-term emergency location last year after a rainstorm caused flooding along the Hunters Point Highway, causing extensive damage to some of the vehicles parked there -low.

The city’s closure of the Carroll lot was met with strong resistance from some of its residents. They were deeply skeptical of the new Candlestick Point site, pointing to its limited electricity and rules prohibiting propane tanks and generators, among other issues.

Propane tanks and generators remain prohibited at the vehicle sorting center. But Emily Cohen, deputy director of the city’s Department of Homelessness and Housing with Supportive Services, said the city is working to connect the electric utility to RVs.

RVs are seen parked inside the Bayview Vehicle Triage Center at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area in San Francisco, Calif., Thursday, March 3, 2022.

RVs are seen parked inside the Bayview Vehicle Triage Center at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area in San Francisco, Calif., Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Stephen Lam / The Chronicle

“We want it to be better than being on the streets,” Cohen said. “This is hopefully a step on the way to putting people in a more permanent place.”

The site serves only a small portion of San Francisco’s vehicular residents. As of November, the city had about 1,000 manned vehicles, with the largest concentration — about half of the total — residing in Supervisory District 10, which includes Bayview-Hunters Point.

And as the city tried to set up the sanctioned parking site at Candlestick Point, it ran into opposition from residents worried about trying to warehouse the homeless in one area. A local neighborhood group has filed a lawsuit challenging the parking site and is currently in settlement talks with the city.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Shamann Walton, who represents District 10, said he spoke to constituents to hear their feedback on the Candlestick Point site and the number of manned vehicles in the area.

RVs are seen parked inside the Bayview Vehicle Triage Center at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area in San Francisco, Calif., Thursday, March 3, 2022.

RVs are seen parked inside the Bayview Vehicle Triage Center at Candlestick Point State Recreation Area in San Francisco, Calif., Thursday, March 3, 2022.

Stephen Lam / The Chronicle

“Everyone was happy with the changes to the freeway,” Walton said, referring to the lack of people parked on the street near the vehicle yard. “There are still concerns about people living in vehicles, but it’s not the same (level of concern) that we saw a few months ago.”

Yet complaints from some neighbors persist. Timothy Alan Simon, who lives near the parking lot, said its “extremely bright” nighttime lights were a nuisance and manned motorhomes still populate many blocks in the area.

“The focus is naturally on people without homes, but there seems to be no consideration for residents,” Simon said. “Based on our observations, the Vehicle Yard Center has done nothing to reduce the population of unhoused RVs on the neighborhood streets themselves.”

The Candlestick Point site will be operational for at least two years, and San Francisco plans to open a second location for people who live in their vehicles.

Not everyone living on the current site intends to stay. Marissa Magnusen, 50, told The Chronicle last week that she was considering leaving and finding another place to park her motorhome while she tried to secure permanent accommodation.

“I don’t really like being told what to do all the time,” Magnusen said. “(But) it’s a good program, I guess – for some people.”

JD Morris is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @thejdmorris

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