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Multiple Efficacy Problems Questioned
Invisible Successes Navigating the Homeless

by Patrick Monette-Shaw

Apparently, Jeff Kositsky, director of San Francisco’s Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH), didn’t get the memo on the Laws of Common Sense.

Common sense tells you that when it comes to solving the City’s multiple homelessness-related problems, San Franciscans desperately want the Emperor’s New Clothes to cover backsides of City officials, not “invisible successes” waltzing around exposing their rear ends.

Pull Quote 1To be fair, Kositsky blurted his our successes are invisible nonsense during a September 18 Board of Supervisors hearing on his budget request to extend the contract for the Homeless Outreach Team’s (HOT) external service provider for two years through FY 2020–2021 at a cost of $15 million, including an additional 15 employees increasing the HOT team to 86 people, and 13% pay raises for them all.  The HOT Team’s contract received a 174.2% change increase, from $3.1 million in FY 2014–2015 to $8.5 million in FY 2019-2020.  (As a point of reference, City employees typically receive 2% to 3% annual raises, not 13%.)

Despite concerns raised by members of the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee who had questioned the program’s effectiveness and efficacy, the full Board approved the contract extension.  Despite efficacy concerns, both Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer (D-1) and Supervisor Catherine Stefani (D-2) suggested they would like to see the HOT Team actually show up with a presence in their districts.  Why do these two supervisors want invisible successes in their Districts, given the program’s dubious efficacy?

Pull Quote 2Kositsky’s invisible successes may extend to the efficacy of additional homelessness services provided by his Department, including the contentious Navigation Centers and his role supporting the dubious Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC) — led predominantly by SFPD — at the City’s Department of Emergency Management and its 9–1–1 call center.

The Many Problems With “Navigation Centers”

San Francisco’s 2019 homeless count stood at 9,700 (which is the high end, because the Feds use a different formula).  San Francisco is estimated to now have a population of 897,166.  That means the 9,700 who are homeless represent just 1% of City residents.

Pull Quote 3The San Francisco Examiner, reported on October 5, 2019 that Mayor London Breed has pointed to a reduction in the number of tent encampments as a sign of success she is addressing the homelessness crisis, but the Examiner noted there are clearly not fewer homeless people — just fewer tents.  Since Breed took office, the shelter waiting list has remained above 1,000.  The Examiner faulted her for merely covering up the homeless by moving them from one neighborhood to another.   It reported:

The City needs to stop using the police and the Department of Public Works as its first response to complaints about the homeless, stop pushing them from one neighborhood to another in a fruitless game of whack-a-mole and stop seizing the belongings of The City’s most vulnerable residents.”

Problems with the Navigation Centers for the homeless run the gamut.

Angela Alioto Noted Navigation Centres Are Dead-Ends

Pull Quote 4The Westside Observer published an article in March 2018 reporting on a mayoral debate held on the Westside leading up to the June 2018 special election to replace former-Mayor Ed Lee, who had died the previous December.  Mayoral candidate Angela Alioto faulted the then-elected City officials for having dropped the ball on the Ten-Year Plan to End Homelessness she had developed for then-Mayor Gavin Newsom as his Homeless Czar in 2004.

Alioto noted, in part, “We know what works.  Shelters do not work, programs that put people through six months of mental health program then dump them back on the streets is throwing money away.”  She also noted “Navigation Centers are also dead-ends, good for 120 days, then back out on the street.” 

Alioto appears to have been overly optimistic about the 120-day length-of-stays in Navigation Centers.  It’s far shorter.

Breed’s Fake “In General” Crime Stats

In October 2019, the Westside Observer published a terrific article by Lou Barberini, in which he noted that both Mayor Breed and Kositsky had issued identical public statements, wrongly claiming:

In general, we know the data shows there is no link between the creation of a Navigation Center and an increase in crime in the surrounding area.”

Barberini reported that in July 2018 the American Medical Association had pulled its $40 million, five-day convention from San Francisco because of safety concerns for its members.  He noted the City’s $40 billion tourist industry is threatened by San Francisco’s years-long dysfunctional handling of its homeless situation.

Pull Quote 5If it’s not clear, Breed’s wild “in general there’s no correlation”claimis clearly a red flag.

Leading up to what City Hall had to have known was going to be a contentious meeting on April 3, 2019 with neighborhood groups over the City’s plan to construct a Navigation Center along the Embarcadero, Breed appears to have reached out to SFPD, which is known for its lousy data.

Barberini reported he had obtained public records from the Mayor’s Office, specifically data compiled from SFPD’s Crime Data Warehouse provided by its Professional Standards and Principled Policing Unit.  That’s the data Breed and Kositsky relied on to assert there was no correlation of increased crime around Navigation Centers.

Here’s a snapshot of the data provided to Barberini:

Table 1:  Crime Data Before-and-After Navigation Center Openings

Table 1

The data had been initially requested by SFPD Commander David Lazar, who led the creation of the Healthy Streets Operations Center (HSOC) that was activated on January 16, 2018 using the Department of Emergency Management’s operations center.  The Principled Policing Unit prepared a report on April 2 for Lazar, comparing crime incidents that occurred within a ?-mile radius of each of four Navigation Centers two- to four-months prior to opening a Center to crime stats two- to four-months following a Center’s opening.

The April 2 report showed two of the Navigation Centers experienced increases in crime incidents after opening, and the other two Centers had declines in crime incidents.  That didn’t support Breed’s and Kositsky’s thesis very well that there’s no correlation to increased crime around Navigation Centers.

So SFPD’s Director of Strategic Communications, David Stevenson (a civilian employee), stepped in and placed a subsequent request for information by expanding the zones to a ¼-mile radius.  Stevenson, as SFPD’s messenger, handles external messaging for the department.  The Principled Policing Unit prepared a report dated April 3 for Stevenson, slightly improving the data by showing three of the Centers saw decreases in crime, and only one Center saw an increase in crime.

Pull Quote 6Oddly, the Central Waterfront Navigation Center went from having a 33% decline in crime on the ?-mile radius report, to having a 60% increase in crime on the ¼-mile radius report (with no explanation provided for why the crime rate flipped from a negative to a positive correlation).

Armed with the April 3 report, Breed and Kositsky marched to a meeting with concerned Embarcadero neighbors on April 3, armed with their fake-news spin control there’s no link between crime rates and placement of Navigation Centers.

Barberini noted problems with the data included, among other things:

Pull Quote 7You may believe a mayor holding a master’s degree in Public Administration might have suspected she was being fed “GIGO” — garbage in, garbage out — by SFPD staff, given the problems with SFPD’s data analysis.  You’d be wrong.

The “in general” nonsense is worse than Barberini initially reported.

Pull Quote 9Lazar and Stevenson had to have known — if Breed and Kositsky did not — that you can’t arrive at any “in general” conclusions claiming data shows no linkages between creation of a Navigation Center and crime increases or decreases if you omit analyzing one-third (two) of the six Navigation Centers, and omit data analysis by ignoring Part II crime data and analyzing only the Part I crime data.  Who were Breed and Kositsky trying to fool?  Only Embarcadero-area neighborhoods?  All San Franciscans?

Their claim of “in general, we know” was essentially meaningless — when not simply “fake news” — given incomplete data that wasn’t fully analyzed.  Don’t forget GIGO, London.

Pull Quote 10Alternate Data Sources Not Considered

In their rush to proclaim there’s no correlation between placement of Navigation Centers and crime rates, Breed and Kositsky ignored obtaining data from another source:  9–1–1 call center data from the Department of Emergency Management.  So, I requested data from the folks at 9–1–1 for five of the Navigation Centers.

Data 9–1–1 provided revealed 786 initial calls for service were placed from the street addresses of the Navigation Centers during the periods they have been operating.  The 786 initial calls fell into 194 call type categories too long to list here.  I shoehorned them into four main types of calls:

Table 2:  Summary of 9–1–1 Calls from Navigation Centers

Table 2

Pull Quote 11Table 2 illustrates:

Table 3:  Criminal-Activity Related 9–1–1 Calls

Table 3

Pull Quote 12Table 3 illustrates:

The 9–1–1 call center data goes a long way towards disproving the false assertion that “in general” there’s no correlation between placement of Navigation Centers and increased crime.

Unfortunately, when I placed the records request for 9–1–1 Call Center data, I was unaware of — and so didn’t request — 9–1–1 call data for the 1950 Mission Street Navigation Center.  That portends the 786 calls placed from Navigation Centers to 9–1–1 were substantially higher, not shown in Tables 2 and 3 above.

Pull Quote 13“Critical Incident Report” Data

Another source of data that may shed some light on the correlation between placement of Navigation Centers and increased crime rates are Critical Incident Report (CIR) forms each Navigation Center is required to submit to multiple employees in Kositsky’s department.

The existence of the CIR forms was uncovered in the 1,244-page Board of Supervisors File #19-061, involving the “Appeal of Categorical Exemption from Environmental Review” filed by neighborhood groups regarding the proposal to open a Navigation Center on the Embarcadero.  Approximately 279 CIR forms, each two- to three-pages long, were embedded in the 1,244-page Appeal packet.

The initial CIR master blank form contained a drop-down list for each Navigation Center to choose one from among seven different types of critical incidents, including death, violence, sexual assault, arrests, fires, suicide attempts, or “other emergency services.” 

(As an aside, HSH revised its master blank form in September 2019, expanding the drop-down list of seven types of incident to 17 different check boxes for expanded types of incidents.  The revised form doesn’t allow a one-click step to turn the check boxes on; instead, it takes four clicks to enable and turn on the check box, since HSH doesn’t seem to have clerical or I.T. staff who know how to make the check boxes a one-click chore, as any secretary worth her salt and advanced knowledge of Microsoft Word knows how to do.)

Pull Quote 14In response to a records request placed to HSH on September 9 for a report summarizing the aggregate number of CIR forms submitted by each Navigation Center to HSH and HSH’s Data Team, Kositsky’s staff indicated they had no responsive records.  On September 13, a follow-up records request was placed seeking a handwritten log or Excel file maintained by Kositsky’s staff listing each CIR form received.  On September 18, HSH responded, saying “The department does not hold responsive documents that can fulfill this request,” essentially saying HSH had no logbooks it could produce as responsive records, either.

Surprisingly — after initially claiming there were no responsive records for the logbooks on September 18 — rather than providing a third batch of actual CIR forms submitted by the Civic Center Navigation Center HSH had promised it would send me containing additional records, 14 working days later HSH finally located and provided on October 8 an incomplete Excel file logbook listing just 113 CIR’s Kositsky’s staff had received — a logbook it had previously denied having — and failed to provide the additional CIR forms for the Civic Center HSH had claimed were still forthcoming.  Sadly, most of the incomplete Excel file HSH provided on October 8 did not list which Navigation Centers had submitted the CIR’s, a data-collection failure if there ever was one.

On September 26, I placed records requests — one to each of the non-profit service providers operating the five Navigation Centers— asking for handwritten or Excel logbooks maintained at each Navigation Center site tracking the CIR’s they had submitted to HSH’s Data Team. 

One non-profit organization responded saying it “is not a local or State agency and our records are not public records” under San Francisco’s Sunshine Ordinance or California’s Public Records Act (CPRA).  Several non-profit providers used almost identical language, claiming my request “does not fall in the public records request requirements under San Francisco's Sunshine Ordinance, the California Public Records Act, Proposition 59, and the Brown Act,” and they can’t share any client records, or records involving direct client services information.”  Both excuses were ridiculous, because the HSH’s boilerplate form clearly states not to use client names or other Protected Health Information (PHI) identifying information.  (Despite that guidance, several of the CIR forms in the 1,244-page Appeal contained CIR’s that included either client names, or the last four digits of their social security numbers.)

Pull Quote 15With no logbooks to access, I turned to keying into Excel the 279 CIR forms embedded in the Embarcadero appeal.  The data below is from the data I keyed data in, since Kositsky’s staff also had invisible data in addition to invisible successes.

Table 4:  Summary of 279 CIR Incident Titles vs. Incident Descriptions

Table 4

Pull Quote 16Table 4 illustrates:

Table 5 below is fairly straightforward, showing 184 (66%) of the CIR’s involved transporting 184 of the residents to various hospitals in the City, again signaling their fragile medical conditions living in homeless shelters.

Table 5:  Where Were Navigation Center Clients Transported?

Table 5

After learning of the existence of the CIR’s in the 1,244-page appeal filed with the Board of Supervisors on the proposed Embarcadero Navigation Center, and after Kositsky’s staff and non-profit service providers claimed they had no logbooks of the CIR’s submitted to HSH’s Data Team, I began placing records requests to Kositsky for each CIR HSH had received.

Pull Quote 21Table 6 shows that while there were 279 CIR’s included in the Embarcadero appeal, Kositsky’s staff has only provided 438 CIR’s — which is probably incomplete production of records.

Table 6:  Discrepancy in Number of CIR Forms

Table 6

Pull Quote 23The discrepancies between the 279 CIR forms contained in the Embarcadero Appeal versus the 438 CIR forms Kositsky’s staff has produced as a result of records requests falls short of the 786 calls placed to the 9–1–1 Call Center.

Table 7:  Disconnect Between 9–1–1 Calls and Number of CIR Forms

Table 7

High Cost of Navigation Centers ($101 Million, and Growing)

The Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development informed the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee in January 2016 that 20 % to 30% units funded by the 2015 Prop. A affordable housing bond would be reserved for the homeless.  A recent Examiner article noted the homeless are receiving 23% (22 units) of the 93 senior housing units at 1296 Shotwell funded by the 2015 Bond.  How does 1% of San Francisco’s population get to acquire 30% of new or rehabilitated housing units?  This clearly adds to San Francisco’s various cost burdens dealing with the homeless.

Pull Quote 26The high costs associated with Navigation Centers isn’t fully known.  It’s at least $101 million (not 101 Dalmatians).

Multiple records requests revealed various costs associated with the Navigation Centers.  San Franciscans have spent at a minimum $101 million on Navigation Center “interventions,” with costs expected to rise as one “temporary” Center closes and replacement — and additional — temporary Centers are constructed.

Table 8:  Costs Involved with the Seven Navigation Centers

Table 8

Back on February 28, 2019 the San Francisco Weekly reported Kositsky had been raked over the coals during a Board of Supervisors Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee hearing on the slow pace of opening additional Navigation Centers in the City.

Interestingly, Kositsky admitted during the hearing:

When you have a site for [a] short-term and you’re going to spend millions of dollars in capital to have a site for a year or two, it doesn’t really make sense.  Navigation Centers have to be cost-effective, scalable, and sustainable.”  [Emphasis added.]

The SF Weekly then opined:

“Mayor Ed Lee’s original Navigation Center plan very much included temporary sites — because the scale of the crisis on our streets is more important than how long a center lasts.  The understanding was always that some sites being leased from developers would close after a year or two, and that new ones would open to maintain a supply of beds.”    [Emphasis added.] 

Pull Quote 29That portends that every couple of years, San Francisco may drop another $40 million to lease land and construct temporary replacement Navigation Centers.  Wouldn’t it be more sustainable to build permanent, not temporary, Navigation Centers to save $40 million here, and $40 million there?  Do we really need them decentralized in each Supervisorial district?  Is this yet another invisible success?

Apart from the costs of construction and leasing land for the temporary Navigation Centers, the costs for non-profit service providers to operate the Centers deserves a closer look, shown in Table 9.

Table 9:  Detail of Non-Profit Service Provider Contracts

Table 9

Table 9 shows, among other things, that:

Navigation Center Lengths-of-Stay

After Kositsky’s staff had initially denied HSH had a written policy on the length of stay for initial admission to a Navigation Center but had inexplicably provided a written policy to request length-of-stay extensions, his staff — after being pushed — coughed up an explanation of the initial time-limited stays.  The four categories are:

Pull Quote 31Clearly this is part and parcel of the whack-a-mole problem, and is nowhere near close to Ms. Alioto’s optimism of 120-day Navigation Center stays.  The homeless are lucky if they get a seven-day stay, and luckier if they get a 30-day stay.  Contrary to Kositsky’s nonsense, one-night Navigation Center stays aren’t ‘successes,’ by any stretch of the imagination.

The object of the “whack-a-mole” game is to force individual moles back into their holes by hitting them on the head with a mallet. 

Breed’s focus on forcing the homeless into 30-day and 7-day Navigation Center and other shelter stays is not a sustainable substitute for real solutions to house the homeless.

Thoughts on the Proposed Embarcadero Navigation Center

Neighbors along the Embarcadero formed a group named “Safe Embarcadero for All” (SEFA) to mount an appeal to the Board of Supervisors over the Planning Commission’s decision to approve the Embarcadero Navigation Center. 

SEFA later turned to the Courts, filing a lawsuit in San Francisco Superior Court seeking a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the Embarcadero Navigation Center, alleging, in part, that the Port Authority and the City of San Francisco approved leasing Port land for the project in April 2019 without having obtained prior approval by the State Lands Commission, thereby violating State law.

Pull Quote 32Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman issued a ruling on October 1 denying the preliminary injunction.  But he noted that SEFA’s claim about the failure to involve the State Lands Commission “appears to have some merit.”  

Shulman also noted SEFA “has established a reasonable likelihood of prevailing on its claim” that the Port [and, therefore, the City] was required to submit the proposed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) contract between the Port and the City to the State Lands Commission prior to entering into the [signed] MOU.  Schulman’s Court found the City’s excuse for not seeking State Lands Commission approval “unpersuasive.”

It’s not yet known whether SEFA will appeal Schulman’s Order, in order to pursue prevailing on its claim the Lands Commission’s approval was not sought, or obtained, beforehand.  If SEFA is appealing, that may explain why HSH has not yet issued a contract to a non-profit provider to operate an Embarcadero Navigation Center.

But somewhat ironically, Schulman criticized data SEFA had submitted demonstrating year-over-year increases in assaults in a graph SEFA had submitted to the Court.  Schulman took great pains criticizing the “small sample” of data SEFA had submitted, asserting the data had no statistical significance or any probative value (as proof or evidence).  Schulman cited one case law ruling claiming that small “samples are too minuscule to demonstrate a statistically reliable pattern,” and another case that ruled “statistical evidence derived from an extremely small universe … has little predictive value and must be disregarded.”

Pull Quote 33Schulman went on to cite Police Department data summarized by the Planning Department on June 17, 2019 claiming that six months after the Division Circle Navigation Center opened, “the surrounding area saw a 17% decrease in crime, and in the two months following the opening of the Bryant Street Navigation Center the surrounding area [also] saw a 17% decrease in crime.”  Schulman’s October 1 Order was factually incorrect:  The Planning Department’s June 17 document — embedded in that 1,244-page document on the Board of Supervisors web site — had reported the Bryant Street Center saw a 14% decline in crimes, not a 17% decline as Schulman wrongly stated.

Schulman slammed SEFA for using inconclusive data and making “alarmist” claims.  But at the same time Schulman turned a blind eye to the flawed and inconclusive data SFPD had provided to the Planning Department, and to Breed and Kositsky, to justify their false claim that “in general, we know the data Pull Quote 34shows there is no link between the creation of a Navigation Center and an increase in crime in the surrounding area.”  Schulman knocked SEFA for purported inconclusive data, but accepted at face value SFPD’s own inconclusive purported data.

Here’s why:

Pull Quote 37According to Court records, SEFA will be back in Court on Tuesday November 12 seeking to appeal Schulman’s failure to halt construction and seeking to enforce State law that the State Lands Commission must review the lease of Port land and whether the MOU should be declared null and void.

HSOC Fiasco

As noted above, the HSOC was created and activated on January 16, 2018 to coordinate efforts among City departments to address problems with the homeless.

The Board of Supervisors Budget and Legislative Analyst (BLA) presented an audit to the Budget and Finance Committee on June 13, 2019.  The BLA audit focused on SFPD patrol staffing, SFPPD workload and overtime, and opportunities to civilianize some positions at SFPD.  During that hearing, Budget Committee chairperson Sandra Lee Fewer noted:

Police officers [at] the Richmond [District Police] Station are saying ‘Yeah, officers get pulled for HSOC, and they don’t replace them.  We’re short officers at district stations.’  [Whenever] HSOC or anyone comes in and does a sweep, we’re just seeing more homelessness, moving it around.  …  So, a lot of neighborhoods are not seeing relief from HSOC, and the fact that it pulls officers from stations and outlying stations is a problem.

Pull Quote 38Fewer said a mouthful on June 13!

She said a second mouthful a week later on June 21 when she chaired another Budget and Finance Committee hearing that focused in large measure on staffing of the HSOC, saying:  “I’m hearing from my own [Richmond] District [police] officers that, yeah, they get pulled off [their regular job duties] to go [be reassigned] to the HSOC.”

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, reported that one of the District police stations is so shorthanded that a lieutenant recently instructed a group of officers during lineup before they started their shifts “not to arrest anyone,” because the Station didn’t have enough cops to manage the District if two officers got tied up processing an arrest.  Are Supervisor Fewer and the full Board of Supervisors aware this is how bad the situation has gotten?

Pull Quote 39Is this a new “get-out-of-jail-free” card:  “We don’t have enough officers to process your arrest because they’re deployed to the HSOC, so we’re not going to arrest you”?  If so, doesn’t that essentially turn the concept of “nobody is above the law” on its head?

The BLA audit was separate from a report dated March 20, 2019 by the City Controller’s Office — “Review of the Healthy Streets Operations Center.

HSOC’s Efficacy Called into Question

The HSOC’s efficacy was also called into question again, a week later when the Budget and Finance Committee held another hearing on June 21.

A high-level summary of that hearing reveals:

Maybe we’re moving people around in a better coordinated way, but we’re still just ultimately moving people from one neighborhood to the next.  And if that’s the case, I’m not  sure it makes sense to continue to add additional staff to [the HSOC] model, because I’m not sure that it’s having the intended impact on the ground.”

Pull Quote 41Kositsky responded saying they were having a hard time because staff were being swapped in and out of the HSOC, so “we’re struggling to capture data, because we don’t have any full-time staff [at the HSOC].”  As if this is only about simply capturing data and data collection, a concept president of the Board of Supervisors Norman Yee seemed to latch on to.  Kositsky stated to Supervisor Yee that “our budget request [for the 11 positions being added to support the HSOC] is primarily to improve data collection.”  Homeless people need actual housing, not better data collection.

Pull Quote 42Kositsky went on to tell Ronen the HSOC is mainly about “institutionalizing” strong relationships between City department heads in order to better serve homeless people who are on the streets.

Kositsky claimed that once high-needs clients are admitted to a place of safety, HSOC’s role is essentially done, after getting a person from the streets into a Navigation Center, or into a stabilization, bed.  He claimed once someone ends up in a Navigation Center, “we need to be able to track that person through the Navigation Center.”  That’s essentially tautological:  If the HSOC’s job is essentially done, Kositsky doesn’t need an HSOC budget increase to track the person admitted to a Navigation Center.  After all, Kositsky’s shop reportedly has its own Navigation Center Database that can track the person without assistance from the HSOC.

The Controller’s report on the HSOC noted that of referrals submitted bySFPD homeless outreach officers to the HSOC, “At present, there is no means to track how many HSOC referrals result in linkage to care.”  That’s another damning indictment of the of HSOC’s lack of efficacy.

HSOC MapThe Controller’s report noted the various HSOC “zones” were created to address distinct problems unique to each zone and primary issues to be addressed:

HSOC Staffing Costs

The City Controller’s Office reported that when the HSOC was created and activated into operation in mid-Fiscal Year 2017–2018 on January 16, 2018 — a month after former Mayor Ed Lee died on December 12, 2017 — it wasn’t created as a budget center, a cost center, or as a sub-unit of any City department in the Citywide financial systems.  Instead, it was convened as a working group to implement a combination of collaborative efforts across multiple departments using existing staff.   It had no separate budget in FY 17–18, and then-Mayor Breed didn’t submit any budget requests involving the HSOC in FY 18–19 starting on July 1, 2018. 

Pull Quote 44In both fiscal years, the HSOC had no budgeted full-time equivalent (FTE) positions.  The Controller noted HSOC staffing assignments were variable during the first two fiscal years, with departments re-assigning budgeted staff from within their existing staffing to support the HSOC.

That changed in the FY 19–20 budget process.  During the June 13 Budget and Committee hearing, the Committee’s chairperson, Supervisor Fewer, appeared exasperated at times that she couldn’t get a straight answer to how many police officers are assigned to the HSOC.  Police Chief Bill Scott eventually indicated 40 police officers are assigned to the HSOC.  Fewer didn’t get a straight answer to that question a week later on June 21, either.

Five of the departments providing collaborative support to the HSOC requested new positions in the FY 19-20 budget to support the HSOC.  Eleven new budgeted positions for the HSOC costing $4 million were approved and added to departmental budgets starting on October 1, 2019.  Of the 11 new employees, three new positions were added to the Department of Emergency Management, four new positions were added to Kositsky’s Homelessness department, two new positions were added to the Department of Public Works, one position added to the Department of Public Health, and one position was added to City Administrator Naomi Kelly’s General Services Agency.  GSA encompasses 25 departments, divisions, and programs, including the Public Works Department and the Convention Facilities unit (there’s those tourists, again).

Pull Quore 45The BLA report noted HSOC supports these five departments, additionally supports SFPD and the Mayor’s Office, and also supports an additional 11 City departments.

Fewer and the Budget and Finance Committee were able to reject a budget request from Chief Scott to add $200,000 to SFPD’s overtime budget for overtime coverage for the HSOC earmarked for conventions and events — apparently overtime to help protect San Francisco’s tourism industry.  The overtime budget increase request was rejected because SFPD’s overtime budget is already at approximately $19 million annually.

The City Controller indicated additional positions to support the HSOC may have been created in Kositsky’s HSH.

Notably missing is that the Controller’s Office reported no data for the 40-or-so police officers who may be assigned to support the HSOC, or how much that costs SFPD.  SFPD hasn’t responded yet to a records request to obtain the costs of, and the number of police officers, supporting the HSOC.

How much it costs (in dollars and employees) to temporarily divert 40 police officers to the HSOC remains unanswered. 

The Mayor’s Office and department heads from the primary and supporting City departments comprise a policy group, which convenes bi-weekly to receive operational updates, monitor progress, approval final plans, and provide major policy direction for the HSOC.  The policy group hopes to continue evolving HSOC’s operations in coming years, likely by increasing the HSOC budget.

Ancillary HSOC Staffing Costs

Pull Quote 46Reportedly, police officers assigned to the HSOC don’t perform foot patrols in the five HSOC zones.  Instead, they may be just sitting around until they are dispatched to respond to a complaint about homeless encampments or other homeless issues within the zones.  Officers assigned to the HSOC also don’t handle responding to homeless problems outside of the five zones, which means complaints about homless problems in the Richmond, Ingleside, Bayview, and Taraval police districts are handled by the resulting shortage of police officers in each District.

Any foot patrols near Navigation Centers are reportedly staffed by District stations, not officers assigned to the HSOC.  Any foot beats assigned to monitor areas around Navigation Centers comes at the expense of fewer officers in vehicles to respond to other types of crime complaints in their Districts.  It’s thought that if any police district removes two officers from a patrol vehicle to do foot beats around a Navigation Center, that’s an additional salary cost that should be added to the Navigation Center’s expenses, as Supervisor Fewer must know.

Kositsky told a packed audience during an April 23, 2019 Port Commission hearing that the City will dedicate foot beat officers to the Embarcadero Navigation Center site.  Kositsky’s, Breed’s, and Schulman’s assurances that adding foot beat patrols should eliminate neighborhood concerns is a tacit admission crime is expected to, or will, go up around Navigation Centers, not that the increased foot patrols will ensure safety.  Any foot beats will be just another Kositsky invisible success.

Pull Quote 47It’s also reported that foot beats in the Tenderloin may be also being told to avoid making arrests for “small” offenses, because an arrest ties an officer up for two hours handling paperwork.  Is this another get-out-of-jail-free card?

In reality, increasing foot patrols (“scarecrow policing”) is typically a placebo-effect attempt to calm neighbors.  The scarecrow foot beats don’t reduce crime. And the mantra, just be seen, doesn’t help.

No Bang for the Bucks Efficacy

Wikipedia reports that in 2014, the City of San Francisco spent $167 million annually on housing homeless residents.  By 2016, total spending (including housing and treatment) was believed to be $241 million annually.  However, much of this spending is focused on housing the formerly homeless, or those at risk, and not the currently homeless.

Pull Quote 48In addition to the $100 million in known costs for the Navigation Centers, the homeless also receive an outsized portion of affordable housing construction in San Francisco.  The Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOHCD) notified the Citizen’s General Obligation Bond Oversight Committee in January 2016 that MOHCD sets aside 20% to 30% of affordable housing projects for the homeless.  This portends that if the $600 million Affordable Housing Bond on the November 5 ballot is passed by voters, the homeless will receive $120 million to $180 million of any new housing units eventually constructed.

Expenditures on invisible successes from questionable efficacy of the HOT Teams, the HSOC, and the Navigation Centers are probably not going to save San Francisco’s tourism industry, or bring the American Medical Association back.  Nor will it help solve San Francisco’s homelessness problems in providing the homless stable housing.  It’s time to put an end to Kositsky’s and Breed’s invisible successes.


Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco’s Westside Observer newspaper, and a member of the California First Amendment Coalition (FAC) and the ACLU.  He operates  Contact him at