SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — As the Bay Area’s homelessness crisis deepens, a San Francisco housing advocate continues her big push for tiny homes. She’s proposed transforming a public parking lot into a “stewardship village.”
Amy Farah Weiss said fixing homelessness takes a village, and she’s about to build one. The housing activist, who ran for San Francisco mayor in 2017, plans to spend the coming week in a small shack on the grounds of a parking lot on Turk and Jones in the city’s Tenderloin district.
“I want to draw attention to the fact that the conditions on the street are a true crisis,” Weiss said.
She is also drawing attention to her proposal to transform the parking lot into the SOS Stewardship Village, which would house five people in “emergency sleeping cabins.”
“If you’re living on this site, you get your own locking storage,” Weiss said. “You get a sleeping shelter that is to code for state emergency shelters and you also are giving 10 hours a week of stewardship. We expect everyone to consider their impacts and be part of the solution.”
Two years ago, KPIX reported on Weiss’s idea to build small communities of wooden shanties to house folks who are living on the street. That idea did not seem to go over well with the city.
Her new proposal involves building five Conestoga huts, which are small, 70 square foot hard-shelled abodes that look like covered wagons. The village would have toilets, showers, laundry, a community garden, a food truck and even a dog park.
“It would help as far as emergency housing, but it wouldn’t be anything that anyone could count on as a permanent solution,” said “Skytower,” who lives in a tent on Jones Street nearby.
“It’s not very much, but you have to start somewhere,” said Vanessa Ortega who said she is in a program that helps homeless young people. “So I guess it will start right here with the parking lot, right? Whoever could help. There’s a lot of rich people here in San Francisco, so whoever could donate and try to make these things actually happen. That would really be something.”
In fact, last week, Weiss said she got a key donation of $150,000 from one of the original employees of Facebook, who wants to remain anonymous. She says the plan is to build the village on city-owned property that is now leased by a parking lot company.
Eventually, Weiss said the property would be leased to a developer that will build an affordable housing project. And since that project would take a couple of years, Weiss says the developer told her she could build this village here in the interim if she raises enough money to make it work.
It’s still not quite clear what San Francisco officials think of the village. Supervisor Matt Haney says the proposal is not a done deal. It’s one of several ideas under consideration for the property.
“Whenever I get discouraged I think of what St. Francis of Assisi said: ‘Do what’s necessary and do what’s possible,’” said Weiss. “If five [small houses] right now are possible to show proof of concept, every neighborhood is going to be wanting a stewardship village. Because it matches the needs of the community with underutilized spaces.”
Weiss said she plans to spend a week in the parking lot advocating for her proposal, talking to neighbors. She continues to raise donations for the project.