SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A San Francisco effort to get more homeless off the street is facing a funding deadline, and a lot of resistance in the city’s Japantown neighborhood.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Francisco has been housing thousands of homeless individuals in hotels across the city. The Buchanan Hotel in Japantown is just one of them, but the city is now interested in buying some of these hotels as permanent supportive housing.

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“You know, the community was fine with the city using it as a temporary shelter during the pandemic,” said Paul Osaki, Executive Director of the Japanese Culture & Community Center. “I supported it 100%. It just made sense. But not as long-term, permanent supportive housing.”

Osaki is among the thousands of neighborhood residents who have signed a petition to stop the city’s efforts to buy this property.

“The Buchanan Hotel brings 40 to 50,000 tourists to Japantown every year,” Osaki explained. “That’s a huge loss. It’s an economic loss for this community. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“So the residents of the Excelsior and Outer Mission are ready to embrace this,” said District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safai. “There are going to be some bumps along the way, but ultimately, people have come together and said we need to step up and do our fair share.”

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Safai was talking about a different property in the Outer Mission, the Mission Inn. He says it took exhaustive outreach, but neighbors are on board with making the Mission Inn a permanent supportive housing site. The deal will also happen in time to meet a state deadline for the state’s Project Homekey funding.

“We can’t complain about the conditions of the streets, we can’t say we need to solve this crisis and point fingers at the mayor,” Safai said. “Or point fingers at the members of the board, or elected officials, or city departments, and then say ‘But yet, not here.’”

Back at the Buchanan, the pushback from neighbors has caused the city to put purchase plans here on hold. A search is underway for other hotels that might face less resistance ahead of the state funding deadline.

“I understand the need for supportive housing,” Osaki says. “I support it 100%. In fact, if there was another place in Japantown that made sense, I would absolutely support it.”


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