SF police back off from sweep of homeless encampment FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 25 Sep 1998 16:10:27 -0400

FWD  San Francisco Chronicle  Friday, September 25, 1998  Page A19

     Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer

Homeless people facing eviction from an encampment in San
Francisco's China Basin got a reprieve yesterday, but it could be
a short-lived one.

The three dozen homeless people had been told by police
Wednesday that they must leave their tents and lean-tos by next
week or face arrest. ``No trespassing'' bulletins were posted at a
vacant lot a block west of the Giants' new ballpark.

But Police Chief Fred Lau said yesterday that he has ordered
officers to hold off on moving the residents out of the camp near
the Fourth Street Bridge.

Lau, who is about to leave for China to join a delegation led by
Mayor Willie Brown, said he wants any police action to be
coordinated with social service agencies equipped to help those
facing relocation.

``We want to see if the agencies can help us mitigate the
situation,'' Lau said. But he added, ``If we have to take
enforcement action, we will, we definitely will.''

Officers said they had swooped in on the encampment after
receiving complaints about litter and sanitation problems from
merchants in the China Basin building across the street. Catellus
Development Corp., which owns the site, has not filed a
complaint. Company officials declined to comment.

Lau asked for documentation of the complaints before he
authorizes any final sweep.

The half-acre site that sprouted among the weeds and wild anise
alongside the China Basin Channel is dotted with tarps, tents,
blankets, shopping carts and debris.

One couple huddled with their dog under a green tarp yesterday
lamented the daily routine of being moved along by police. They
seemed to take little comfort in the news of any reprieve.

``That would be good,'' said the woman, who identified herself
only as Suzette. ``But even if they don't act against us, they still
come every day to roust us.''

Commander John Portoni said police have contacted the
Department of Social Services to try to find a place for the camp
residents to stay.

``We always try to do that, along with working with the social
services,'' he said. ``We have let them know they are
trespassing, but at the same time, we are trying to work with the
other city agencies, not only for their own benefit, but so people
can have their land back.''

He said the process may take time.

``There's no real rush,'' Portoni said. ``We always try to work
things out to everyone's betterment, if possible.''


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