Supervisors Pass Police Overtime Law, Hear Concerns About Shelter Policy

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors continued to discuss homelessness and public safety issues at their March 21 meeting as they approved an additional $25 million in police overtime and considered plans to increase the capacity of the city’s shelters. In addition, members called for a hearing on recent incidents of mass youth violence.

Wonks can check out the whole set and a bunch of the almost seven hour meeting on the agenda this week.

Police Overtime Bill Passed, But Not Without Additional Arguments

Police Chief Bill Scott during a press conference on January 26, 2023 at the Shaw Center for the Elderly in Chinatown. | Camille Cohen/Standard

After over an hour of heated debate, the board passed a $25 million additional budget for increased police overtime by a vote of 9 to 2, with District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston and District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton disagreeing.

Much of the argument echoed the points made at the March 15 budget committee meeting, which passed the bill without recommendations, but most members telegraphed support.

A common thread of collective dissatisfaction among board members dissatisfied with the bill but nonetheless supporting it has been long-term structural staffing problems at the San Francisco Police Department, where firing officers increases reliance on costly overtime.

Another recurring issue was a perceived imbalance in overtime, with downtown and luxury shopping districts favoring residential areas.

“The reality is that the police are wildly overspending their already increased budget and now want help with increased bonuses and unlimited overtime, much of it [going] luxury retailers and tourists in areas already saturated with coverage,” Preston said.

District 1 Budget Chair and Supervisor Connie Chan reiterated her concern that “an additional budget from any city department should raise the question of whether there has been mismanagement of city government and public money,” even though she voiced her support.

Preston took his opposition to the bill to a higher level by focusing on the timing of the SFPD’s request for new funding, rather than the speed at which the department used overtime. He argued that the department had violated a city law that prohibited agencies from spending more overtime than allowed before making a formal request for additional funds.

“Instead of seeking approval to increase these huge spending in the fall of 2022, the SFPD continued to overspend [and] violated the Administrative Code,” Preston said. “In just five pay periods in the fiscal year, the SFPD used up almost half of its overtime.”

Assuming the role of prosecutor, Preston then proceeded to interrogate Police Chief Bill Scott, Scott’s officers, and Comptroller Ben Rosenfield about the matter.

Police department chief financial officer Patrick Leung said the department had consulted with the breed administration and the comptroller’s office, believing spending rules were lifted during the pandemic emergency.

Asked by Preston about such instructions, Comptroller Ben Rosenfield replied, “That would come as a surprise to me.”

District 11 Superintendent Ahsha Safai also tried again to amend the bill to add back the $3 million that had been agreed in committee to pay for area patrols. He again did not receive support for this move.

In any case, the majority of members agreed that funding was needed to prevent a cost freeze imposed by the Comptroller. District 2 Supervisor Katherine Stefani acknowledged the urgency of the issue, as well as the need to protect businesses whose tax revenue goes to pay for city services.

“I think the public deserves to feel safe and secure,” Stephanie said. “This Louis Vuitton argument is driving me crazy.”

Meanwhile, Preston’s arguments served as a prelude to his request for a review of SFPD police deployment decisions affecting overtime by a budget and legal analyst during roll call.

Youth Safety Hearing, Task Force

Supervisor Myrna Melgar during the meeting of the Supervisory Board February 28, 2023 | Mikaela Vatcheva for The Standard

Also on the public safety agenda: Supervisor Myrna Melgar, along with Safai, demanded a hearing on the recent outbreak of youth violence in the city, including the Massive Violence Incident at the Stonestown Mall, which was widely covered on social media.

“Stonestown is an asset to our neighborhood,” Mayor Breed was quoted by Melgar as saying several steps have been taken to address the issue. “This is our town square on the West Side and a popular meeting place for our youth.”

“Young people fueling this violence need to understand that their actions have consequences,” Melgar added. “Most of the young people at the scene are bystanders, recording this violence live and posting it on social media, getting likes and new followers. Instead, we must provide these young people with healthy and safe after-school activities.”

She also introduced an ordinance reviving the Safe School Sexual Assault Task Force in response to multiple student protests over the San Francisco Unified School District’s lack of response to incidents of sexual harassment and assault.

Different views of the shelter

San Francisco has an injunction against sweeping the homeless. | Benjamin Fanjoy for The Standard

Another highlight of Tuesday’s meeting was a special hearing on the implementation of A Place for All, the on-demand shelter law passed by the council last June.

The purpose of the law is to offer “every homeless person in San Francisco a safe place to sleep.” While this goal may seem lofty, District 8 Chief Executive Rafael Mandelman, the bill’s main sponsor, says it’s realistic.

He was supported by some testimony at the hearing, including from Pallet Shelter, which built “quick response villages” in 85 cities across the country, and the Gulf Council Economic Institute, which called for a refocus on temporary shelter. above the permanent auxiliary housing in its own presentation.

But then came the city’s Department of Homeless and Assisted Housing officials. Mandelman criticized their earlier report on “A Place for All” for being too focused on assisted housing and for allowing the streets to be “a waiting room for people to get more permanent housing.”

This department’s presentation was considered pessimistic in tone as they argued that moving more resources to shelters would actually increase homelessness in the long run. The agency also announced that its final plan would be ready next month with what it called “daring but achievable goals to reduce and prevent homelessness.”

At the heart of this debate is tension over current street conditions and their impact on the city’s business climate, as well as residents’ frustration at the city’s inability to reduce the number of camps, as it is currently prohibited from doing so until it demonstrates that there are enough. . refuge beds for everyone on the street.

District 6 Superintendent Matt Dorsey, whose home grounds are the epicenter of the city’s street problems, was more optimistic.

“Consider the math that the court presented us with,” Dorsey said. “Court ruling decides political debate.”

In other voices

Severe weather shattered windows in several San Francisco skyscrapers, including the iconic Bank of America building. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard
  • Meanwhile, regulators have approved a law that removes the city’s rules regarding requests from elected and appointed officials for donations to third-party non-profit organizations for alleged private non-profit safe consumption facilities.
  • Council President Aaron Peskin has requested a hearing on the Department of Building Inspection’s ability to deal with the increasing incidence of storm damage to high-rise buildings, such as falling windows. At the same time, he noted that three people have already died as a result of falling trees as a result of an atmospheric river storm this week.

Mike Ege can be reached in [email protected]

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