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A San Francisco area council meeting descended into chaos on Friday when residents showed up to protest a plan to house nearly 100 homeless people in a nearby hotel.
Hundreds of angry residents in the affluent neighborhood of Millbrae near the San Francisco airport packed into a community meeting to loudly express their concerns to San Mateo County leaders.
San Mateo County has applied for “Project Homekey” funds through California, which would turn a local 99-unit La Quinta hotel into housing for homeless people.
“We’re concerned. We’re concerned about this project. The reason why is because it’s right in the heart of Millbrae,” resident Patricia Lam told NBC Bay Area.
“It’s very close to children. It’s a block from three schools. So we don’t want to see that,” said another resident, Ho Yeung.
Footage of the meeting shows residents roaring with disapproval and angrily gesticulating at county leaders as they outlined the proposal, residents shaking their heads and giving thumbs downs.
“How about I finish? How about I finish?” one of the speakers can be heard telling the riled crowd at one point.
Some residents brought signs expressing their disapproval.
“Don’t Bully Millbrae,” read one person’s sign. “No Homekey! Safety For Millbrae!” read another. “Keep Our Children And Seniors Safe,” read yet another.
The crowd spilled out of the community center room despite its more than 300-person capacity, and a huge overflow of residents tried to listen from outside.
If the county is approved for the homeless project funding, Episcopal Community Services will be operating the hotel. An Episcopal Community Services spokesperson said they will have 24/7 staffing as well as case management staffing for the homeless residents.
“I think they’ve got to give this a chance,” San Mateo County Executive Mike Callagy said. “Look, we’ve got these facilities all over the county. They’re worried about crime, they’re worried about assaults, they’re worried about drugs and mental health impacting the neighborhoods. That has just not been our experience.”
Just north of Millbrae in San Francisco, homelessness has only gotten worse since before the pandemic.
About 38,000 people are homeless in the Bay Area on a given night. That’s up 35% since 2019. More than 7,000 people are homeless in San Francisco itself.
Crime and open-air drug use often accompany the homeless issue, causing businesses to flee San Francisco’s downtown, where foot traffic has thinned. Many workers have started working remotely due to the city’s dangerous open-air drug markets downtown.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed has come up with a $692.6 million plan to tackle the homeless crisis by funding more shelter beds, but that plan has yet to bear fruit.
In Oakland, just east across the bay from San Francisco, about 500 angry residents showed up to a May town hall meeting on rampant violent crime and demanded city leaders take action to curb it. Oakland residents described getting violently assaulted in supposedly safe areas. Footage from the town hall went viral online.