Opposing GoFundMe campaigns attract big name donors, in battle over San Francisco navigation center

It seems that a pair of opposing GoFundMe campaigns centered on a proposed homeless Navigation Center has garnered a lot of attention this week, with two big tech names — and a tech company — weighing in with their money.

Both Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson contributed $10,000 each to the “SAFER Embarcadero for ALL” campaign Friday, to support the construction of a homeless navigation center slated for Seawall Lot 330 and the Coalition on Homelessness.

The GoFundMe team also contributed an additional $5,000 to support the fundraiser, with CEO Rob Solomon stating he felt that the tech industry isn’t doing enough about the homelessness issue, and that the company “wanted to do our small part.”

The fundraiser was initially started Thursday by William Fitzgerald, and began as a parody. The “SAFER” campaign was in direct opposition to another campaign, the “Safe Embarcadero for All” campaign — note the slight name difference — which was launched earlier this week to stop the construction of the aforementioned navigation center.

That first campaign opposed the construction of the 200-bed center, and claimed that nearby residents were not given the opportunity to give input on its location, stating that Mayor London Breed was being “allowed to steamroll over communities just to pursue a campaign promise.”

“This undemocratic process has left us no choice but to pursue legal options to ensure that the City adheres to normal environmental and building rules designed to protect health and safety,” the “Safe Embarcadero for all” campaign stated on the GoFundMe site.

In its early stages, the group attracted its own share of big-ticket donations, including anonymous gifts of $10,000, $5,000 and a number of $1,000 donations to hire attorneys in its legal battle against the center’s construction.

“It was kind of brazen,” Fitzgerald said of the campaign to oppose the navigation center. “They’re (trying to stop) a shelter in the neighborhood, and these are the same people who complain about homelessness all the time.”

By Friday, the two campaigns were in a standoff of sorts, with the group opposing the center reaching $70,100 of its $100,000 goal from 174 donors (as of this reporting), and Fitzgerald’s group raising $74,005 of its $100,000 goal from 957 donors, in just one day.

Fitzgerald told The Chronicle that he was inspired to set up his own campaign thanks to another hot-button issue that dueled it on competing GoFundMe pages. In that instance, a GoFundMe page was set up by supporters of President Donald Trump who were looking to fund the border wall through donations; an opposing group, cheekily named “Ladders to Get Over Trump’s Wall” countered with its own fundraiser for Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES).

Read Dianne de Guzman’s latest stories and send her news tips at ddeguzman@sfgate.com.

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This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/GoFundMe-San-Francisco-navigation-Benioff-Lawson-13727598.php.

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