Housing protest leads to takeover of duplex

James Temple
San Francisco Chronicle
4/5/2010

A group of homeless people and housing activists took over a privately owned Mission District duplex on Sunday in what served as the climax of a protest designed to promote use of San Francisco’s vacant buildings as shelters for the needy.

But the owner of the property – who was targeted over his eviction of a tenant – said the demonstration was nothing more than breaking and entering.

“It’s not actually vacant. I use it for my own personal uses,” Ara Tehlirian of Daly City said in an interview, adding that he was in contact with the San Francisco Police Department. “I know nothing other than my property was apparently broken into.”

The takeover epitomized the tensions between property owners and tenant activists that have flared for decades in the city, and sometimes tip into outright hostilities near the peaks and troughs of the market cycle…

…By the time the tail of the procession reached the duplex on the 500 block of San Jose Street, at least eight people were inside, holding banners from second-story windows. It wasn’t clear how they gained entry, and Ted Gullicksen, leader of the tenant organization, declined to provide details.

More than a dozen police officers were on hand, most standing on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. Asked earlier whether they would take action if protesters occupied the property, officers declined to comment. One said, “We’ll see.”

By 3 p.m., all had left but one, who stayed to ensure that “nobody is out of hand,” said a police official, Sgt. William Escobar. No arrests had been made…

…he said the city should foreclose on buildings where hefty back taxes are owed or use its powers of eminent domain to turn over long-vacant homes to nonprofit developers. The group is not advocating turning over the city’s stock of new but unsold properties to the homeless…

The complete article is at the Chronicle

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