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San Francisco | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Housing Takeover in San Francisco, Part 2
by Michael Steinberg ( blackrainpress [at] hotmail.com )
Monday Apr 5th, 2010 10:43 PM
On Monday Homes Not Jails' occupation of a vacant Mission District house in San Francisco continued. And then the SFPD came battering at the door.
The house was formerly the home of 80-something old Jose Morales for 43 years. Morales fought off eviction attempts for 14 years before being illegally kicked out of his home under the auspices of the Ellis Act, a state law that unscrupulous property owners have used to evict thousands of San Franciscans.
What follows is a continuing report about Homes Not Jails' occupation of a Mission District house on San Jose Avenue in San Francisco. The information about Monday's events is from testimony of the occupiers themselves.

On Sunday, after rallying at 24th and Mission, a spirited crowd marched to the site where squatters had taken over the former home of octogenarian Jose Morales, who lived there for 43 years, and beat back eviction attempts for 14 years before being forced out by misuse of the Ellis Act by his landlord. According to a speech by Morales at his former home yesterday, the Ellis Act, a state law, has resulted in 3000 familes in San Francisco and 11,000 families in Los Angeles being forced out of their homes.

After Morales' ejection from his home, the building sat empty for over two years. Until yesterday.

A heavy police presence accompanied the march Sunday and massed in the area of the occupation. But the SFPD did not attempt to remove the squatters. Their efforts were confined to, late in the day, asking the people inside the house when they were leaving. The new residents told the cops they had no plans to give up their new home, according to occupiers. They did inform the SFPD that they were committed to nonviolent actions only.

The rest of the night was peaceful. Monday morning was peaceful as well. Early in the afternoon, however, increasing numbers of police arrived, as well as two men recognized as the owners of the chronically vacant building and evictors of Jose Morales.

After awhile occupiers saw one of the landlords signing a document, which evidently declared the squatters as trespassers, thus authorizing the cops to kick them out.

Following this poison pen ceremony, the SFPD came to the front door, which was barricaded from the inside, and began trying to knock it in. The occupiers informed the cops that they could stop this nonsense, as they were taking down the barricade before anyone got hurt.

The squatters let the police in, and one of the landlords snuck in with them. He immediately began insulting the occupants and making wild claims of damage to the property purportedly done by the residents. He also tried to get the cops to bring charges of breaking and entering against the occupiers, which would have resulted in them being arrested and locked up, facing felonies.

In the words of one occupier, "He acted like a dick."

The police disregarded the landlord's malarky. Instead they asked the squatters to sit down, so they formed a circle on the kitchen floor. Then the cops brought the landlord before each of them and asked him if he recognized them, and if they had permission to be in the house.

The landlord's answers were all negative. The SFPD, which included officers as high as captain, then cited the occupiers for misdemeanor trespassing, read them their Miranda rights, and subsequently released them one by one.

The squatters declared victory and left, for now. And the building was left empty, one more.

One of the occupiers contested one of the landlord's claims in the Chronicle today that "It's not actually vacant. I use it for my own personal uses." According to this occupier, who has been monitoring the house for the better part of a year, "I haven't seen any changes to the place in all that time, and I certainly haven't seen him there."

It's not clear what the landlord's "personal uses" to Jose Morales' former home have been since he kicked Morales' out over two years ago, other than purposely keeping it empty. The Chronicle identified him as "Ara Tehlirian of Daly City," not San Francisco.

An occupier also charged that Tehrlihan's lawyer, Andrew Zacks, also quoted in the Chronicle, specializes in cooking up ways to evict tenants for landlords.

"The San Francisco Tenants Union once picketed Zacks' home" to protest all the complaints they had received about him from tenants who had suffered at Zacks' hands, the occupier said.

Tonight there is one less place to live in San Francisco for people who are forced to live on its mean streets. But through the efforts of Homes Not Jails, a lot more people have seen how easily that situation can be changed for the better.