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Lodge Squat Provided Housing for Many in SF
After a two year run, The Lodge, a San Francisco squat started by Homes Not Jails, came to an end on March 15.
The Lodge was at 2454 Geary, across the street from Kaiser Medical Center, between Divisadero and Masonic.
Its occupation began in the spring of 2011. Homes Not Jails discovered the vacant building as it was preparing to take over another vacant site, this one owned by Kaiser on the corner of Divis and O’Farrell.
That building had become vacant after Kaiser bought the apartment building there some years ago, and then evicted its low income tenants. It’s sat empty ever since.
HNJ used the Geary spot as a staging area for the Kaiser building takeover in 2011. That action was successful in seizing the abandoned building and thereby exposing Kaiser’s role in causing housing abandonment and homelessness in San Francisco.
After the action one of the HNJ organizers needed a place to live. The Geary spot was available, and so he set up house there.
The recent history of 2454 Geary reflects that of the SF housing market as a whole. There was a foreclosure there, brought by the bank that held its mortgage, Washington Mutual. Then the housing market went bust, and consequently so did Washington Mutual. Chase Bank picked up the pieces, including its supposed ownership of 2454 Geary.
Chase hired Sotheby’s to sell the building. It put a for sale sign on it reading “Do Not Disturb Occupants.”
Somewhere along the line the building had been remodeled, and sported gleaming wood floors, all new appliances, and even a Jacuzzi.
The Sotheby’s real estate agent found out about the uninvited new resident, and summoned the SFPD to kick the alleged trespasser out.
But after the cops arrived at the premises, the agent reportedly treated the head cop in an insulting, condescending manner.
So the pissed off cop, instead of putting the squatter out on the street, looked through his mail until he found a letter that he proclaimed proved that the inhabitant was in fact a legal resident of the property.
This gave said person tenants rights, including the right to due process in an eviction legal action.
So, instead of getting a slam dunk trespassing ejection, Sotheby’s and Chase were then faced with something else, a mess that would cost them much time and money, and block their plans to make another quick killing on the SF real estate markup market.
But this turned out to be just the beginning of their problems.
Because news of the scene at 2454 Geary spread fast, and before you could say “Free Rent,” the three remaining primo vacant units were filled with other formerly homeless folks.
And so life at 2454 Geary took on a whole different meaning, and it went on like that for a month after month. A good many people who otherwise would have been out on the streets were instead enjoying the gleaming floors, new appliances, and yes, the Jacuzzi.
The building became known as The Lodge.
Chase finally broke down and tried to take legal action to kick the squatters out. Some residents refused to play that game, refusing to recognize the system’s attempt to tell them how to live, and where.
Unfortunately sheriff’s deputies came after a while to kick them out and change the lock on their apartment’s front door.
Other residents decided to play the system, claiming they were legal residents and that the court and Chase had to acknowledge them as such. Chase responded by having their lawyer file to have the residents’ action thrown out of court.
But the Chase lawyer reportedly had had no love for his client, and consequently the court instead ended up throwing Chase’s legal motion out.
This forced Chase to negotiate, and in end they had to give the residents more time to live at The Lodge and some money to move out on the Ides of March.
But before that, when Chase sent workers to put a new lock on the building’s front door, they gave keys to The Lodge’s remaining residents.
And so, for two years, the residents of the Lodge were able to live lives that showed that another world is indeed possible.