Some 30 protesters occupied several vacant properties in San Francisco’s Cathedral Hill neighborhood along Geary Boulevard Monday night as part of World Homeless Action Day, organizers said.
The demonstrators, led by the squatters’ collective Homes Not Jails, entered the shuttered Cathedral Hill Hotel at 1101 Van Ness Ave. at about 6:40 p.m. Monday, according to Brian Wilkes, a representative for the group.
Activists with Homes Not Jails were joined by OccupySF participants in occupying the 600-unit hotel, which closed in October 2009 to make way for California Pacific Medical Center’s new Cathedral Hill Hospital, a $1.7 billion 555-bed acute and women and children’s care hospital.
According to Wilkes, people who occupied the building found that most of the rooms remained furnished and in habitable condition.
A call to a CPMC spokesman seeking comment this morning was not immediately returned.
The activists say that enough residential units exist in San Francisco to end homelessness in the city.
Citing 2010 U.S. Census data, Homes Not Jails claims that more than 10,000 people are homeless in San Francisco but that the city has 30,000 vacant housing units.
The group rallied at 5 p.m. at Civic Center before marching to the vacant properties. By 8:15 p.m., activists had occupied three more properties near the hotel: 1020 Geary Blvd., 1028-1030 Geary Blvd.–a 17-unit apartment building–and 1034-1036 Geary Blvd., Wilkes said.
Police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said police cannot take action to remove the demonstrators unless the building owners ask them to do so.
A property owner would need to sign a citizen’s arrest form to give police that authority, Esparza said, adding that the Police Department has been in contact with the owners of the Cathedral Hill Hotel.
“Typically, these protesters that occupy these buildings don’t tear them up, and they don’t vandalize them,” he said.
The demonstrators tend to be peaceful and vacate the buildings on their own after drawing attention to the issue, Esparza said.
“Time is on our side,” he said.
World Homeless Action Day is held annually on Oct. 10 to shed led on “homeless people’s needs locally and provide opportunities for the community to get involved in responding to homelessness,” according to the World Homeless Day website.
Patricia Decker, Bay City News