A group of homeless people and housing activists took over a privately owned duplex in the Mission District of San Francisco on Easter 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,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
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.”
More than 50 people marched in rain through the Mission District, hoisting picket signs that read “House keys not handcuffs” and chanting “Whose city? Our city.” The action was organized by Homes Not Jails, a 20-year-old Marxist group affiliated with the San Francisco Tenants Union. The group’s posters and other propaganda contend the rights of squatters should be given preference over the so-called “property rights” of those who buy and manage real estate in search of profit.
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, the Chronicle reported, holding banners from second-story windows. More than a dozen police officers were on hand, most standing on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. They did nothing.
Jose Morales, 80, lived in the San Jose Street building for 43 years before he was forced to leave in 2008 through the Ellis Act, which allows property owners to get out of the rental business. Mr. Morales said he now lives in a small space in an office building in the Mission District. “The city should have protected me,” he said. “It’s like they don’t see me. It’s like I’m a ghost to them.”
But attorney Andrew Zacks, who represented Mr. Tehlirian, said the landlord resorted to the Ellis Act only after Mr. Morales remained on the property illegally, after being given more than a year’s notice and relocation fees.
Why on earth would anyone continue to invest in the upkeep of rental properties in such an environment, where even the police, duly paid by a property owner’s taxes, won’t intervene to block or punish an act of property seizure?
This is Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco. Is this the future for capitalism and property rights in the United States? Some, evidently, will say “yes,” and cheer.
No time machine is available to send them to Leningrad, circa 1921, to see the kind of happy workers’ paradise to which such economic policies lead. Perhaps they’d like to visit Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela or Zimbabwe for a while. At the very least — as it’s clearly too much to expect them to read “The Road to Serfdom” — a screening of “1984” or “Escape from New York” may be in order.