SAN FRANCISCO — A group of homeless advocates has taken over a vacant four-story downtown building to remind officials about the need for affordable housing in one of the country’s most expensive cities.
“This building is an example of dozens of city properties which stand vacant while there are over 12,000 people who are homeless and while every year over 100 people die while living on the streets,” said Ted Gullicksen of San Francisco-based Homes Not Jails, who spoke from an open second-floor window.
The building, currently owned by the San Francisco Unified School District, has been vacant since 1992. It formerly housed the High School of Commerce and the city’s Rent Board.
Gullicksen and seven other people illegally moved into the vacant building late Saturday. The building has no electricity, water and little furniture, but after renovations it could house at least 100 people.
“This building even in its current state ... is better shelter than what people can find in the streets,” Gullicksen said.
Gullicksen asked the Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance, expected to be introduced Monday by supervisor Chris Daly, that would require every city agency to make a real estate inventory, determine which properties were vacant and turn them over to nonprofit housing developers.
If the board passes the ordinance, it would be reviewed by a committee before going into effect.
The Surplus City Property ordinance would require that vacant city property be first offered for homeless housing or services before it is sold.
A federal law now requires that all excess federal property be offered as housing for homeless people before the it’s sold or offered anywhere else, according to Homes Not Jails.
San Francisco has no such law even though fewer than 30 percent of residents can afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment.
Gullicksen said his organization already has funding available that would allow them to begin the renovations.