Late Monday (July 19) afternoon housing activists took over the long vacant 43-unit Sierra Hotel in San Francisco’s Mission District. The hotel has been empty for years and is in a state of disrepair though structurally sound. The takeover is “a collective act of homefulness” to protest government cuts of social services that will result in more people being out on the streets.
San Francisco, July 19-It was open house at the Hotel Sierra at 20th and Mission Streets today. Late this afternoon housing activists from Stop the Cuts Bay Area opened up the long vacant residential hotel.
Occupiers found their way into the hotel prior to a rally at 16th and Mission Streets followed by a march up Mission to the site, whose ground floor hosts a T Mobil store.
On the sidewalk below the Sierra, protesters chanted, danced, waved signs, spoke out and enjoyed free food from Food Not Bombs. Upstairs the new residents hung out banners, opened windows and made themselves known for all the world to see.
A single SFPD cruiser with 2 officers sitting in it stood guard over the proceedings across 20th Street.
After a while the downstairs entrance to the hotel on 20th opened up, and occupiers allowed people to come on in and take a look around. After mounting some long neglected steps, we were welcomed to tour the 43-unit hotel. Similar states of disrepair were evident throughout the place, but it appeared structurally sound and has running water and functional toilets.
Activists called the occupation “ a collective act of homefulness” to protest government cuts on all levels that will result in more homelessness, while places like the Sierra are allowed to sit and rot.
A statement about the action asserted,
“In a city with so much conspicuous wealth, an estimated 6,000 to 15,000 individuals sleep without a roof over their head. 23,000 or more others are on the waiting list for public housing (a list that is often closed to new applicants), while some 30,000 housing units sit empty.
“The mayor’s vision of San Francisco? Million-dollar condos and ‘affordable housing’ that most residents can’t afford; schools and other publicly owned buildings laid to waste; jail bunks and early graves for those who have no place to rest but the sidewalks.”
The Sierra Hotel also has a storied history of its own. According to several people at today’s action, in 1910 it was The New World Hotel, hideout to radicals of the time and known at “The Last Stop Before Hell.”
Tonight it’s the home of today’s radicals, who’ve made it open to everyone who needs to get off the streets. They’re taking the first steps to put an end to the hell of living without a place to call home these days.
Michael Steinberg is a former OBcean and currently lives in the Bay Area. He can be reached at blackrainpress [at] hotmail.com
UPDATE: Police moved in, evicted everyone, and arrested five squatters. All have been released.