Occupy San Francisco Takes Over Vacant Hotel

by on January 25, 2012 · 9 comments

in California, Civil Rights, Economy

Editor: Check out the following report by former OBcean Michael Steinberg who now lives in San Francisco. Apparently, the Occupy movement in San Diego is not the only one with problems with the daily fishwrap.

On January 20 Occupy protestors took over a 600 unit vacant hotel in San Francisco. But the San Francisco Chronicle missed the point. Actually it missed a lot of them.

As the final action of January 20th’s Wall Street West San Francisco protests, activists marched to the former Cathedral Hill Hotel at Geary and Van Ness and took it over.Why? The San Francisco Chronicle’s report the next morning only informed us that, upon arriving and being greeted by riot cops, “Some activists threw bricks and bottles, injuring two officers, one in the chest and one in the arm.” Also that “40 people broke in through a back entrance and loudly cavorted in the 600-room hotel for two hours. When they threw furniture from the roof, several dozen police cleared the building.”

But why did the protesters do this?

The newspaper merely described the building as “empty.” Beyond that there was no further information about the site, such as how or why it got to be empty, who owns it, or what plans there are for it in the future.

So, for instance, there was no mention that the owner is California Pacific Medical Center, “a Sutter Health Affiliate.” Nor that it is CPMC that has emptied the building and is deliberately keeping it vacant and letting no one live there, allowing its furnishings and everything else in it to rot, barring anyone who needs shelter from the winter storms, such as those that raged that night.

Sutter Health Affiliates has been carrying out $2 billion in construction projects in recent years around the Bay Area to build new or expand existing medical facilities at five locations. For its part, California Pacific Medical Center, Sutter’s San Francisco component, plans to throw up a $1 billion, 555 bed hospital at the Cathedral Hill site, which would be the centerpiece of a five facility empire it wants to sprawl across the city.

You didn’t read any of that in the Chron either. Neither did we learn that the giant so called nonprofit health provider has also bought up, emptied and shut up other residential and commercial buildings in the neighborhood, including a cafe, furniture store and restaurant across Van Ness from the hotel. Further down Geary, at 1040, stands a shuttered residential hotel where CMPC recently evicted 40 low income residents.

All this in a city where, according to the 2010 US Census, over 30,000 vacant housing units sat unit.

So was it mindless thugs and occupy frat boys out on a weekend binge who threw furniture out widows Friday night? Was it homeless terrorists who pelted cops for keeping them from getting out in the rain? Or was it something quite different going on?

Once again, no clue from the Chron.

So by now it should come as no surprise to not learn from the Chronicle that CMPC’s grand scheme involves demolishing all the buildings it has under lock and key, with free security courtesy of the SFPD. And then filling the Van Ness corridor with its new medical palace, uh facility.

And certainly the San Francisco Chronicle isn’t going to let you know that while all of this is going on, CMPC is slashing and burning services at its St. Lukes’ loacation in the Mission. After all, those poor people can just go to General Hospital, the sole remaining public one in the city.

The things they don’t tell you!

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lois January 25, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Hard to grow up and know your hometown isn’t perfect.


Mark January 25, 2012 at 10:14 pm

The article title confuses me… What’s a “vacate hotel”?


editordude January 27, 2012 at 9:03 am

Mark, sorry, just a typo – and we missed it in a headline too! Very bad. Spell check didn’t advise us either as “vacate” is a word. Plus spellcheck doesn’t work in headlines – in case you were wondering.


The Red Son January 26, 2012 at 8:45 am

also nothing was thrown at the police at any point. they have provided no proof.


The Bearded OBcean January 26, 2012 at 10:43 am

Since when did the San Francisco Chronicle become anything but a champion of progressivism? Maybe it’s the message that’s the problem if one of your bastions of liberalism has missed the point.


john January 26, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Le’s get some facts here:

Did OWS/SF break into and trespass on private property or not?
(it being a 600 room building vacant while people live on the streets is irrelevant)
Did OWS/SF have individuals throwing furniture off the roof, clearly endangering the safety of others, or not?

While it may seem like a good idea to some to allow poor and homeless people to squat in condemned buildings especially on cold nights, experience shows especially in large multistory structures, you’re only asking for trouble- for the squatters and the surrounding neighborhood.
No PD in the country would allow this by policy, should be funny to see which OWS supporters are so blinded by allegiance they will be sympathetic to this.

This is also why OWS is seeing its support by the public fade remarkably fast. They don’t support anarchy.


matt February 3, 2012 at 1:50 am

I was at that action and I never saw furniture thrown from the roof. People did carry some furniture down the stairs and place it in the street. I spoke to a reporter while I was there about CPMC’s actions in San Francisco but I guess they were more interested in the anarchists.

As far as I know the building is not condemned, just vacant. It’s actually very nice inside. The building still has running water and electricity and you can still see track marks on some of the carpets from the vacuum cleaners.

You should also know that CPMC is working very closely with Ed Lee’s administration on this redevelopment and that they are getting a very sweet deal. They also intend to use the new hospital to bust the nurses union. In my eye’s, CPMC is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with the system and our fight with them is not over.


john February 4, 2012 at 12:01 am

So you can’t say whether the Chronicle’s report about furniture thrown from the roof was wrong, just that if that did happen you didn’t witness it.
As for the building’s status well I don’t know what the official definition of condemned encompasses, as I understand it this is a building which is not currently being occupied and is slated for demolition and replacement with another structure- with no plans to be used at any point before this happens. I thought condemned was the most fitting word possible. I would guess you would argue the building was in too good of shape to be called condemned- to that I would reply it’s not a more convincing argument you had the right to break in and vandalize or steal the contents. Condemned buildings often see justification by some in the community to go ahead and make some use of it in the interim because nothing in it is of value to its owners. I’ve always thought that was a good concept even if it just means going in the night before the demo with a case of beer and some friends and kicking holes in all the walls . If it’s pretty clear that is not wanted by its owners and I do it anyway and get arrested it is pretty silly to complain I was wronged some way.


Michael Steinberg January 28, 2012 at 11:35 am

Thanks to everyone who responded to my article. Here are my comments in response.

Bearded OBecian: The San Francisco Chronicle is hardly a bastion of liberalism or progressivism. It exists to promote the interests of Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Bechtel and other giant corporations in San Francisco. I certainly agree that its message is a problem. It was the leading media voice in calling for police attacks on the Occupy SF encampment.

john: the fact is that we obviously disagree that the takeover of the hotel was justified. this is not a condemned building, it was a luxury hotel that has been empty for only a few years. As one single mother observed, it could be a home for all the homeless families in San Francisco. When there is an overwhelming need for housing, with 10,000 homeless in SF, and there are over 30,000 vacant housing units in this city, to dismiss the takeover of this building, which is just sitting there waiting to be demolished, just doesn’t cut it. Today Occupy Oakland is doing a takeover of a building over there. People are getting together to stop foreclosed folks from being kicked out of their homes by goon squads representing faceless corporate entities who happen to hold a piece of paper that has passed through so many hands nobody knows who really is the owner of record.

The fact is that California Pacific Medical Center, the entity that holds the paper on the “former Cathedral Hotel,” is the one who is running down the neighborhood. It is the one letting this and other buildings it holds the papers to sit empty and rot. It is the one who is asking for trouble.

On the same day of the hotel takeover, the California Nurses Association protested there earlier in the day, forming a human billboard that read “CMPC for the 1 percent.”

As for supporting people who hurl furniture down on people below, there’s no support for that. But did it indeed happen? Because of the Chronicle’s reputation for fanning the flames of hysteria instead of objective reporting, we must view this report skeptically.

For example, as to the supposed throwing of rocks and bottles, causing injuries to two police officers. The San Francisco Bay Guardian (the city’s real liberal/progressive newspaper) reporter Yael Chanoff wrote “But I witnessed the entire incident, and I can say that no rocks, bottles or bricks were thrown at police.” What Chanoff did see was that, “A dozen or so protesters had been pepper sprayed.”

Chanoff also reports that after several hours of protesters occupying the building, about 9:30 p.m. “police entered the building and arrested three for trespassing. About 15 others remained in the building, but left voluntarily after midnight.”

The real point of my article was to highlight all the pertinent facts that the Chronicle left out of its report. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to take a look at some of the falsehoods they did include.


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