How Rich San Francisco Non-Profit Property Owners Promote Homelessness

by on April 25, 2012 · 3 comments

in California, Civil Rights

888 Turk Street, San Francisco.

Recent building takeovers have exposed the role of rich non profits in promoting homelessness by deliberately keeping vacant perfectly good structures that could provide homes for many without a roof over their heads.

Most recently, the April 1 takeover of 888 Turk Street in San Francisco by Occupy SF revealed the duplicity of the Archdiocese of San Francisco in this shameful situation.

The Archdiocese initially was caught by surprise on the day of the takeover, as hundreds streamed into the building and set up the SF Commune, a free space that was to serve as a community center and home to homeless people in cooperation with Occupy SF.

OSF invited the Archdiocese to participate in discussions and planning for the project, saying that the building had been empty for five years and needed a, well, resurrection.

When the light of day came on April 2, mainstream media reported that a meeting would take place that afternoon. But as it turned out, the Archdiocese refused to talk to the occupiers, instead characterizing them as extortionists while riot cops stormed the building, kicked everyone out and arrested scores.

Besides, the Archdiocese claimed, 888 Turk had only been empty for one year, not five.

But SF’s little known and rarely (if ever) enforced property Abandonment Ordinance states that a property may be declared abandoned after it has been left empty for 30 days or more.

The assessed value of 888 Turk is about $5 million. The Archdiocese can easily afford to let a $5 million building sit empty, for a year or 5 years. Especially since, as a religious organization, it is exempt from paying property and other taxes.

In years past, I would research property ownership for the SF Tenants Union, and encountered page after page of properties owned by the Archdiocese.

The Archdiocese could certainly help create a solution to homelessness in SF if it wanted to.

Two previous takeovers of the 600 unit former Cathedral Hill Hotel at 1101 Van Ness highlighted an even worse abuse by California Pacific Medical Center. It is also a gigantic non-profit non-taxpaying entity, in this case of the “health care” variety.

The first occupation was by Homes Not Jails on October 10 of last year, World Homeless Action Day. Occupy SF followed suit on January 20 of this year.

The assessed value of this property is in excess of $62 million. A quarter page ad in the 2009-10 Yellow Pages sings its praises: “With Over 390 Rooms, 30,000 Square Feet of Meeting and Banquet Space, 32 Guest Boutique Style Suites.”

But CPMC bought up the property, shut it down, and has left it vacant to rot. It did the same with small businesses and residential housing in the neighborhood. This involved putting a restaurant and furniture store out of business, and evicting low income tenants.

CPMC plans to knock down the hotel and put up an upscale highrise hospital. The city has given the green light for this project to go on, in return for a measly amount of so called affordable housing to be thrown up. Certainly nothing like the 700 or so housing units it wants to destroy.

If they really wanted to promote healthy happy housed communities in SF, CPMC and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, with their billions of dollars, surely could. But instead they are promoting homelessness.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

tricia April 25, 2012 at 11:28 am

The same could be said for areas here in San Diego.I find it appalling that buildings remain empty, and the sidewalks remain full with people sleeping or storing their belongings.Stop treating them as though they are invisiable.They are not, and the problem will not go away simply by ignoring them.


Uva Be Dolezal (@Uva_Be) April 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm

There is a very similar problem with affordable artist live work housing in SF. I think there is a case to be made, and the problem is the same. Money rules and people suffer. Please don’t think me crass to compare homelessness to lack of space to create art in the city. I mean this sincerely as we all share the sidewalks and there is so much potential for changes that make our world better and so little action.


imominous April 29, 2012 at 4:41 pm

You can’t really think someone is going to open up a multi-million dollar building for the homeless. The liability would be astronomical if anyone got hurt in there. Then too, the wear on the building would be a problem as well.


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