“Occupation” is quickly becoming a buzzword around San Francisco.
More than two dozen people stormed the vacant Cathedral Hill Hotel on Monday night intending to occupy the building in the name of homelessness. And for the past several weeks, people aligned with Occupy SF have taken up residence outside the Federal Reserve on Market Street to protest financial institutions and the wealthy.
The group known as Homes Not Jails, a squatter collective, said the Cathedral Hill occupation is intended to increase awareness that there are more vacant buildings than homeless people in San Francisco. Later Monday, several more buildings on Geary Boulevard were taken over.
“There are over 30,000 unoccupied homes in San Francisco and more than 10,000 homeless,” said Abdullah Malik, a member of Homes Not Jails.
Malik was one of nearly 50 people who marched from the Civic Center to the former hotel site. The group used bolt cutters to open a gate that surrounded the hotel. Two dozen people stormed inside, running in several directions. People hung signs on the hotel’s former marquee that read, “Occupy Everything” and “Homes Not Jails.”
One organizer who intended to stay at the property overnight said he wanted to see what a building with 600 unoccupied beds looked like.
The hotel was vacated in October 2009. California Pacific Medical Center owns the property and plans to build a new $1.7 billion hospital.
Kevin McCormack, a spokesman for California Pacific, said he understands there is a need for affordable housing in San Francisco, but Monday there was more concern for safety.
“It’s pretty empty in there,” McCormack said. “A lot of fixtures and things have been taken out. They’re going up on the roof and it can be unstable; that’s a concern.”
Following a brief confrontation with private security at the hotel site, protesters went to 1030 Geary Blvd., less than a block away. The three-story white structure was once the Charles Hotel, a single-room-occupancy property. Several police officers followed the group, but did not intervene.
At 8:15 p.m., Homes Not Jails posted on its website that 1020 and 1034-1036 Geary Blvd. also had been occupied.
Last year in a similar movement, the Creative Housing Liberation took over the former Leslie Hotel at Eddy and Larkin streets.