SF Judge Won't Dismiss Squatters' Lawsuit - Homes Not Jails FWD

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 15 May 1999 13:58:34 -0700 (PDT)

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Would a Squat-To-Own campaign, backed by a lwasuit such as the one cited
below, work where you live?

FWD  San Francisco Chronicle - May 15, 1999


     Homeless group wants building in Lower Haight

     Yumi Wilson, Chronicle Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - Homeless people and their advocates who squatted in an
abandoned house in San Francisco's lower Haight neighborhood for five
years and paid nearly $6,000 in back taxes claimed a victory
yesterday after a judge refused to dismiss their lawsuit seeking
ownership of the building.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge David Garcia's ruling means
that Homes Not Jails can proceed with its attempt to win ownership of
the two-unit building, which was vacated in 1989 after owner Alice
Jones died.

Nils Rosenquest, an attorney hired by the city to fight the
group's claim, had sought to dismiss the suit, based on insufficient

``It was simply a motion that tested the legal sufficiency of the
case,'' Rosenquest said. ``I was questioning, in a sense . . . whether
Homes Not Jails could maintain the lawsuit.''

Squatters have never taken ownership of a building in San
Francisco through an obscure statute that Homes Not Jails is trying
to invoke, which is the state's adverse possession law. The statute
allows anyone who has lived in a building for at least five years and
paid the taxes to try to win title.

``There are a lengthy number of successful cases related to rural
property or farmland, as well as a smattering of cases in some
suburbs or urban areas like New York City (using similar laws),''
said tenant advocate Ted Gullicksen.

In the past, Gullicksen and other homeless supporters have tried
to take ownership of buildings in San Francisco by living there
illegally for years. But they have always been kicked out.

The city is also trying to take over the house. City Public
Administrator Ricardo Hernandez became involved last year after
Jones' relatives did not come forward to deal with neighbors'
complaints that the building at 715-717 Page St. was surrounded by
trash, populated by noisy residents and rife with building and health
code violations.

Police also discovered in November that Victor Willis, who had
been the ``police officer'' in the Village People disco music group,
was squatting there and allegedly starting fires in the living room
to keep warm.

For a while, Jones' sister in Houston pursued control of the
estate, but that attempt seems to be fizzling out, both Hernandez and
Gullicksen said.

Gullicksen's group filed its claim to the building in January
after paying the back property taxes. The squatters held a party in
the house on New Year's Day to celebrate their ``ownership,'' but
police broke it up. Eight people, including Gullicksen, were arrested
on suspicion of trespassing.

They were later released without being charged. The bright-yellow
building, located in a neighborhood that in recent years has been
transformed from a seedy drug haven to a working-class hub, remains
padlocked and empty.

Gullicksen still hopes the city will allow the homeless to live in
the house while the Homes Not Jails' suit is decided.

``The relatives in Texas have given up,'' Gullicksen said. ``We
want the city to give up and do the right thing. We have a legal
right to the building, and we want them to back off.''


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