SF: squatters' suit still proceeds

Agent Smiley (smiley_777@hotmail.com)
Sun, 16 May 1999 08:09:33 PDT


Judge Won't Dismiss S.F. Squatters' Lawsuit

Homeless group wants building in Lower Haight

Yumi Wilson, Chronicle Staff Writer

Saturday, May 15, 1999

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 evidence.

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

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),创 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创 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,创 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,创 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.创

1999 San Francisco Chronicle  Page A15


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