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Housing activists rally, occupy vacant residential San Francisco hotel

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At least 50 people occupied a vacant building in San Francisco’s Mission district Monday to call for the community to reclaim what housing activists said was a “waste of housing.”

The squatters collective Homes Not Jails organized the rally, march and occupation that began at Dolores Park at 4 p.m., said Matt Crain, a self-identified squatter who was one of the dozens of people occupying a 43-unit building near the corner of 20th and Mission streets.

Crain said that the building, once the Sierra Hotel, has sat unused for almost two decades. The same space was occupied by activists almost a year ago, when activists from Stop the Cuts Bay Area demonstrated at the long-vacant residential hotel.

“It’s the most egregious waste of housing resource in the Mission,” Crain said. “It’s been vacant more than any of the other housing that’s being converted,” he said referring to the Dolores Hotel, a 59-unit residential hotel on Woodward Street.

As of 5:25 p.m., Crain said that there were about 100 people still outside at the ongoing rally but that police had yet to make an appearance, which was “a little unusual.”

Crain said that Homes Not Jails was reclaiming the vacant property for homeless families and individuals. Organizers are outraged that on any given night approximately 10,000 San Franciscans are sleeping on the street.

The activists cited 2010 Census data indicating that some 32,000 housing units remained vacant.

“Personally, I’d like to see the community occupy the space, take it over and use it,” Crain said. “It’s the community that’s sleeping on the street in front of these 43 units.”