By Rigoberto Hernandez

A group of housing activists occupied the vacant second floor of a building on the corner of 20th and Mission Streets Monday night and said they don’t plan to leave unless they are forced out.

T-Mobile occupies the first floor.

“We are going to vote with crowbars,” said one protester at the rally that began at 5:50 p.m. at the 16th Street BART Station.

Another added, “You can put me in a house or in a jail, but if you put me in jail, it’s going to cost you more.”

The group claiming responsibility is calling itself Direct Action to Stop the Cuts. It is protesting that, while the building is vacant, some people go without shelter.

The group’s Facebook page includes some of the organizers, who also took over the former homeless shelter at 150 Otis in June and a Mission duplex on the 500 block of San Jose Avenue in April.

At around 6:30 p.m., some 50 protesters left the BART plaza and marched up the southbound lanes of Mission Street until they reached the 41-unit property at 3491 20th Street.

When they arrived, a group of protesters had already taken over the building and put signs on the roof and windows, one of which read “Capitalism Kills.”

Matthew Crain, who helped organize the April takeover on San Jose, opened the door to let in anyone who “wanted to occupy.”

“It’s opened for the people by the people,” Crain said as he let protesters in and out the front door.

Crain said the protesters got in through the back door, which was open.

“You’d be surprised how many buildings are open,” he said, adding that the building is known to be used by squatters.

Crain produced a certificate of use for the building listing T.M. Patel and Edward Litke as the owners. It was good only until 1991. He speculated that the second floor has been empty since then.

“If they cared about it, would it be like this?” he asked, pointing to the damage.

Patel and Litke were not immediately available for comment.

At 9:45 p.m., seven protesters were still inside. There was running water and electricity. James Tracy, who was offering legal support to the group, said several housing groups had negotiated with Litke several years ago, through then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano, to turn the property over, but the talks fell through. He said Litke owned several buildings in the Mission.

Police said they were trying to contact the owners, and would remain at the scene overnight.

Earlier in the evening, police officer Samson Chan said that typically SFPD can’t arrest people inside a vacant building until the owner reports that someone is trespassing.

“We want to make sure there is a crime,” he said, adding that they will monitor the situation.

The police would also intervene if they saw anyone vandalizing the building, Chan said.

By Rigoberto Hernandez

A man in his 20s who identified himself as Tom, and who had also helped take over San Francisco State University in April, said he was occupying the building because it was an unused resource.

The group’s Facebook page claims that some 6,000 to 15,000 people are homeless in San Francisco and 23,000 more are on a waiting list for public housing.

There were reports in January that the San Francisco Housing Authority had stopped accepting new applicants. The Housing Authority did not respond to calls earlier on Monday.

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Rigoberto Hernandez is a journalism student at San Francisco State University. He has interned at The Oregonian and The Orange County Register, but prefers to report on the Mission District. In his spare time he can be found riding his bike around the city, going to Giants games and admiring the Stable building.

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  1. If this is the same building @ 20th Mission which used to have the Ritmo Latino store on the ground floor, its not exactly abandoned. The owner fixed up the second floor and is trying to find someone who will sign a master lease to operate the SRO. Instead of trespassing and damaging the building, why don’t the protestors lease and manage the units for affordable housing instead of trespassing and damaging the property!

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