Empty SF lot with 'no owner' creating controversy after residents attempt to claim space as garden

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ByLuz Pena via KGO logo
Thursday, October 27, 2022
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Controversy is brewing over San Francisco Mission District's empty lot with "no owner," as residents are pushing for it to turn into a green space.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- There is controversy in San Francisco's Mission District over a lot that has sat vacant for decades and has "no owner." It's been used as a parking lot, but now residents are pushing for it to turn into a green space.

Parcel 36 is what Mission residents call the lot. It can be found on Harrison and 22nd streets cutting into 23rd Street and Treat Avenue - a big enough space to create controversy.

Luz Pena: "What would you say if I told you that there is no known owner of this space?"

Felicia Tissenbaum (Mission Resident): "I would say that the city should give it to Mission residents to let us figure out a way to really use it."

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"It seems kind really silly that it's just seating there with no owner," said Jeffrey Yip, a Mission resident.

To understand how we got to this dilemma of who owns this lot and who put up the fence? We spoke to Mission resident Elizabeth Creely. For years, she has been writing about this space and now is part of the group Mission Greenway. The group has a vision for the space.

"What we would like to see is a greenway in common with Juri Commons, the community Parque Niños Unidos. We would like for it to include some aspects of urban agriculture," said Creely.

According to Elizabeth, the fence was put up in the 80s and one of the property owners in the area has the key to this lock. She said her group has tried for 10 years to speak to the person with the key, but this weekend they got fed up and broke the lock to begin a community garden.

"What we saw was people simply parking on it and what we thought was that there is room to share," said Creely.

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According to the San Francisco Real Estate Division, it appears that the last owner was Southern Pacific Railroad. In the early 90s, that network of railroads went out of business.

"All kind of things that have happened over the years. People trying to take claims on this land. There have been lawsuits and fake deeds and lost deeds," said Santiago Lerma from Sup. Hillary Ronen's Office.

Lerma works for Supervisor Hillary Ronen's office. This parcel is in her district.

"The railroad did have permission to use it and when they went defunct, they went to go get rid of the land and they found out they didn't own it - it wasn't theirs to dispose of. That is when the controversy began as to who really owned the land," said Lerma.

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Luz Pena: "So, who owns it?"

Santiago Lerma: "It's unknown to our office right now. I do know that the assessor office is looking into it."

Mission resident, Christina Maluenda Marchiel works at the preschool located right next to the parcel and is not opposed to the community garden, but would like some regulations.

"The concern is just like with the park across the street - if it didn't have proper fencing and if it didn't have a schedule of when the space was opened and closed to the public, if it didn't have city funding to be maintained for, if there are any issues for us to be able to call 311," said Marchiel.

For now, the future of parcel 36 is unknown -- kind of like the owner -- and the lock is back on the fence.

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