Don't just stand there -- squat!

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Leave a nice place empty and maybe someone will move in!

You know I love this story. I love it so much I am going to be following it for weeks, and I hope for years. A homeless guy takes over a $2 million mansion in Florida, which was sitting empty while Bank of America dicked around and never sold or rented it, and now the bank is going to have a tough time getting rid of him.

Did I say I love this story?

Check it out:

It only gets more complicated. By invoking an obscure but never rescinded nor revised Florida law, Barbosa is using “adverse possession” to justify his claim in the house, as it allows a person to move in and claim title of a property “if they can stay there seven years.” Florida has suffered more than one similar case. The Sun Sentinel makes reference to a “handful” of adverse possession claims making their way through the Palm Beach County Property Appraiser’s Office, but Barbosa’s stands out because the house he’s possessing (adversely) is so valuable. And though Barbosa is certainly eccentric, posting a sign that he is the “living beneficiary to the Divine Estate being superior of commerce and usury” on the front of the home, he isn’t stupid. He even contacted the Appraiser’s Office to alert them that his tenancy had begun, presumably as he intends to stay for the required seven years.

We haven't had any good high-profile public squats like this in San Francisco in years. Back in the day, my old friend Paul Kangas and his brother John were the kings of squats; Paul found an empty house in the Sunset in the late 1970s, with the paint peeling and the shutters hanging off the windows, moved into it, fixed it up, had the water and power turned on in his name and lived there for years. He didn't operate in secret or the middle of the night; he got the lock re-keyed, moved all his stuff in, and acted like he owned the place. He fixed it up nicely, took care of the yard -- and the neighbors loved him. An empty eyesore was now a clean, inhabited house.

Paul was no fool; he had researched the place and found out that the owner had died without leaving direct descendants or a clear will, and for a long time, nobody in the city or the legal system could figure out who actually did own it. Paul needed a place to live; this one was going to be empty for a long time. Why not use it?

John did the same thing with an abandoned house in the Mission, except that to open the door, he had to climb in a window. Somebody saw him, called the cops .... and he was arrested for burglary (for taking the front door knob, which he was going to replace.) He took the case to trial, and it was spectacular: His lawyer, Jonathan McCurdy, called a bunch of city officials and asked them who John had stolen the door knob from; "who," he kept asking, "actually owns this property?" The title was unclear; nobody could answer the question.

Then John took the stand and said he wasn't a burglar at all; he was a squatter, who was planning to take over, fix up, and live in an abandoned house.

The jury took about an hour to come back with a verdict of not guilty.

There are plenty of pieces of property around the Bay Area that are owned by banks and sitting vacant. Some of them are becoming eyesores. Somebody ought to be living there.

As we used to say, Don't just stand there -- squat!