Squatter Villas

The never-ending pattern of eviction, renovation, or teardown and rebuild provides temporary residences for San Diego’s homeless. I had wondered why encampments suddenly vanished along either El Cajon Blvd or Florida Street here in University Heights. The so-called unhoused moved into unoccupied flats.

What a sad, tragic state of affairs across from Kindred Hospital on Georgia Street. Around the beginning of the year, a woman living in a charming Craftsman-like house had to leave, because the property had been sold for redevelopment. I once chatted with her about renovictions and calico Rosie. Renters of the apartments next door were forced out some months later. I had photographed ginger kitty Harvey there in June 2021. Both animals appear in my “Cats of University Heights” series.

The house is fenced off and locked up, but not the neighboring flats, as you can see from the Featured Image and companion—both captured using Leica Q2. Vitals, aperture manually set for both: f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/320 sec, 28mm; 2:36 p.m. PDT, April 30, 2023. The other is the same but 30 seconds later.

The first photo sets squatters’ scene—eight shopping carts in view, debris, and open apartment doors. The second shot is for context. Behind, a seven-story, block-long apartment complex is under construction. Developers purchased and demolished a church that offered free food to the needy on most Fridays.

Today, a Nextdoor post from two days ago showed flames rising from the back building (4328). I vaguely recall hearing sirens Sunday afternoon. I walked over to shoot additional pics and survey the damage. But I arrived just as a stocky fellow got out of a car and approached the property. He looked like he belonged there and had come to see who, if anyone unwanted, remained.

“There was a fire?” I asked. “This is the second time”, he answered. He nodded affirmatively to my next question about the apartments being torn down. Waving his arm: “A fence is going to go around within a week”. Cordoning, sometimes adding security guards, is the typical deterrent against squatting that too often ends with drug dens. And, yeah, they’re fire risks.

I chose not to disturb the gent’s squatters search and left without taking more photos. He looked surly enough—cautious, too—about the property’s state.