Friday, December 27, 2013


This is the Hotel Potter. It sits at the northeast corner of 9th & Mission in a gritty area of the City (meaning one with lots of poor, destitute and desperate people, a majority not white) that’s in the middle of the economic transformation occurring here right now (Twitter HQ is just up the street at 10th and Market). 

The Hotel Potter is an SRO owned by a man named Patel. (For those of you new to san francisco, a bit of history: many SF SROs are owned by the Patel family/clan from India. These SROs are, or have been, cash cows: let's say the average SRO has 75 rooms. Rent all those rooms for $100 a week in cash. At the end of a month, you have $30K, at the end of a year, over $300K, all cash. Now times that by 10 or more hotels. For more information about Patels and SROs, click:

Anyway, I was walking by the Hotel Potter in the first week of December and noticed a smiling snowman and presents painted on the front window, as well as a decent-sized Christmas tree in the lobby.

The tree wasn’t unusual;  many SROs did the same this time of year. The painted windows were unexpected. Curious, I walked into the hotel to find out more.

I asked the woman behind the front desk who did put up all the decorations. ‘Mike, the maintenance man’ she replied.
      I looked around. There wasn’t a bare spot anywhere. You could tell it took Mike a lot of time to do all this.

The decorations may not have been expensive, but they were sincere.

          My eye was caught by the large brass  ‘Hotel Potter’  plaque in the staircase lobby bench. I knew the Potter was built in 1911; the plaque looked like it had been there when the doors first opened.
         I asked the woman behind the desk how many people lived here. ‘About 80,’ she said. ‘Seniors?’ I asked. “Mixed’ she tactfully replied.
        I immediately thought of addicts, disabled, sketchy people, etc. At least they were able to pay the rent, which many of them can do. (Which I personally think is great. Otherwise, I'd be stepping around them on the sidewalk.)
        I took one last look around the lobby, thanked the woman for her time and letting me take photos, and left.