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Real estate’s immigrant underground

Newcomers occupy a netherworld of illegal rentals

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Men, women, children – they were all there, packed in like canned fish. No furniture, no heat, no windows. More than 60 people, up to 12 to a room. Two bathrooms. No real kitchen. A veritable riot of daily life squeezed into a space never intended for habitation at all. If you're imagining a Cambodian refugee ship or some flophouse on old San Francisco's Barbary Coast, you're straining your imagination. Don't think "then and there." Think "here and now." More specifically, think of a commercial two-story industrial building on a corner of 24th and Folsom in the Mission District in San Francisco. Think of one of the darkest examples of underground "affordable housing" that has ever met the California light of day. There is much talk about the dearth of truly affordable housing in pricy San Francisco, yet every day, poor people make their way to this city and manage to find shelter – without sleeping in the streets, without getting a voucher for government-subsidized housin...