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Are homeless people living on San Francisco rooftops?

The rooftop of an apartment building is seen during the daytime.
The roof of 624 Ellis St. is seen on Friday. Video posted online this week appeared to show a tent on the roof. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Acrimony about the San Francisco homelessness crisis is festering again after video surfaced on YouTube of a tent pitched on an apartment building’s roof.

The building at 624 Ellis St. is in the city’s Tenderloin neighborhood, which is known as the epicenter of the city’s drug and homelessness crises.

While the video drew attention and elicited a string of comments online, including on X, the building’s residents were mostly unsurprised that someone could be living on their roof.

Drone footage posted online Thursday showed a tent pitched on the roof of 624 Ellis St.

Unhoused people frequently seek places where they will not have to worry about being awakened, forcibly removed or assaulted, according to Jennifer Friedenbach, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness.

Others in San Francisco have also reported seeing people living on rooftops, and people doing so is common in other cities around the world, such as Cairo and Hong Kong.

READ MORE: San Francisco Homelessness: City Helped Residents Install Planters

A man who has lived at 624 Ellis St. for a year said he was not shocked someone might be sleeping on the roof of his building. He said he has occasionally seen people sleeping in the stairwell leading to the area where the garbage is stored.

“It’s not too surprising,” said the man, who declined to give his full name because he feared the building’s management could take issue with him speaking with the press. “There’s a door, you can get to the roof and it’s open.”

A stairwell leading down is seen through a hallway door.
A resident of 624 Ellis St. said he occasionally sees unhoused people sleeping in the stairwell leading down to where the garbage cans are stored. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

“They get in from where the garbage is,” he said, adding that management has tried to address the issue and that he has seen fewer people sleeping in the building in the last month. “It’s gotten better,” he said.

When The Standard contacted the building’s management company, Gaetani Real Estate, the building’s manager, Noel Radcliffe, said he was unaware of the tent on the roof and planned to address the issue.

The Standard visited the building Friday and accessed the roof with relative ease through an unlocked door. There was no tent present on Friday, but there was a blanket and a sleeping bag, which looked to be the same as the one seen in the drone video.

A red sleeping bag is seen on the floor.
A sleeping bag was present on the roof of 624 Ellis St. on Friday. Drone footage posted Thursday showed a tent on the roof. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Another resident, who said his name was Alex Alexander, has lived in the building for about 15 months and was more worried than angry about someone living on the roof of the four-story building. “I’m just concerned for his well-being,” the tenant said. “He might trip and hurt himself.”

A woman died in October when she fell from an apartment rooftop during a Blue Angels viewing party.

The building has apparently had issues with nonresidents entering without permission. A note on a third-floor resident’s door warned tenants not to prop doors open.

A sign posted on a hallway door warns building residents to not prop doors open to prevent non-residents from accessing the building.
A sign posted on a hallway door warns tenants at 624 Ellis St. not to prop doors open. | Source: Garrett Leahy/The Standard

Radcliffe and Gaetani Real Estate principals Marcus and Paul Gaetani did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at