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A downtown lot was supposed to be luxury homes. Instead, it’s a fenced-off encampment 

The lot at 325 Fremont St. has had approved housing plans for years, but the only thing on the lot is a homeless encampment. | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

A downtown lot was supposed to be luxury homes. Instead, it’s a fenced-off encampment 

Living in a tent behind fences at 325 Fremont St., Omar told The Standard he had no idea the dry grass lot he lives on in Downtown San Francisco was supposed to be a 26-story apartment tower. 

Omar also said he didn’t know about the nine 311 complaints about homeless encampments on the site. He declined to give his last name for privacy reasons.

“Why do people care?” he said when told about a Reddit post complaining about tents on the site. 

For a decade, plans to build 118 market-rate homes on the empty lot have been approved, but it still sits empty.

A person stands by a fence amidst scattered belongings and debris, including a stroller and barricades in a grassy, vacant lot near a building.
A tent seen at 325 Fremont St. on June 5. Debris on the site has since been cleared. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard
The image shows an outdoor area with scattered belongings including a tricycle, a cooler, pillows, a bike, and various items on the ground, suggesting a makeshift living space.
Debris, a Lyft bike and belongings seen at 325 Fremont St. on June 5. The site has planning permission for luxury homes that have not materialized. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Planning officials said there has been “no activity” on the plans since they were filed and approved.

The early stage plans were also thin on details but showed a rooftop terrace and space for 61 underground parking spaces. Glossy renderings are still available online, showing a ritzy-looking glass and steel construction replete with balconies overlooking Rincon Hill. 

A 2017 building permit for the tower estimated a construction cost of $43.5 million.

Developer Z&L Properties, fresh from a corruption scandal, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Its website still loads but shows nothing but a landing page that reads “destined to become California’s premier condominium developer” and very little else.

A homeless man is forced to leave an encampment.
Xavier Pektelidis, center, was removed along with his possessions from the empty lot on Fremont Street. | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

In late 2023, the firm pled guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was fined $1 million in a federal case in which its owner, Zhang Li, admitted in federal court to bribing a San Francisco official to move forward with a high-profile development.

‘Loud yelling at night’

There have been at least nine 311 complaints about the lot in the last two weeks, including multiple mentions of an encampment there, with one describing “loud yelling at night, with lots of glasses shattering,” “drug dealing,” and “unwanted harassment towards (female) pedestrians.” 

An East Cut Community Benefit District spokesperson said the district was aware of the encampment and “liaising with the city to resolve it,” but only police officers and sheriff’s deputies had the authority to remove people from the lot.

Two people speak to each other.
A neighbor in a blue shirt speaks with an East Cut CBD member next to a recently cleared empty lot on Fremont Street. | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

On June 5, a spokesperson for the Department of Emergency Management, which oversees encampment sweeps, said the lot “has been on our radar for a while,” with members of the police department’s Healthy Streets Operation Center Homeless Outreach team visiting the site.

“We are continuing to clean up the debris left behind,” the spokesperson said. “Our team is now working with the owner to secure the site, and prevent it from being re-encamped in the future.”

But by June 6, Omar was camped on the lot, seemingly unaware of the sweeps or that he may be trespassing, despite signage around the site warning against entry.

Neighbors are upset that 311 keeps closing the ticket on the empty lot despite the proliferation of encampments. | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

A spokesperson for Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who represents the area, said Dorsey’s office was working with city departments to relocate campers. His office declined to comment further. 

The sheriff’s office said in a voicemail they don’t handle encampment resolutions and deferred to the city’s Healthy Streets Operations Center, a seven-department city body that clears encampments and provides outreach services.

Representatives from the police department and the Mayor’s Office did not respond to requests for comment by publication time.

The image shows a vacant, fenced lot surrounded by tall buildings, including a beige and orange building. Safety barriers and a makeshift tent are visible.
Omar's tent was seen in a debris-free empty lot at 325 Fremont St. on Tuesday. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Meanwhile, after more than 30 years since its former life as two office buildings and a parking lot, Omar said Tuesday he now has permission to clean up the lot from the site owners—and live there free while doing so. It did look quite tidy, to his credit.

Garrett Leahy can be reached at
George Kelly can be reached at