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What Killed Ted Gullicksen?

by Michael Steinberg Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 at 6:34 AM

Almost four months have passed since Ted Gulliciksen died. Today we still don’t what killed him.

Almost four months have passed since Ted Gulliciksen died. Today we still don’t what killed him.

The San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office continues to say its investigation of the cause of Ted’s death is “still pending.”

Ted died at home in his sleep last October 14. Ted Gullicksen was a prominent San Francisco housing activist, the longtime head of the San Francisco Tenants Union, and a rambunctious hell raiser in Homes Not Jails, the squatters’ group that has taken over hundreds of abandoned buildings in SF and elsewhere with homeless people.

This tragedy was aggravated by its timing. When Ted died in mid October, the November 4 election was less than a month away.

Perhaps no ballot issue was gaining more attention than San Francisco’s Proposition G, which would have cost real estate plunderers mega bucks had it passed (It lost 54-46%)

Ted Gullicksen was one of the leading forces promoting Prop G’s passage.

And what killed Proposition G? Big real estate money, most of it from outside the Bay Area.

On October 3, reported...“the measure is neck and neck in early polls, according to sources in both camps.”

The article also reported that big bucks, mostly from outside San Francisco were filling the No on G coffers to overflowing: 0, 000 from the SF Association of Realtors; 0,000 from the Los Angeles based California Association of Realtors; and 0, 000 from the National Association of Realtors in Chicago.

By comparison, Yes on G had about 0,000 to work with at this point.

Ted was quoted as saying: “They have been hitting us pretty hard on mailings. We expect they will spend million or .5 million by the end of the campaign.”

But Ted Gullicksen wouldn’t live long enough to see that. Eleven days later he was dead.

Proposition G was an anti real estate speculation measure. Real estate speculation has been drawing money to San Francisco from all over the world to flip building and force people out of their homes fast and hard, with the landlords waltzing away with obscene profits.

Prop G would have put a damper on landlords playing with people’s lives like this ,by forcing the flippers to pay much higher taxes if they flipped the tenants’ homes within the first five years of ownership.


After joining a large crowd at Mission High School in SF for Ted’Memorial on November 16, I sent a copy of his Remembrance booklet to my friend Michael Canright in Colorado.

I’ve known Michael since the late 1970s, when we worked together at the San Francisco Tenants. Union. Michael is one of the founders of the TU, where I cut my teeth as a housing activist doing tenant counseling and building organizing.

Some time later, I was working closely with Ted in the 1990s in Homes Not Jails, opening up abandoned buildings across the city for and with its homeless citizens.

One day Michael shared a tale about his acquaintance with Ted. It went something like this:

“Ted came to San Francisco in the 1980s. I got to know him though the TU.

“At one point Ted was really down and out. He literally couldn’t take care of himself. So I took care of him. I nursed him back to health until he could get back on his feet again.”

And from that point on Ted Gullicksen dedicated his life to helping the most downtrodden among us to stay on their feet. Ted helped many thousands to stay in their homes with the Tenants Union, and to seize homes if they didn’t have any with Homes Not Jails.

I soon heard back from Michael. I’d told him that, before Ted died, he’d appeared to be in good health, as usual riding his bicycle wherever he went.

Michael replied, “Since he rode his bike everywhere, did he seem feeble? If not, what killed him? Could it have been a ‘hit’ by the landlords? Take a good look. I believe they wanted him dead and he certainly cost them lots of $.”

Dead Ends

I’d been thinking along these lines already. And so, encouraged by Michael, I started taking that hard look.

I started by calling the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office, at 415-553-1694. It was December 15, two months after Ted’s death.

Surely they could tell me what had killed Ted by now.

But that was not to be. At first I was told “these things can be very complex,” and could “take a few months.”

When I pointed out that it had already been two months since Ted’s death, I was told that actually it could take “3-4 months” to determine a person’s cause of death.

Another factor, I was informed, in this delay, which was “not surprising,” was a “big backlog” in unresolved cases.

It was recommended that I “check in a month,” and if “no cause has been found” I could “forward a message to the pathologist “ investigating to inquire about the case.”

I called back on January 15. This time I was told that Ted’s body had been “examined on October 17,” three days after his death.

“Then,” I was told, after “12 weeks a letter is sent to the next of kin with the cause of death. Then it becomes public information.”

But, as of this writing on February 12, it’s been almost 16 weeks since Ted’s death. Yet when I called on February 10, I was once again informed that that Ted’s “case” is “still pending.”

This time I did leave a voicemail with the pathologist assigned to investigate the cause of Ted’s death, assistant examiner Ellen Moffatt.

I told her I was a friend of Ted’s, and was a journalist investigating the cause of his death myself.

Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard back.

Given all this, can anybody be expected to rest in peace?

Anyone except the landlords, that is.

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