By Christopher D. Cook
March 20, 2012
As a tidal wave of home foreclosures sweeps across San Francisco neighborhoods, displacing more than 12,000 city residents since 2008, dozens of community activists and several city supervisors today called for a suspension of foreclosures — rallying around a resolution by Supervisor John Avalos to stop local foreclosures and support the California Homeowner Bill of Rights.
The rally on City Hall steps, organized by Occupy Bernal Heights and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE, formerly known as ACORN) featured several “foreclosure fighters,” residents who are on the verge of losing their homes.
“We are not asking for a handout, we’re just asking for modifications of our loans,” said Ernesto Viscaro, a struggling homeowner and member of Occupy Bernal.
Another homeowner, 63 year-old Kathryn Galves, told the crowd that her Noe Valley home, which she shares with her sister and her dog, is slated to go “under the sheriff’s [foreclosure] axe tomorrow.” She listed a litany of health problems including high blood pressure and a kidney ailment that she says have been exacerbated by the stress of the impending foreclosure of her home by Wells Fargo.
At the end of the rally, a member of ACCE announced that her eviction had been postponed for a week.
Following the rally, Supervisor Avalos introduced a resolution – co-sponsored by Supervisors David Campos, Christina Olague, Jane Kim, Eric Mar and David Chiu, “Urging city and county officials and departments to protect homeowners from unlawful foreclosures.” The measure also urges mortgage and banking institutions, “especially San Francisco-based Wells Fargo,” to “suspend foreclosure activities and related auctions and evictions.”
The resolution cited a recent $26 billion settlement agreement between the US Department of Justice and five major banks, including Wells Fargo, “over findings of misconduct in foreclosure activities.”
Wells Fargo representatives did not return repeated requests for comment.
One speaker who is under threat of foreclosure, Archbishop Wayne King of Bayview, said the foreclosures are “destroying our communities”– but he said embattled homeowners are fighting back. “We are being preyed upon by some gangsters, thieves and thugs. I’d rather borrow money from Al Capone…It’s like someone threw an alarm clock in the graveyard and we woke up.”
Avalos, whose own family home is “under water about $100,000,” said the foreclosures are not only wrecking communities, they are undermining the future of a whole generation. “Our property is our wealth,” he said. “This is how we pay for our kids going to college, how we pay for our medical care… We have seen a whole generation that has lost its wealth, and we are here to fight back…We are drowning in our mortgages and we need to get relief.”
But, “a postponement is not enough,” said District 9 Supervisor Campos. “We need a moratorium on foreclosures in San Francisco. We are asking all city agencies to not play any role” in administering foreclosures, he said.
District 5 Supervisor Olague argued that foreclosures affect renters, too; that they are endangering the city’s economic and racial diversity. According to the resolution, more than half of the foreclosures in San Francisco (6,279) have “occurred in San Francisco’s predominantly African American and Latino communities.”