Save our homes

Occupiers are still fighting foreclosures, from Bernal Heights to the doorstep of Wells Fargo's CEO

Protesters demonstrate outside Well Fargo CEO John Stumpf's home on Feb. 21.

This story has been edited

Bay Area activists, fueled in part by the Occupy movement, have recently taken stands against police brutality, for the rights of the homeless, against the corporate power of banks, and much more. But, arguably, nowhere has the movement been more successful than in the fight against foreclosures and evictions.

With the support of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and the Bayview Foreclosure Fighters, several Bayview residents whose homes had already been sold continue to occupy them, and in some cases sales have been rescinded. Occupy Bernal has used civil disobedience to postpone six housing auctions, keeping their neighbors in their homes that much longer. They secured a meeting with Diana Stauffer, Wells Fargo Home Mortgage senior vice president, and David Campos, District 9 supervisor, to delay foreclosure proceedings.

But the activists are pushing for a full moratorium on foreclosures and evictions in San Francisco. Such a moratorium is not without precedent. In recent years, sheriffs have stopped evictions and foreclosures in Wayne Country, Michigan; Cook County, Illinois; Butler County, Ohio; and Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania.

When Cook County Sheriff John Dart imposed his moratorium in 2010, he said, "I can't possibly be expected to evict people from their homes when the banks themselves can't say for sure everything was done properly. I need some kind of assurance that we aren't evicting families based on fraudulent behavior by the banks."

San Francisco seems ripe for a similar stance, as Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting recently released a report revealing widespread lawbreaking in foreclosure proceedings. The report found that 84 percent of foreclosures in San Francisco over the last three years involved faulty paperwork, some of it amounting to fraud.

Representatives from the District Attorney's and the City Attorney's offices told the Guardian that they are concerned about the report. These bodies may be starting the process of further investigating findings. Last week, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, whose office carries out the county's evictions, said he has begun an initiative to collect and analyze the city's foreclosure data.

But Mirkarimi's hands may be tied. As he told Ann Garrison of KPFA radio Feb. 25, "I don't have the latitude or discretion, much as I would like, because there would need to be a change in state law that empowers municipal sheriffs to be able to use that discretion."

Occupy Bernal formed just a couple months ago, but it has emerged as a powerful advocate for homeowners facing foreclosure. The neighborhood-based branch of the Occupy movement chose to focus specifically on preventing the evictions of Bernal Heights residents, where over 100 homes face foreclosure.

They kept the pressure up Feb. 25, when a group of supporters convened at 1090 Chestnut Street, the residence of John Stumpf, the CEO of Wells Fargo. That bank owns the majority of mortgages on Bernal homes facing foreclosure.

The protest wasn't meant to block the street and no one tried to enter the building where Stumpf owns three of the 14 floors. But police decided that the group of about 150 warranted blocking off the entire block to traffic, to the annoyance of many neighbors.

"You collected $43.7 billion in taxpayer money and have since made record profits at the expense of low-income communities, while repeatedly breaking your legal and moral obligations as a creditor.


trying to pay their loans and debts. It sends a message to every honest, hard-working homeowner that they are stupid to pay their mortgage because, if they don't, they can live there for free.

It's irresponsible. But at least it's refreshing to see Occupy trying to do something limited and local, rather than last years overblown "change the world" empty rhetoric.

Posted by Anonymous on Feb. 29, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

Too bad anonymous is uninformed about OccupyBernal's demands. No one is asking the banks to let people live for free.

Taxpayers bailed banks like Wells Fargo and BofA out, all of us. Interest rates are close to zero. The banks can afford to modify loans, but are foreclosing instead, with questionable and illegal practices as noted by independent auditors.

Modify loans to keep families in their homes.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 12:08 am

should their obligations be reduced? If I can't make my car payments, why should I be able to pay less.

Two wrongs don't make a right. Kick these deadbeats out, and move on.

Posted by Anonymous on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 7:26 am

Look, Anonymous,these loans were predatory and were also the reason the economy tanked. The banks knew it and they put them out anyway, and into particular communities. Your black and white perspective on this is stale and chances are you're a realtor, a banker, or a land speculator. And considering you can spend the time to comments on this means that's the extent of your activism.

Posted by Anti-anonymous on Mar. 14, 2012 @ 9:43 am

I see the bankers stooges are hard at work here spreading their false propaganda,people take the blinders of before it to late....

Posted by guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 8:31 am

In 2008, the MBS crisis was caused by banks and borrowers making poor choices. That cratered the economy and resulted in tens of millions who did not make poor choices being sucked down an economic drain by the actions of others, losing their jobs and possibly their homes.

Can't put that toothpaste back in the tube.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 8:46 am

The prosecutors and public officials looking into this disaster, like Kamala Harris and Phil Ting, have barely scraped the surface of the institutional criminality behind it. That will come out only with investigation of the actual documents and workings of mortgage securitization, and the tsunami of Truth in Lending Act (TILA) violations committed when these loans were written to homeowners.

Most loans were structured to go bad as soon as the statute of limitations had expired. I.e., at the end of three years time, negative amortization payment options, which many borrowers never even understood, ran out, and much higher payments, and/or balloon payments were suddenly required. Homeowners who have let the statute of limitations run out have little recourse, at least with regard to the TILA violations, and few have the money to hire legal help once they're facing foreclosure, but public prosecutors should be encouraged to consider all prosecutorial options, including racketeering laws.

Posted by Guest Ann Garrison on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 10:05 am

In part of the conversation that I didn't have time to include in Saturday's KPFA News, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi said that he had contacted all three of the sheriffs in the country who grabbed headlines by refusing to continue with foreclosures and found that they had only been able to do so temporarily. He said that he had been able to slow one eviction long enough for the homeowner to go to court and get a stay, but yes, he's ultimately legally obliged to enforce court orders, much as he might dislike it.

California needs to become a judicial foreclosure state, meaning creditors should have to document their right to foreclose in court. Or the Assessor and Sheriff's office should be granted the authority to stop a foreclosure when documentation is so faulty as to make it illegal.

Posted by Guest Ann Garrison on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 4:57 pm

But even if he did, he can't stop evictions and foreclosures, and would go to jail if he tried. One way or the other, he's gonna end up banged up.

If people would just pay their debts, they wouldn't get kicked out.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 01, 2012 @ 5:26 pm

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