Lee and the foreclosure crisis

Our mayor's face has been conspicuously missing from the Bernal protests


EDITORIAL More than 1000 homes in San Francisco are either in foreclosure or at the start of the process. Some 16,000 homeowners are underwater, and as many as 12,000 may face foreclosure in the next 12 months. A report by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment shows that the city could lose $115 million from the reduced property taxes and the costs of carrying out evictions.

That's a crisis — and while the mayor has no direct control over home foreclosures, he ought to be speaking out and joining the protesters who are fighting this cascade of often-fraudulent bank actions.

The problems are legion: An audit released in February by Assessor Phil Ting shows that more than 80 percent of the foreclosure notices filed in San Francisco contain at least one legal irregularity, and many contain multiple. Banks back-date documents, use faulty information, and in some cases clearly and directly break the law when they move to seize property — often because of bad-faith loans that were more the fault of the banks than the homeowners.

A group from Occupy Bernal, the well-organized, sophisticated operation that's been intervening in foreclosures and evictions in the Southeast neighborhoods, visited us recently, and the stories we heard were alarming. Some told of bankers who promised to make loan modifications — then went ahead with foreclosure anyway. Some people spend weeks just trying to figure out who actually owns the mortgage — and while the financial institutions are ducking calls and hiding from responsibility, they're moving forward to toss people out of their homes.

ACCE and Occupy Bernal have had some successes — they slowed down foreclosure actions, forced banks to come to the table and in some cases saved homes. But the activists are up against big corporations and big numbers — too many homes on the block, too many financial institutions, and not enough people and money.

The Ting report showed enough violations of law that we've already urged the city attorney and the district attorney to start taking action.

But we've heard little beyond silence from the office of Mayor Ed Lee.

Lee's the city's chief executive, the person who has to handle the financial fallout of the foreclosure crisis as well as the human impacts — families evicted from their homes have a high chance of winding up on the streets, putting additional pressure on already-stressed social services.

Besides, this is a tragedy — and a lot of the problem is simply unaccountable, unreachable financial institutions. If Occupy Bernal and ACCE, through volunteer organizing and community pressure, can prevent a fair number of evictions, thing what the mayor of San Francisco could do — just by speaking out.

Lee ought to show up at some of the Occupy Bernal actions, but that may be too much to ask. But it's not too much to suggest that he publicly support the foreclosure fighters and call on the banks to work with local homeowners.

The city keeps its multibillion-dollar short-term cash accounts in institutions like Bank of America, which is responsible for more than 10 percent of all foreclosures in the city. Wells Fargo, with its headquarters right here in town, is responsible for 22 percent of the local foreclosures. Lee ought to let the banks know the city won't keep doing business with bad actors.

With a little visibility, the mayor could help save hundreds, maybe thousands of families from facing homelessness. This crisis calls for leadership; where's the mayor?


Out of curiosity one of the questions I asked at the recent Land Use hearing on foreclosures was, "How many foreclosures/evictions have occurred when folks had their loans/mortgages with a Credit Union". Few if any I imagine.
This crisis is just the slime on the surface of a very deep cesspool. There is substantial evidence that a disproportionate number of cases have been in lower income minority communities, largely as a result of predatory loans. However I suspect we will see an increasing number in more affluent areas. The recent Wells Fargo eviction of Kathryn Galves from her Noe Valley home of 40 years is a case in point. My suspicion is the banks are engaged in a strategy of building up their rental stock and have a vested interest in acquiring peoples homes. Until we build more affordable and low income housing this situation is only going to get worse, particularly in cities like San Francisco where the demand for housing far exceeds the supply. This is a golden goose for the banks who make more profit by regularly collecting exorbitant rents rather than a one time sale.
While the challenge of confronting the power of the financial institutions and their political enablers is daunting, there are some actions we can take as individuals including:-
> Pressure your Supervisor and the Mayor to support the Foreclosure Moratorium
introduced by Supervisors Avalos, Campos and many of their colleagues.
> Support the creation of an SF Municipal Bank.
> Transfer your funds to a Credit Union or similar local institution that truly cares
for and is committed to the communities in which they do business.
> Call for a thorough investigation of any fraudulent activities or irregularities by
'lenders' and aggressive pursuit of criminal or civil action when appropriate.
This is San Francisco, si se puede. We should be setting an example for the nation in rooting out the corruption in these criminal enterprises. Kamala Harris, Tom Ammiano, Mark Leno and many of our Supervisors are leading the way. I suggest we thank and support them.
Incidentally, while it may be a 'coincidence', Kathryn Galves, was one of the few remaining black residents of Noe Valley. Unfortunately we became aware of her 'situation' way to late in the process and there was little we could do beyond offering support, most of which came from ACCE and OccupyBernal.
While I am frequently on the other side of the fence from my Supervisor, Scott Wiener, I would like to thank and commend him for issuing an official letter to Wells Fargo requesting a 90 day stay of eviction proceedings, Adam Taylor in his office was especially helpful in this. During the Land Use meeting Scott indicated that he would at least be open to considering supporting the Foreclosure Moratorium. Thank you both.
Just my thruppence.


Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Apr. 04, 2012 @ 9:35 am

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