After Pressure from Occupy Bernal, Wells Fargo execs fly across country to meet with Bernal Heights man

Alberto Del Rio speaks at an Occupy Bernal press conference Feb. 14

People facing eviction and foreclosure often report hardly being given the time of day by banks and lenders. But yesterday, three top Wells Fargo executives flew to San Francisco to meet with Alberto Del Rio, a Bernal Heights resident facing foreclosure.

Del Rio's parents purchased their home in 1973. The home was refinanced multiple times, he says “for a better life” for his family. The most recent refinance, in 2007, was a result of lenders convincing Del Rio’s mother that refinancing would be an easy to pay for some of her retirement. 

“It sounded really great because my mother had no monies for retirement. The loan officers told her pull out some cash and reinvest it so she could have a better retirement. They told her, ‘after two years, you’ll be able to refinance out of this,’” said Del Rio.

The loan she got was a pick-a-pay loan, one of the most notoriously predatory loans that banks offered in the years leading up to the 2008 crash.

After continued requests from Bernal resident Alberto Del Rio and support from that neighborhood’s foreclosure-focused branch of the Occupy movement, Del Rio was finally given the time of day- by top executives in the Wells Fargo home preservation department.

The executives, including Sharon Zuniga and Shawn Woods, who flew in from Wells Fargo’s headquarters in Texas, met with Del Rio Feb. 22 at the San Francisco offices of Consumer Credit Counseling Services for about an hour and a half.

Del Rio says they gave him three options: to move out of his home and convert it into rental units, allow a short sale on the house and accept $3,000 to move, or let foreclosure proceedings continue as planned.

“They flew a guy here all the way from Houston to try to bully him into giving up,” said Buck Bagot, an organizer with Occupy Bernal.

But the fact that they took the time to do that was a result of continued pressure from Del Rio and his supporters.

“It was a good thing,” said Del Rio.

“But it also felt like they were trying to pressure us into doing something they wanted us to do rather than what we wanted to do.”

Del Rio says he’s grateful to Occupy Bernal for supporting him thus far. And when the Wells Fargo executives pled with him to give up his home, he refused.

“I’ve made up my mind. I told them, if I’m going to lose the house I’m going to lose the house to a fight, to what I want.”

His perseverance worked to a degree; the bankers agreed to give Del Rio 90 days to “increase his income,” and then, potentially, work towards loan modification. Del Rio, an independent contractor, thinks its possible.

Meanwhile, Occupy Bernal will continue to struggle others who, often, are ignored by banks when they express their need for loan modification.

“Looking at everybody that I’ve been meeting that’s going through foreclosure and eviction, every single person is either a person of a minority group, a senior citizen, disabled, or someone else that would be easily influenced when approached with a better life, a better financial life. It can be seen in all their faces,” Del Rio told me.

Occupy Bernal has help postpone and prevent dozens of evictions, including that of Monica Kenney yesterday morning. They are planning a forum tonight on foreclosures to be held at the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center.

Also from this author

  • Privatization of public housing

    Many residents feel they're moving from the frying pan of Housing Authority control into the fire of developer and nonprofit management

  • Homeless for the holidays

    Changing demographics in the Bayview complicate city efforts to open a shelter there

  • Betting on Graton

    Newest casino targeting Bay Area residents promises to share the wealth with workers and people of color