When the gods dance...

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Noe Valley faces evictions - and denial

Updated 04:21 p.m., Saturday, July 14, 2012

"Mortgage crisis has little effect on Noe Valley," read a Chronicle headline in February. Indeed, homes for sale in the upscale San Francisco neighborhood are getting multiple offers, often hundreds of thousands over the asking price. One of them, a 1,722-square-foot Victorian fixer-upper listed for $849,000, went for $1.2 million in May.

That was Kathy Galves' home, at Church and 24th streets, where she lived for close to 40 years before it was foreclosed in April by Wells Fargo.

Then there are Merrie Jo and Edzell Musni, who could be kicked out of their nearby Glen Park home this month by Bank of America.

They are not alone. Seventy homes in the 94131 and 94114 ZIP codes, encompassing Noe Valley, Glen Park and Diamond Heights, are in foreclosure, according to a tracking service.

"We were stunned when we got the list," said Susan McDonough, an organizer with Occupy Noe (yes, you read that right), a neighborhood group that formed this year, initially trying to prevent Galves' eviction.

Since then, McDonough and others have been knocking on doors of homes on the list, seeing if there's anything the group can do to help.

"It's not easy. Many are in denial," she said. "It's a shameful process."

Galves, 63, chose to leave voluntarily after attempts to reach an arrangement with Wells Fargo. The bank gave her $7,500 to help with moving expenses, and she is temporarily sharing a house in the Bayview while looking for a new place to live.

"It's a mind-blower, what they're asking for rent," she told me. "It's something I've never experienced before, because I've never had to rent an apartment or a room before. And I need to stay in San Francisco because I have a lot of health problems and a lot of doctors I see here. There are so many things going on over which I have no control."

Meanwhile, Occupy Noe, having taken up the Musnis' cause, is holding petition drives outside the BofA branch on 24th Street this week. The couple's experience is similar to so many others who have faced the same situation: being put on the "dual track" - the foreclosure process going forward even as they attempt to negotiate a mortgage modification - and, until very recently, not having a single point of contact with a bank employee. "It's been a nightmare," Merrie Jo said.

They should be protected by the Homeowners' Bill of Rights, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last week. It forbids the dual track process and mandates lenders provide "a single point of contact with knowledge of their loan and direct access to decision makers" for homeowners seeking loan modifications.

"These new rules make the foreclosure process more transparent so that loan servicers cannot promise one thing while doing the exact opposite," Brown said.

Unfortunately, the law does not take effect until Jan. 1. California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who was the driving force behind the bill, also had pushed for a moratorium on foreclosures in San Francisco and elsewhere, but without success.

Now that the bill has been signed, a 5 1/2-month moratorium, giving the Musnis and others a chance to get out from under, might not be a bad idea.

Andrew S. Ross is a San Francisco Chronicle columnist. E-mail: bottomline@sfchronicle.com Blogging: www.sfgate.com/columns/bottomline Twitter: @andrewsross Facebook page: sfg.ly/doACKM

COMMENT:  The foreclosure machine grinds on. One of my neighbors attempted suicide last night. I recently discovered my ex-wife's home is up for auction next week. My grandchildren live/ed there. A woman with two boys not more than 10 years of age lives in a rusty van near my house. I've reached out to San Francisco officials like Phil Ting (Mr. ReSet SF), the City Attorney and the mayor for help with my own foreclosure battle with Wells Fargo and have been completely ignored. The media brushes all this under the political rug, even though foreclosures are up 6% nationally. It's a nightmare.


  1. There was once another land, not long ago, where neighbors disappeared and citizens turned the other way. We have been trained to avoid "unpleasantness," like sickness, poverty, and death, by immersing ourselves in games and shopping. This would never have happened in my home town. The local savings and loan often provided forbearance to blue collar workers who were on strike or disabled. That institution required no bailout and is still healthy. That's good business. Neighbors sat on front porches and talked to each other. Food was provided collectively to those who were in a rough spot. Community. Family. Compassion. Then builders got rid of the porches and stoops and people enclosed their lives and minds in fences and gated prisons.

  2. The homeowner stands alone against the awesome power of the banks and their political supporters. It is a killing, horrific experience designed to tear apart the homeowner's body and soul. Those in foreclosure generally do not have meaningful financial resources so you might have to eat "Ramin noodles" to pay for all the copying and faxing of documents. Unfortunately, the message I got from a few friends was to call when it's over:) Many neighbors stop talking to you. Their property values are affected. Isolating, chilling, humiliating experience.

    We (who is we?) give money to failed banks while we leave citizens hanging on meat hooks while the banks saved from "foreclosure" pick at their bones. No punishment for fraudulent behavior in the financial services industry; no real oversight to prevent more predatory, destructive behavior. On the other hand nothing...nada...for the distressed homeowner who committed no crimes against his neighbor or country.