San Diego sheriff reverses decision to resume evictions following outcry from local officials

The Sheriff's Office announced last week that it would resume enforcing residential evictions that predated the pandemic, as allowed by state law. Elected leaders, however, panned the move as "inhumane"

The San Diego Union-Tribune
By Teri Figueroa

Even though the state and county have issued coronavirus-related moratoriums on evictions, the Sheriff's Department said Thursday it would resume roughly 160 evictions that were in the works before the emergency measures were put in place.

But hours later the department backed off the plan, citing concern raised by elected officials.

As families struggle to make rent payments while the pandemic continues, protesters across the country have called for rents to be cancelled all together. Image: Wes Parnell/New York Daily News
As families struggle to make rent payments while the pandemic continues, protesters across the country have called for rents to be cancelled all together. Image: Wes Parnell/New York Daily News

"Although they agree serving these evictions are perfectly legal, they expressed concerns about the impact," the department said in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon.

After KPBS broke news earlier Thursday that eviction enforcement would resume, the plan drew political condemnation, and prompted at least one county supervisor to ask the sheriff to reconsider.

The evictions at issue were not barred by either moratorium. But carrying them out would have happened as the state and county remain under stay-home orders, and only essential businesses are allowed to operate. Shutdowns have prompted staggering unemployment numbers and created financial hardship.

On March 24, the county issued a moratorium on evictions for those facing economic harm due to the virus. Three days later, the state also ordered a halt.

On Thursday, the Sheriff's Department issued a statement explaining the move to resume evictions, and clarifying that deputies were not going to serve the orders to people protected by the emergency measures.

Those emergency measures, the department said, are intended to protect people "dealing with financial hardships directly created by the COVID-19 pandemic."

"We also have a responsibility to the landlords that depend on income for their livelihoods," the statement reads.

The department did not immediately respond to questions about whether resuming some evictions would have violated the spirit of the state and county orders. Also, it was not immediately clear how many of the residences in question are single-family homes or apartments, or how many are owned by individuals or companies.

At issue were about 160 evictions that had been court-ordered before widespread shutdowns swept the county and state. Those shutdowns led the department to put the brakes on those evictions as deputies were reassigned elsewhere. As they return to their regular jobs, the evictions were to resume.

The Sheriff's Department said Thursday that about 30 of those orders were recently canceled either by a court-ordered stay or by a property owner who had already taken "peaceful possession" of the residence.

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who is among those spearheading the local response to the pandemic, sent a letter Sheriff Bill Gore, acknowledging that the evictions were legal, but asking him to reconsider.

"Now is not the time to place vulnerable people at a higher risk of losing their homes," Fletcher wrote.

The chair of the San Diego Democratic party issued a statement blasting the move to resume, saying that "displacing helpless people during the most trying time in recent American history is just flat inhumane."

"What sense does it make to force families into homelessness during a global pandemic?" party chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy said.

(c)2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Recommended for you

Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved.