Participants aim to stop evictions, save lives in Bay Area county with highest rate of evictions
San José, CA 27 ene 2021 — San Jose residents, joined by tenants from throughout the Bay Area, have formed a human blockade to shut down eviction court at the Santa Clara County Superior Courthouse in downtown San Jose (191 N 1st St.). Every week, 25 to 30 eviction proceedings occur at the Santa Clara County Superior Court.
The Bay Area Regional Tenant Organizing Network (RTO), a coalition of 30+ tenant groups throughout the Bay Area including San Jose community group Sacred Heart Community Service, organized the eviction blockade to stop evictions scheduled for hearings, urge Presiding Judge Deborah Ryan to halt all eviction proceedings during the pandemic, and call on Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith to immediately stop enforcing lock-outs during the pandemic.
“Tenants throughout the Bay Area are being evicted as many landlords are taking advantage of the loopholes in the County, State, and Federal moratoriums, and the spike in COVID-19 cases can be directly linked to evictions,” said Chad Bolla with the North Bay Organizing Project, an RTO member group participating in the blockade. “Our most powerful response is when we as tenants organize in solidarity with other tenants to stop evictions and save lives.”
The patchwork of inconsistent municipal moratoria, coupled with a statewide eviction moratorium that has been riddled with loopholes, has failed to stop evictions during the pandemic. Santa Clara County ranks highest in the Bay Area for evictions during the pandemic, followed by Contra Costa County. As a recent UCLA research paper shows, evictions contribute to a higher COVID-19 infection rate and a higher number of deaths.
In Santa Clara County, Presiding Judge Deborah Ryan and Sheriff Laurie Smith have done little to prevent evictions. Judge Ryan has failed to adopt the Housing Collaborative Court model, a common-sense model adopted by other presiding judges that aims to avoid using evictions to solve negotiable issues between landlords and tenants. Sheriff Smith, also unlike other county sheriffs in the Bay Area, has been enforcing lock-outs during the pandemic. Through their decisions, these two officials have contributed to the high eviction rate in Santa Clara County.
“The Bay Area Regional Tenant Organizing Network aims to stop evictions at courthouses throughout the region,” said James Huynh of the Regional Tenant Organizing Network. “Ultimately, Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators have the power to pass a stronger moratorium and forgive tenants’ debt while helping small, struggling landlords.”