Yul Dorn, a pastor, social worker, and lifelong Bayview resident, was supposed to be evicted this morning. About 50 activists, union members, and church members gathered to blockade his home on Las Villas Court and prevent sheriff’s deputies — bodily, though not violently — from removing Dorn and his family.
“They usually just leave if there are a lot of us here,” said Grace Martinez, an organizer with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, described as “a union for neighborhoods.” ACCE fancies Dorn a cause célèbre in a “one house at a time” fight against eviction in the Bayview, where black families make up 21 percent of the population but 40 percent of evictions.
[jump] The axe was supposed to fall at 9:00 a.m., but the deadline came and went without a uniform in sight. Eventually, the locksmith went home, and the activists dispersed at noon, their planned standoff with authorities deferred to a later date.
This is the second time in as many weeks that the pastor has found that his eviction notice is firing blanks. Maybe he’s living a blessed life. “I’m not going anywhere,” Dorn said this morning. “I’m going to win this.”
Dorn, 58, bought the Las Villas Court house (three doors down from the one his wife grew up in) 20 years ago. He also owns a second house a few blocks away, inherited from his in-laws. He’s years behind on both mortgages but insists it’s not his fault, blaming a string of bank errors in 2008 for making him delinquent.
(Chase Bank’s mortgage department says that it can’t comment because it would mean disclosing Dorn’s private financial data, something they’re not permitted to do. Although I will cite them as employing a highly skeptical tone of voice over the phone.)
The house went on the market and sold in June for $485,000. New owner Quan He, a programmer and Chinese immigrant living in San Jose, arrived this morning to take possession of the property, but instead of the sheriff’s backup he expected he encountered a wall of protesters.
ACCE activists appealed to He to delay the eviction, even promising to buy the property from him. Mike Eggiman of the real estate firm 29th Street Capital confirms that he’s willing to buy the house on Dorn’s behalf. But He doesn’t seem interested in selling.
Dorn says his family has nowhere else to go, with his second house both rented out and due to go on the market in February. His adult daughter and 8-month-old grandson (who was the subject of that oddly nonchalant kidnapping scare on BART last week) are living with him.
Quan He, for his part, frames himself as the put-upon party. “All I did was buy a house,” He says. “I don’t want to kick a family out, but I’m out of work, I’ve spent a lot of money on this, and I have to pay my son’s tuition.” He’s afraid that if he allows the Dorns to stay, even briefly, he’ll have to evict them all over again.
Asked why the city appears reluctant to roust him, Dorn noted that he’s the sheriff’s department chaplain, and credited former sheriff Ross Mirkarimi for sparing him before. Mirkarimi confirms he put the brakes on the original Jan. 5 eviction, but says he did so not as a special favor but because the sheriff has discretion to procrastinate on evictions if the evicted party is deemed particularly vulnerable.
“I know Yul Dorn, but we’re not friends,” says Mirkarimi. “He came to us for help, just like hundreds of other people whose evictions we held up. It’s something we do so that we’re not putting the neediest people in danger.”
Sheriffs can’t drag their feet forever —“We have to obey the writ,” Mirkarimi says — but they can delay in hopes that the conflict resolves itself in the meantime. Eileen Hurst, chief of staff for new sheriff Vicki Hennessy, confirmed that today’s planned eviction wasn’t going to happen, but couldn’t say why.
“I just started on Friday,” she added.
So for now it’s a waiting game. Dorn’s supporters can’t blockade his driveway every day, but they contend they’re not going anywhere either, and may gather again tomorrow.
“We’re just a phone call away,” says Carolyn Gage, a neighbor and childhood friend of Dorn, who made headlines five years ago by breaking into her own foreclosed home and refusing to leave. “We’re always here. We‘re in the house paint.”