San Diego Sheriff Halts Evictions, Hours After They Were Set To Resume
UPDATE: 6 p.m., May 7, 2020:
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has announced that it will no longer resume evictions in San Diego County.
In a statement released late today, a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s department wrote:
The Sheriff's Department had planned on resuming evictions that were in effect prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have heard from several elected officials. Although they agree serving these evictions are perfectly legal, they expressed concerns about the impact. Accordingly, the Sheriff's Department has decided to suspend eviction service pending further discussion. said it made its decision after hearing from several elected officials about the impact the evictions might have on public health and safety during the pandemic. The department says it has paused the evictions pending further discussion.
Earlier this week notices appeared on the homes of at least 160 San Diego County residents, announcing that eviction enforcement would be resuming in San Diego County.
According to the notices, the residents had five days to vacate the premises in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. For many of those 160 residents, the day to vacate is today.
“The eviction for the property identified on the attached Notice To Vacate was suspended by the Sheriff’s Department in response to COVID-19 pandemic,” the notice read. “The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is now resuming the enforcement of evictions that were previously suspended.”
On March 27, Governor Gavin Newsom announced an eviction moratorium through an Executive Order, which currently runs through the end of this month.
The Sheriff’s Department said the evictions are not of people who haven’t been able to pay rent during the pandemic, but instead the people who were given an eviction action by the court in the days leading up to the Executive Order.
“As deputies begin to return to their regular assignments, the Sheriff's Civil Division will resume evictions that were in effect prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Sheriff’s Department told KPBS in an emailed statement. “In preparation to resume the evictions, deputies visited each location where a pending lockout was previously posted and delivered flyers that explained the process to the occupants. Whenever possible, the deputies sought out the tenants and explained their need to vacate.”
Greg Knoll, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of San Diego, said that the resumption of these evictions during the pandemic only contributes to public health hazards in the county, and adds to the burden of the county’s already stressed homeless services programs.
“Now, with COVID-19, there are so many families that have had to reunite in their living quarters, having to double up, there’s no way to tell the total number affected by these evictions,” said Knoll, whose organization has represented seven of the households facing today’s evictions. They’ve successfully stopped six of those evictions.
Despite the moratorium, housing court has remained open in downtown San Diego.
“It is troublesome to me that in a time when what we want to do is prevent homelessness or the spread of homelessness, we can stop adding to that number and people can stay in their homes,” Knoll told KPBS. “We have to now worry about these households, and whether people are going to be available to help them and get them into shelter right away.”
The Sheriff’s Department confirmed that approximately thirty of the households that were given eviction notices this week have already been reclaimed by the property owners. It also said that tenants who expressed concern about COVID-19 were directed to the county’s housing services.
But Knoll said the evictions themselves are just adding to the county’s health crisis.
“There is no reason to add 130 households of untold numbers of people to the homeless population," he said. "It’s just wrong,”