Occupy Bernal Heights: No Tents Necessary

Categories: Occupy Bay Area
Thumbnail image for occupybernalposter.jpg
Courtesy of the Badass Bernalwood Press
Bernal Heights residents want homes, not tents
Bernal Heights residents are proving you don't really need to pitch a tent to fight big banks. As Bernalwood reports, a bunch of neighbors in the quirky neighborhood have decided to create an official "Occupy Bernal Heights" movement without protests and tents.

Don't expect it to look anything like what San Francisco saw on Justin Herman Plaza -- a motley crew of hundreds of tents, cops, and the 99 percent. This micro movement will focus a little more on the cause, which is to help save the many Bernal Heights residents who are losing their homes to foreclosures.

"There are 54 houses in foreclosure or in financial dispute [in the neighborhood] -- it's just horrible," says Elizabeth Stephens, a Bernal Heights resident who helped start the neighborhood Occupy movement.

Their first target is an elderly man named Thomas who has lived in his Bernal Heights home since 1975. The 72-year-old veteran has had trouble meeting his house payments, and now the banks are warning he will be evicted very, very soon.


"We will approach the bank and ask if they will renegotiate his loan," Stephens told us. "They will probably say forget it, but we are going to try. If that doesn't work, there are people willing to sit inside his house when police come to evict him."

Stephens said they are tapping into low-cost lawyers to seek advice, and sifting through Thomas' paperwork to help figure out the best solution to save his home.

It's not to say that tents won't appear someday in Bernal Heights; the group has nothing against the method the Occupy Movement has used up until now. However, the ultimate goal is to keep people inside their homes, not outside in tents, Stephens said. "I'm a big tent-lover, but we are trying to avoid that," she noted. "I feel like it's important to occupy public space, but I do think the issues here right now in Bernal Heights are to try to prevent the banks from putting people out of the homes."

While its agenda doesn't include camping out or marching the streets (Stephens is too busy juggling a job and school), Occupy Bernal is essentially subscribing to the basic tenets of the national Occupy movement. Organizers have plans to create a working group, hold general assemblies, and participate in future events with the Occupy Wall Street movement, including the Jan. 20 Day of Action.

Stephens said the Occupy Bernal agenda will be a little more organic, adding that most of the neighbors participating this were not involved in the larger Occupy Movement. But seeing how hard the neighborhood has been hit by the housing crisis gave Bernal residents enough reason to act -- even if it's on a smaller scale. 

"I love that Occupy is happening right now -- it's fabulous," Stephens told us. "This problem is so big it needs to be addressed and attacked in as many different ways possible."

The first meeting will start at 7 p.m. at 515 Cortland.

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5 comments
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Shoop da Woop
Shoop da Woop

How does this man still have a mortgage on a home he's been in since 1975?  Over 36 years, shouldn't this loan be gone or VERY small?

Or is this another case of using the home as a piggy bank with repeated refinances and home equity line draws as the value increased? 

Citydweller
Citydweller

I would hope that their bank target is NOT the tiny BofA on Cortland. Having a bank in this neighborhood is a very real community service. Their manager is caring and patient and helpful in addressing the parent bank's confusing bureaucracy and the tellers are, for the most part, calm and helpful with their diverse clientelle. Having lived in Bernal for 10+ years, and having used this bank for three housing loans including one refi, I endorse their service. This bank was almost closed once. Let's not push it over the edge.

Matt Makofsky
Matt Makofsky

Way to earn that paycheck from the 1%!  BofA, on the whole, is evil.  (see yesterday's $335million discrimination settlement)  How 'bout a nice credit union in it's spot?

Larry David
Larry David

They need to "occupy" against some of the Racist Bigots that live in Bernal Heights! A friend of mine, a long time Bernal resident, was ran out of their neighborhood by a Racist/Psychopathic woman, and her friends. Sad that those type of people are allowed in "nice" communities like Bernal Heights. :(

Guest
Guest

all you need is a good warm coat and sleeping bag. fuck tents those are for pussies.

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