The San Diego County Sheriff's Department has decided to again suspend eviction enforcement following an outcry from local leaders that the agency was going to resume the practice amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The back-and-forth followed a report published by KPBS on Thursday that said eviction notices had appeared on the homes of about 160 San Diego County residents while a statewide moratorium on evictions for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic was in effect. The moratorium only applied to tenants who were not already behind on their payments.
SDSO first told NBC 7 in a statement that the evictions were only to be performed on "approximately 160 court-ordered evictions that were in progress prior to the pandemic." The same statement said "deputies will not serve evictions protected by state and local emergency measures related to financial hardships created by the pandemic."
But hours later, SDSO changed their tune after they "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."
Democratic San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was one of the local leaders who sent a letter to SDSO Sheriff Bill Gore asking for the practice be halted.
"I am concerned to hear you are resuming evictions. Now is not the time to place vulnerable people at a higher risk of losing their homes," the letter read in part. "I understand these evictions can legally continue. But you have shown great discretion on enforcement during this period of difficulty and I would ask you extend that same discretion to not compounding the economic challenges our residents face."
"I kindly ask that you postpone these eviction lockouts until the courts open back up fully and we have time to facilitate housing solutions for these individuals."
The San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Will Rodriguez-Kennedy also released a statement on the evictions. It read in part, "This act by Sheriff Gore goes against public safety, public health, and the law. What sense does it make to force families into homelessness during a global pandemic?"
Gov. Newsom signed an Executive Order banning all evictions starting on April 1 for the following two months in an effort to offer a lifeline to the many millions in the state harmed by the economic fallout from the spreading coronavirus. It only applies to tenants who are not already behind on their payments.