Sheriff Bill Gore is interviewed in Golden Hall on election night 2018.
Sheriff Bill Gore is interviewed in Golden Hall on election night in June 2018. Photo by Chris Stone

San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore announced Thursday that he won’t enforce property evictions — an apparent reaction to county Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and other local pressure.

“The Sheriff’s Department had planned on resuming evictions that were in effect prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gore said in a statement. “We have heard from several elected officials. Although they agree serving these evictions are perfectly legal, they expressed concerns about the impact.”

Accordingly, he said, “the Sheriff’s Department has decided to suspend eviction service pending further discussion.”

Following reports that the Sheriff’s Department was preparing to resume some property evictions, Fletcher on Thursday called for a halt until courts reopen.

“Now is not the time to place vulnerable people at a higher risk of losing their homes,” wrote Fletcher in a letter to Gore.

Eviction notices, some with dates as early as Thursday, began appearing at homes early this week. A copy of one notice was obtained by Times of San Diego.

Fletcher urged the sheriff to postpone evictions until the Superior Court resumes non-emergency service, which is anticipated on May 26.

“The court closure has presented a challenge for tenants who will need to protest their eviction lockout,” Fletcher said.

He noted that the evictions were already in progress before the epidemic and can legally continue, but asked the Sheriff’s Department to extend its “great discretion on enforcement during this period of difficulty.”

The Sheriff’s Department had said in a statement that it was resuming about 160 court-ordered evictions already in progress prior to the pandemic.

“Governor Newsom’s executive order and the local moratorium on evictions are intended to protect residents dealing with financial hardships directly created by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the department said. “We also have a responsibility to the landlords that depend on income for their livelihoods.”

The department noted that so far about 30 of the evictions have been canceled by property owners.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Shane Harris of San Diego-based People’s Alliance for Justice said Thursday that he had been in contact with Newsom.

“Because of a personal phone call to Governor Newsom, we’ve stopped the sheriff from evictions,” Harris told Times of San Diego.

Also claiming a role in the Gore action was Estela De Los Rios of El Cajon, who said on Facebook that she called the Governor’s Office and Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office after learning of ongoing evictions.

“Through an ongoing conversation and our continued collaboration with Rev. Shane Harris, [Becerra] immediately called the governor,” said De Los Rios, executive director of fair housing nonprofit CSA San Diego County. “Within an hour, the Governor halted the evictions!!”

Later, she told Times of San Diego that she heard of the evictions about 11 a.m. to noon and called the two offices just before 2:30 p.m.

Updated at 10:40 p.m. May 7, 2020 by Ken Stone, contributing editor