Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal
Gloria Takla, left, is joined by a group of Occupy protesters at a Chase Bank Branch in Redwood City yesterday. San Jose resident Christy Wong, right, has participated in many Occupy events across the Bay Area in recent weeks.
An elderly woman facing foreclosure and a group of her supporters stormed a Chase Bank branch in downtown Redwood City yesterday afternoon demanding a loan modification.
The action may have worked, as Gloria Takla, 72, said she was able to fend off the looming sale of her home next week at least until February. The group claimed "victory” after occupying the bank’s lobby for more than an hour.
About 30 Occupy sympathizers tried to enter the bank at about 1 p.m. carrying signs and chanting slogans to the surprise of bank employees.
Bank managers, employees and security tried to prevent the group from entering the bank but many were able to get in, forcing the bank to lock its doors to customers for more than an hour.
Some customers already in the branch, however, continued to do their banking even with a bullhorn blazing in the background and chants of "We are the 99 percent.”
Takla was to have her home sold by the bank next Wednesday, Dec. 14 and decided to take drastic action to occupy the downtown Redwood City Chase branch on Broadway after meeting with supporters at her home at about noon yesterday.
The group was gathered as part of the national "Occupy Our Homes” rallies that occurred across the nation yesterday. Takla and her supporters marched from her home, chanting slogans and holding signs, as they approached the bank.
Takla has been seeking a loan modification without success for more than 21 months, she said.
She bought her home on C Street, near downtown Redwood City, in 2004 with a negative amortization loan she received from Washington Mutual Bank.
Her initial mortgage payments were $1,450 a month but the payments have since ballooned to $2,650 a month, out of reach of her fixed income.
"I put my life savings, $150,000, as a deposit on the home. It was all I had,” Takla said yesterday. From Germany, Takla believes she is the victim of a predatory lender, considering she is a widow, her limited English skills and advanced age.
But Washington Mutual was sold to JP Morgan Chase Bank in 2008 after it essentially collapsed, closing 160 of its 336 home-loan offices and eliminating 2,600 jobs in 2007.
Takla said she had little luck with her local branch in seeking a loan modification after Washington Mutual was sold, filing for a "hardship” with Chase at least 16 times, she said yesterday.
Yesterday, she demanded to speak to a "human” at the branch who could assist her in seeking a loan modification. Bank employees put her on the telephone with customer service agents as Redwood City police kept the scene calm inside.
About 10 protesters simply sat in the lobby while police looked on and Takla was on the phone. Her daughter, Anoushka Takla, also spoke to bank representatives on her mother’s behalf.
No one was arrested in the incident although some minor scuffles did ensue in the bank after protesters stormed the branch.
Takla was referred to Ramel Nalus, with Chase’s Santa Clara Home Ownership Center. He allegedly gave Takla a two-month extension, until Feb. 14, to modify her loan or face foreclosure.
Nalus and other Chase officials, however, did not return several phone calls by the Daily Journal seeking comment on the story yesterday.
Takla and her supporters claimed "victory” after exiting the bank around 2 p.m.
"We were able to postpone the sale date only because of the people joining me in the action,” she said after leaving the bank.
Some of the supporters that joined Takla in the bank protest yesterday included Pastor Sandy Perry, Aaron Castle, Louise Vaughn, Lili Liu and Christy Wong.
Liu came from Fremont to support Takla. She was able to recently seek a loan modification with the assistance of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which helped organize yesterday’s march and bank protest in Redwood City. ACCE formed after the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, filed for bankruptcy in 2010.
Vaughn, a South San Francisco resident, has a daughter going through foreclosure now and joined yesterday’s protest to highlight the predatory lending practices that have plagued African-Americans and Latinos.
"The predatory lenders targeted minorities,” Vaughn said.
It has also affected renters, she said, who have been evicted because property owners have not been paying their mortgages.
"People are caught in a nasty net,” she said.
Another protester, Aaron Castle from San Mateo, said the banks got a $700 billion government bailout and are now taking back the properties, too, for which it approved "bad” loans.
"I am here to make noise and for the loving overthrow of the status quo,” he said.
Other "Occupy Our Homes” events were held in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Petaluma and Oakley yesterday among 20 others across the United States.
The movement is calling for a holiday moratorium on evictions.
Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.