Three years ago, community members and NBA players rallied to “save the Warriors House,” raising nearly $300,000 to keep Lloyd Canamore, the owner of the unofficial West Oakland landmark, in his home. Canamore grew up in the house and lived there as an adult with his mother, but when a loan she’d taken out came due after her death, he couldn’t pay it.
The money his neighbors raised still wasn’t enough to buy the house and ensure Canamore could continue living there in the longrun.
Now, foreclosure is scheduled for April 5. A land trust is hoping to intercept that process, buying the house from the bank before it goes to auction.
Meanwhile, preparing for likely loss, Canamore has moved to a house in North Oakland, which his old neighbor and friend Ali Roth, who launched the initial fundraising effort, helped him secure and rent, he said. A trust has been set up with the money that was fundraised, earmarked for housing security for Canamore, and it’s covering his living expenses.
At Canamore’s new home, a lone Warriors flag flies from the roofline, nothing like the banners, signs, and blue-and-gold paint that turned his 35th Street house into an icon. While he appreciates the amenities at the new house on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, like the fridge that makes ice and the motion-sensing lights in the bathroom, Canamore feels excruciating loneliness there, torn from his lifelong West Oakland community.
“It’s tough, tough, tough,” he said in his new living room last week, one of his three beloved dogs circling around his feet. “I cry all the time.”
Canamore grew up in the 35th Street house that his family bought some 55 years ago. He was living there with his mother, Clemmie, when she died in 2019. That’s when Canamore discovered she’d taken out a reverse mortgage from Wells Fargo, a loan that allows older property owners to borrow against the value of their home, avoiding monthly payments until they die or sell the house.
When Clemmie died, Canamore was hit with the bill for the entire loan amount, $350,000, a seemingly impossible debt. Canamore lives off small monthly disability payments.
Canamore got a notice of default on the Warriors House last fall, and foreclosure was penciled in for March, then extended to April, according to the Oakland Community Land Trust.
Looped in by a legal services organization helping Canamore a couple of years ago, the land trust is making a last-ditch attempt to save the house by buying it, fixing it up, and renting it to Canamore at an affordable price for the rest of his life.
“The clearest path we’re hoping for is to negotiate with the lender prior to going to auction, and doing a short sale,” said Steve King, the executive director of the land trust.
The land trust and Canamore are also eyeing SB 1079, a recent California law that gives nonprofits and former owners or tenants an opportunity to offer a higher price on a foreclosed home than the final bid at an auction.
Canamore said the land trust buying the house would be a “miracle.”
But even if the land trust can purchase the property, the organization will need to fundraise for extensive repairs and renovations. An inspection revealed issues with “pretty much everything,” King said, from electrical wiring to plumbing. Canamore said there were rats. The poor condition of the property, however, could encourage the lender to offload it to them.
King said the Warriors House is worth trying to preserve because of its value as a landmark, and because it reflects a larger pattern of change in West Oakland and similar areas. The Oakland Community Land Trust is the organization that purchased the nearby Moms 4 Housing home from the real estate investor that had kept it vacant.
The Warriors House saga is “emblematic in so many ways of the Black land loss and predatory financing that we fight through our work,” King said. “This is just a very clear example of how dispossession can play out in a legal way.”
Many low-income seniors like Clemmie turn to reverse mortgages, a tool that can help them afford property taxes and upkeep during the end of their life. These loans can be a “form of survival,” Maeve Elise Brown, executive director of Housing & Economic Rights Advocates, told The Oaklandside in 2020. But her organization, which got involved in Canamore’s case early on, warns seniors to avoid reverse mortgages if at all possible, because of high upfront costs that increase over time in the background. When the loan finally becomes due, it’s often impossible for a homeowner or their heirs to pay it off.
In Oakland, subprime and predatory loans have disproportionately impacted Black residents, as well as Latino residents, and nationally the homeownership rate for Black residents continues to fall, widening an already significant white-Black gap. These dynamics have contributed to the rapid decline in the Black population in Oakland.
In addition to the likely loss of his family home, Canamore has experienced an extraordinary amount of personal loss, and the loneliness of displacement has compounded his grief. He was able to rescue numerous personal mementos from the Warriors house, which he has carefully displayed along the built-in shelves surrounding the fireplace at his new spot. Included are memorial programs and framed photos of his late mother, grandmother, son, and three brothers, some of whom he lost in quick succession.
Other items reflect happier times, like a photo of his early days selling hotdogs at Warriors games, where he developed his love for the team, an image of Clemmie with Steph Curry at a music video shoot at the old house, and an award plaque he received while attending McClymonds High School.
It was in response to the deaths of his brothers that a friend offered, in 2016, to paint the 35th Street house in Warriors colors. Canamore added decorations, turning his family home into a celebrity.
In 2020, Curry promoted the fundraiser for Canamore, and the Warriors auctioned off some team items. But supporters have hoped that the team or foundation would take a larger action to ensure the house isn’t lost.
“We’ve been trying to get them involved and have been having a hard time,” King said.
Canamore said he doesn’t have cable at the new house, so he hasn’t seen a Warriors game in a month and a half, unheard of for the superfan.
“Hopefully things will work out and the [land trust] will be able to purchase and fix the house, in which case he can return home, but for now we just need to make sure he doesn’t end up on the streets,” said Roth in a text message.
When Canamore first learned about the reverse mortgage, he worried he’d end up homeless. Last week, as the storm was getting underway, an acquaintance reminded him of that worst case scenario. Hearing that, Canamore said he felt grateful to be indoors with his dogs Baby, Rambo, and Scrabby.
“That calmed my nerves down,” he said.