Despite attempts to quell their fears by Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer on Friday, some residents of troubled Trails End mobile home park worry about losing their place to live.
After two fires there last year, including an April blaze that killed one resident and injured another, City Hall took control of code enforcement at all mobile home parks in Fresno.
Meanwhile, Trails End is in a receivership charged with cleaning up the property near Blackstone and Sierra avenues and preparing it for sale to a new owner.
The situation is more than confusing for residents there, some of whom say that clean-up crews have thrown out their belongings.
For example, Maria Magaña says her family had to move because they didn’t have running water, gas, or electricity.
But, before she moved, cleaning crews came while she was at work and threw away her children’s clothing placed on the porch to air out the smell of smoke.
“They don’t own this place yet,” said Magaña of the prospective buyer, Harmony Communities. “If they are trying to help, this is not the way to go about it. They are completely violating our place. We have absolutely no privacy whatsoever.”
Magaña has been staying at motels but says her money is running out and her family is about to become homeless.
Dyer Says the Court Will Decide the Park’s Future
“At this particular mobile home park, as many of you know, we had a series of incidents that occurred here with fires and unfortunately a gentleman lost his life in those fires and quite frankly many of the areas around here were unsightly,” said Dyer. “We took it upon ourselves as a city to say that we were going to help you folks.”
In November, after much legal wrangling, Fresno County Superior Court put California Receivership Group in charge of Trails End. It has the responsibility for cleaning and repairing the park so that it meets code.
“That is the legal proceeding that is going forth at this time. The judge, in this case, does not respond to the city of Fresno; we are not the ones that give direction to the judge, we do not have the input into the legal proceedings, that is strictly on the part of a judge.”
Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld came to the park Friday with Dyer.
“I know you are very concerned about rent increases, I know you are very concerned about potential evictions, but we are here to make sure that the parks are properly managed, properly owned, that they are safe and drug-free,” said Bredefeld.
In addition to the park’s residents, many of the people there Friday were housing activists who contributed to an atmosphere that became tense at times. The activists shouted at the mayor, with one yelling, “Come speak to me man-to-man!”
Residents Fear Displacement
Mariah Thompson with California Rural Legal Assistance is representing about a dozen of the residents who oppose the sale of the park and wish to buy the property themselves.
Thompson urged the city to take a stance and asked city officials to write a letter in opposition to selling the park to Harmony Communities.
She claims that the company has a track record of increasing rent after purchasing other mobile parks in the city.
However, city officials point out that California mobile home parks have a rent cap and such a scenario would be unlikely to occur if Harmony Communities purchased the property.
Hispanic Residents Say They Want Order and Leadership in the Park
Angelina Robles says she has been living at the mobile park for almost 20 years and ownership has changed several times, but the problems started with the previous owner.
Robles says there was no security and it was often hard to contact the owners if there were problems.
“They would tell us that things were going to change, but no changes would happen, they would come in and ride motorcycles and quads around the property throughout the night and there was no order,” said Robles.
Jose Guadalupe Nieves says a few of the trailer park residents invite homeless people to stay and that has created problems.
“There are people here that invite people to come in some of them homeless and they bring crates and boxes and they stay here and start fires,” said Nieves.
Robles says she feels a lot safer since the security guards arrived because they try to screen many of the people who wander into the park.