Calif. trailer park residents win fight against eviction

By Betsey Stone
December 7, 2020

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Residents of a trailer park here have been waging a fight to stay in their mobile homes on two fronts — against the callous actions of the California state Department of Housing and Community Development and the equally cruel actions of the company that manages the park.

“A nightmare.” That’s how Nicky Richards described what she went through after a man appeared at her door with a stack of legal papers, telling her she had to make repairs on her home within seven days or be evicted.

“Many had it worse than me,” she told this Militant worker-correspondent Nov. 21. More than 50 residents of the Westwind Estates trailer park received notices telling them they were facing eviction because of alleged safety violations.

The nightmare began in March, as the pandemic was picking up steam across the country, when inspectors from the state agency began distributing notices demanding repairs at the complex of over 160 homes.

“Fortunately, I had the $400 to fix the dent on the pole that holds up my awning,” Richards said. “A lot of people don’t have this kind of money and some of their repairs were more costly.”

Many elderly, low-income and disabled people in the park weren’t able to make the repairs. Some were Spanish-speaking households that received notices in English, while others found the notices too vague or impossible to comply with. When residents called the Housing and Community Development number given to clear up confusions, it went straight to a voicemail box that was full.

Then in October, Leasco Management Company, which operates the property, handed out eviction notices. This was their response to the Department of Housing and Community Development’s threatening to pull their license because of the “safety” violations.

The residents decided to fight back. “When I saw one of the eviction notices, the thought of them doing this killed me,” Forrest Gardens, one of the organizers of the fight, told Carole Lesnick and Joel Britton when they told him the Militant wanted to cover their fight.

Gardens, a resident of the complex who works for the state and is a member of Service Employees International Union Local 1000, went door to door talking with residents about getting organized. “We had already begun to fight” on other issues, he said, including ending the situation where emergency exits to the park were chained shut. The residents wanted to meet at the park’s clubhouse, but when management denied their request on COVID grounds, they held meetings online, he said.

They were able to get coverage in the media, including interviews with residents who feared being made homeless in the midst of a pandemic. They reached out and won public support. Volunteers came forward to help with repairs. By Nov. 15, $4,940 had been contributed to a GoFundMe site from 76 people.

The state agency and park management backed down. A statement from the Department of Housing made no apology, but said that as of Nov. 13 “we expect the residents will, in fact, be able to clear the remaining violations, and we expect we will not have to issue a notice of suspension of the park.”