This story was originally published at fresnobee.com on November 17, 2021.

After being neglected for years, the Trails End Mobile Home Park, the site of a deadly fire in April and June, is now in the hands of a court-appointed receiver.

The California Receivership Group — based in Santa Monica — was appointed by the Fresno County Superior Court on Nov. 10 to “abate the dangerous substandard and nuisance conditions” at the mobile home park, located on Sierra Avenue off of Blackstone Avenue.

“Our goal, under the judge’s order of appointing us, is to make this place safe and habitable for the people who live here,” said Mark Adams, president & CEO of the receivership group, during an inspection of the mobile home park on Tuesday. “The purpose of today is just to get a sense of what’s going on.”

Fresno City code enforcement officers were also present for the inspection.

Following the two fires, in July, the city took over code enforcement responsibilities at all mobile home parks within the city limits. Previously, this was under the supervision of the California Department of Housing and Community Development. In mid-September, the city followed up by filing a court petition to appoint a receiver for Trails End.

“I said at the outset of this tragedy that the City of Fresno would step in and ensure that the people living at the Trails End Mobile Home Park would be safe, and the long-standing problems would be addressed,” Councilmember Garry Bredefeld, who represents the district where the park is located, wrote in a statement via text. “As promised, real help arrived.”

Property owners make changes, but it’s too little, too late

Until recently, trash piled high, water leaking from a mobile home ran down cracked streets and the charred shells of burned mobile homes remained at the park for months. Documents obtained via a public records request show habitability issues — trash, homeless encampments and inoperable vehicles — were reported to HCD on multiple occasions, dating back to February 2019. After months of inspections and ignored requests to bring the park up to code, the HCD revoked the property owners’ permit to operate in January 2021. Only three months later, the fatal fire broke out, spurring action at the city level.

Only recently did the property owners begin clearing trash and removing the burned homes. They also paid for the roads to be repaved Tuesday. Some of the needed improvements were made just before the property owners filed an opposition to the city’s petition for a receivership — roughly three weeks after the opposition filing deadline.

Despite the improvements made by the property owner, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan ruled that the property owners had done too little, too late, and appointed a receiver. Some tenants say that the receiver has given them hope.

David Willis has lived at the park roughly 15 years and owns two trailers — he lives in one mobile home and rents the other to his niece. Willis said that around 2008, the park “took a downturn” and the roads hadn’t “been this nice in 12 years.”

“I have hope for this place,” Willis said. “My hope for the receiver is that the guy that gets this is going to conform to the codes, and we won’t have to worry about a constant invasion of homeless people.”

The trailer he rents to his niece is one of two trailers sandwiched between the two burn sites that now sit bare, except for empty shopping carts and cement slabs.

“By the grace of God, the hand of God came down and said, ‘Don’t mess with David’s trailer,’” Willis said.

Another resident, who rents her mobile home and recently received an eviction notice, said she has lived at the park for about two years and has seen about three fires. She requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

“My concerns are for my kids,” the woman said. “They have trauma from it, so every time they hear an ambulance driving by, my little one starts screaming, ‘Ahhh. A fire.’”

She only learned about the receivership on Tuesday morning and said she wants to see the park look nicer and have fewer crimes.

Reciever says there won’t be ‘wholesale evictions’

Mariah Thompson, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance who represents about a dozen residents at the park, said the residents she represents were always in support of a receiver; however, CRLA is concerned about the California Receivership Group’s recent actions at a mobile home park in San Joaquin County.

According to court documents, the California Receivership Group quickly determined after their appointment that they would be unable to fix the dilapidated mobile home park in Stockton while residents were present. The group filed an order for the court to vacate the park, alleging that most of the people residing at the mobile home park would not qualify for relocation fees. According to their court filings, the receivership group proposed relocating all residents into motels before determining who had tenancy rights.

While vacating the mobile home park is not the same as evicting the residents, Thompson said the mass displacement can cause issues.

“The ultimate goal is to not displace people to the extent that the point of the receivership is to maintain health and safety for the residents of the park,” Thompson said of the Stockton case where CRLA is also representing residents. “Displacing residents goes against the whole purpose of a receivership.”

Explaining that the conditions at the Stockton property are dangerous and uninhabitable, Adams said the situation will likely not play out the same in Fresno. He added that the receivership group still needs to inspect Trails End before setting forth an abatement plan.

“There’s not going to be wholesale evictions here under any circumstances,” Adams said. “I’m not trying to evict people — is the bottom line. I’m trying to make it safe for them to live here.”

The group has rescinded 16 seven-day eviction notices sent to residents by the property owners in early November.

“We need a clean start. We need to start over and see what the conditions are,” Adams said. “Nobody is going to get evicted at this point.” He added, however, that the receivership would evict residents who are found to be causing problems in the mobile home park.

Thompson said, “the concerns about displacement of residents will remain until we have seen, until everything is done, until all of the issues are addressed and the park is brought into compliance with health and safety code.”

A hearing on the status of the property is scheduled for Nov. 29.

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