What's at stake?
An upcoming decision from the Fresno City Council could determine whether the residents get to keep their homes.
Patricia Shawn is one of the few remaining residents left at La Hacienda Mobile Estates — formerly known as Trails’ End Mobile Home Park.
In the coming weeks, she’ll learn whether she and the others can remain in their homes or whether they’ll be forced out. A decision from the Fresno City Council over the park owner’s proposal to sell the property could come as soon as Thursday.
Attorney Mariah Thompson has been representing the park’s tenants through California Rural Legal Assistance. She said the upcoming hearing might be the last chance for residents hoping to keep their homes.
“This is the last stop for many, if not all of them, between them and homelessness,” Thompson said in an interview with Fresnoland.
Shawn said she plans to attend Thursday’s hearing.
“I plan on being there with the rest of the park,” Shawn said.
Harmony Communities, the company that owns the land, needs to submit a proposal to the city, which includes a “conversion impact report” and a “relocation plan.” City council will look at the proposal and see if Harmony Communities has appropriately analyzed the effects of the proposed evictions. City Council will also analyze the impact that closing the mobile home park could have on the city’s affordable housing stock.
If the council approves the proposal, Harmony Communities would be able to evict the remaining tenants of the park. If the proposal is rejected, Thompson said, the owners could still get a chance to present another report at a later date.
Evictions have been ongoing since tenants first received a letter in April from Harmony Communities stating that the area was to be sold for profit, and that the residents had 12 months to “remove or sell their mobile homes.”
Harmony Communities acquired the property in April following a series of events dating back to a deadly fire in 2019.
Park residents say they’ve been frustrated with what they described as silence from their elected officials.
‘We haven’t seen them’
Leading up to the hearing, tenants have asked for time to speak with the mayor or city council to have their concerns heard, and have also requested that some council members come visit the park to see its conditions since the sale has gone through. Their efforts haven’t been successful.
“We ask them, but they never come,” Shawn said. “We haven’t seen them since, I want to say last year? Now that I think about it, they haven’t come here at all this year.”
Fresno City Councilman Garry Bredefeld, whose northeast district includes the park, did not respond to numerous requests for comment. Harmony Communities also did not respond to a request for comment.
Though the land has already been sold to new owners, the tenants are clinging to the hope the city will save the park through the power of eminent domain.
Eminent domain laws allow the government to acquire property from owners as long as they are fairly compensated, and the land will be put toward public use.
“There is precedent of that being done for affordable housing,” said Thompson. “Maintaining affordable housing stock in Fresno in the midst of an unprecedented housing crisis is arguably a good reason [for the city] to step in and use eminent domain.”
The Fresno City Council has also stepped in during preservation efforts before, like with the Tower Theatre.
Some park tenants are also holding out hope that a new buyer may come in to help save the park. Programs like the Manufactured Housing Opportunity & Revitalization Program (MORE) can assist a potential new buyer in purchasing the park.
Thompson also noted the city has an option to provide additional funding for a new ownership group to buy the park from the current owner.
“It’s possible that there will be a buyer that doesn’t want to close the park, or doesn’t want to use it as commercial [space],” Thompson said. “The city could provide resources to fill in some of those funding gaps to allow a buyer to put forward a purchase proposal.”
Shawn is one of the remaining tenants left at the half empty mobile home park after a series of eviction. If nothing changes, she’ll have to leave by the end of year, too.
“I’m trying to find someplace new, but it’s very hard,” Shawn said. “I don’t really make much money, and there’s no place I can afford.”
Emotional, Shawn admits that her future is uncertain.
Tenants like her paid $355 in rent to live at the park. She can’t find anywhere in the city that comes close to that price.
“I don’t know where I’m going to go,” Shawn said. “I don’t want to be homeless.”