Mesa Families Fight Gentrification, Win Temporary Victory.
Many of the families living at Mesa Royale Mobile Home Park have lived there for at least 15 years, some even longer. Most had purchased their trailers from the park's owner.
While the city of Mesa has planned to gentrify the area for some time, the residents were never notified until May of this year. At that time, the city inspector told them of code violations (mostly electrical) that have been existent for generations.
At that time, instead of citing violations, about 125 families with about 300 children were told they would have to move as the city would be closing the park.
Neither the city of Mesa nor the park owners offered any compensation to the residents to relocate their mobile homes. (a cost that typically runs into thousands of dollars).
In June, the city decided to issue code violations to the families as well as an official eviction notice of November 24.
Worse yet, the owner who sold the mobile homes to the residents neglected certain details over the years-like proper titles to their homes.
Legal issues are now surfacing as to whether the park owner had the legal ownership over some of the trailers which he sold to the residents. Titles were not properly transferred and chasing these legal documents has become an additional (and costly) burden for the families already served with eviction.
It was then that the families started fighting back. Through The Comités de Defensa del Barrio, (CDB) they began organizing. CDB describes itself as
"Indigenous Peoples who struggle to Defend Civil Rights-Human Rights-Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Mother Earth.”
They protested twice every week near the downtown area of the light rail
and city hall, which is about a half a mile from Mesa Royale. Mesa PD tried to stop the protests by threatening to cite them for using mega-phones.
But the protesters were not intimidated and (with mega-phones) kept the bi-weekly actions going despite the threats from law enforcement.
But the fight was only beginning. To take on a city with a long history
of doing as it pleases to the working poor and minorities, legal representation was going to be needed. Since the people who live there are mostly Mexican, working class families, lawyers weren’t about to take this case-that is, with the exception of one law firm: The Law Office of Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, PLC.
Call it what you wish -- a stroke of luck or an answer to the prayers of hard working people, getting Ray Ybarra to take this mess of a case was an incredible blessing.
Ray drafted 72 notices of appeal for 72 families and was prepared to fight for each one of them. The families, themselves did the filing.
This week, the city of Mesa postponed the hearings and changed their plans to evict the families. They are now being given 30 months to vacate instead of the November deadline.
Ray recently informed me that "30 months was the minimum I was told, but if everything gets brought up to code, in theory it could become permanent."
The city says there a new owner interested in the buying the trailer park.
While this is certainly good news, the fight is far from over. Mesa Royale Mobile Home Park is a prime area for a new light rail station and corporate owned developments.
Sal Reza, founder and organizer of CDB states "It’s a temporary fix but we made the city of Mesa blink for the first time. They are just use to running over people.”