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Law-abiding tenants caught in the middle trying to cope

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Chris Hill, 52, and his wife Sara have two teenage sons also live with them in Sleepy Hollow Trailer Court in the Dodge motor home seen in the background.

GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

POSTED January 18, 2013 1:11 a.m.

Betty Tankersly has spent more than half of her life in Space 14 of the Sleepy Hollow Trailer Court.

For two decades the 74-year-old Manteca woman oversaw the day-to-day operations of the facility that she remembers as a nice place to raise a family – where kids weren’t allowed to leave their lots, the roads that pass through were still paved and people took pride in where they lived.

But after 42 years she’s ready to leave it all behind.

On Thursday afternoon, five days after representatives from a state housing task force visited the park near the corner of Sherman Avenue and Moffat Boulevard and issued prohibited occupancy notices for the 21 mobile homes on site, Tankersly talked about moving to a studio apartment far away from this place of squalor.

She says that she has 30 days before she has to be out.

“There were no drug addicts here then. We had lots of children,” Tankersly said of her days as the park’s manager. “There’s no way that I could do it again. Not at my age.”

Whether the notices that were applied to every trailer on the property will be enforced to the letter-of-the-law, however, remains to be seen.

Tankersly says that a state official told her that she had 30 days to find a new place to live while others – like neighbor Nancy Bertram – believe that the notices were only an attempt to bring the mobile homes up to code.

On Thursday afternoon several people were out in front of their trailers throwing away pieces of scrap metal, old boxes and bags of trash that they had cleaned up in order to comply with what they believed was the spirit of the state mandate.

Bertram, who lives with her husband and four children in a trailer owned by her father, doesn’t have any plans on going anywhere anytime soon despite rumblings that tow trucks were expected to show up on Friday morning and remove everyone.

“The five-day notice was to get us all to clean-up and to get him (owner Mahesh Gogri) to do what he needs to do,” said Bertram, who has a rental agreement with Gogri. “We had somebody from the state drive through here this morning and they came out earlier this week to talk to us.

“I’ve been looking to move out of here for a while, but I’m going to ride it out as long as I can.”

The conditions on site, Bertram said, are deteriorating quickly. She said that Gogri showed up on Wednesday and removed the washer and dryer from the community wash room and the space has since been claimed by squatters who have thrown down mattresses.

Gas service to all trailers, she added, has been nonexistent for months, and some residents have even been forced to tap into electrical boxes when Gogri neglected to provide a power outlet at their space – admitting that some have been on a “rent strike” as a result.

But the Fremont-based owner tells a much different story – one ripe with frustration over squatters that have all but taken over the park and forced his hand by failing to pay rent for more than a year and destroying utilities through attempts to illegally harness them. 

“How do I get this park cleaned up? It attracts criminals and drug addicts and the police told me they’ll turn over your car and they’re capable of doing anything,” said a frustrated Gogri. “They’re advising me not to come around, but it’s a Catch-22 – I have to document these things so there isn’t much I can do.

“We have people that are squatting and walking in and the code enforcement is telling me that I have to have an eviction notice before I can touch any trailers. I’m confused and I’m lost – living in a society where I don’t have any rights on my own property.” 

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