LATHROP – It’s a place some say is full of squatters, transients and grifters.
Amidst the houses where families dwell there are domiciles that serve as nothing more than a shelter – abandoned businesses that have been inhabited by those who care not about the conditions. There is no electricity, and the running water and sewer hookup were turned off long ago.
Some contend drug sales and their use appear to be commonplace. There are vehicles stripped down to the frame.
Sound like a scene out of a movie? According to Mellody Bayardo, that’s just life on Park Street – the long, partially paved and unmaintained street off of McKinley Avenue south of Louise Avenue that she says has turned into a nightmare for those just trying to live their lives.
Bayardo took her concerns to the Lathrop City Council Monday night after feeling that her reports to the code enforcement division fell on deaf ears.
For the last three years, she said, people have been moving into abandoned businesses, trailers and small buildings on the isolated, unpaved street. Without water and sewer in some of the facilities, she said, the conditions are a concern.
“Things are just getting so bad out there,” Bayardo said. “People come around that corner right there and hit that telephone pole right in front of my house. I’ve called code enforcement, and it’s all fallen on deaf ears.”
According to City Manager Cary Keaten, there are several code enforcement cases pending in that area right now but most are business related and have to do with where the actual boundaries between the properties are located.
The lots along Park Street, Keaten says, are 50x50-foot parcels that were used to house Union Pacific railroad workers back in the 1800s. When the ownership changed hands, some businesses purchased multiple lots to locate in the vicinity, and it has become a major truck-storage area with its close proximity to Interstate 5.
“It’s a mishmash of properties and it’s kind of a strange situation there where you have houses right next to businesses like that,” Keaten said. “And it’s an area that’s not improved. It’s such a small street and it’s not paved all the way down. And if you don’t know that it’s there you’ll drive right past the turn.”
But the area is a section of town that Lathrop Police Services Lieutenant Chris Pehl knows all about.
While he didn’t comment on specifics, Pehl said that Lathrop Police are investigating the claims that Bayardo made during the meeting and looking into the specifics. He said that they have made arrests there in the past and do make welfare checks when somebody calls and informs them that there might be children living in a dwelling without food and water.
Aside from that, all they can do, Pehl said, is “knock and talk” and try to get as much information as possible.
“A lot of times they’re just accusations and we don’t have any evidence or probably cause to go inside,” Pehl said. “We have had some trailers and some properties that have been abated in the past out there and we have had some problems. We are going to work with the city on their code enforcement efforts and hopefully that can do something for the residents that live out there.”
Mayor Chaka Santos wants to take the police chief, fire chief, and city manager on a fact-finding mission to Park Street to see what - if anything - the city can do to improve conditions.