Down along Moffat Boulevard there are those who don’t live the way most Californians do. They don’t live in McMansions. They don’t live in modest, traditional single-family homes. They don’t live in apartments.
They live in a trailer park. Not a mobile home park. They live in a trailer park.
When it comes to affordable living quarters this is about the cheapest it gets.
Those of us who find comfort in broad generalizations will dismiss all that live in such places as “trailer trash.”
Such generalizations are nice, since they allows us to ignore their plight. It implies they have done something - or not done anything - to get into their predicament. We take comfort in assuming such places are home to drug abusers and an entire underbelly of society that would make street thieves in a Charles Dickens novel feel right at home.
The only problem with such a generalization is that it isn’t true. Sure, there are drug abusers and bad apples - just like there are in McMansion neighborhoods.
Our tendency to make sweeping assumptions gives us a convenient excuse to ignore the law-abiding among those that live along Moffat. And as such, we prefer government policies that essentially treat them as weeds in need of removal.
What happened last week in the Sleepy Hollow trailer park is a textbook example of government running roughshod over the law-abiding citizens who have no voice. It is obvious that property maintenance issues have been ignored for a long time given that the state had to intervene and basically post eviction notices. We posture, debate and argue for months over establishing policies for human signs and A-frame signs and cite people for having fences two inches too close to a sidewalk, yet we fail to successfully address basic human living conditions in our code enforcement efforts. Amazing.
The state has determined that there are trailers in Sleepy Hollow that are not fit for occupancy. So is it better for a 74-year-old woman to be living on the street? Or perhaps the couple with two teen sons residing in a cramped 1975 Dodge motor home will be better off finding isolated spots each night around Manteca to park so they can sleep?
What is so wrong about the state’s actions is not the enforcement of building codes, but rather it is their wholesale lack of coordination or effort to address housing for the working poor in California.
Manteca created through construction and rehabilitation more than 350 units of subsidized apartments for low-income seniors and the working poor. That is in addition to a 151-unit apartment complex for working class households. They did it with redevelopment agency money. It was the only affordable housing tool the city had to create living units that meet state code for the poor. It is gone because the state - in another sweeping generalization - determined that all redevelopment agencies were abusing their authority. It was a convenient rationalization. It justified the seizing of tax revenue and the shutting down of RDAs up and down the state without addressing the fact that the agencies by and large did what they were created to do. In a nutshell, the agencies helped lift the standard of living of the marginalized through economic development and the creation of affordable housing.
The City of Manteca is not without fault.
Six years ago they commissioned a $160,000 study on how best to develop Moffat Boulevard. The plan called for the wholesale elimination of trailer parks. There wasn’t even one word devoted to how Manteca would replace the affordable housing relied upon by struggling families desperately trying to stay afloat or the elderly on fixed incomes.
Unlike a neighborhood park that took too long to put in place, there won’t be any intense public debates about what happens to the people of Sleepy Hollow. Nor will we be talking about realistic affordable housing any time soon, thanks to our development prejudices and state regulations.
Local and state government leaders and bureaucrats can simply say they are following the law and wash their hands of the entire affair once people have been put out on the streets.
As for the rest of us, we see no need, hear no need and feel no need. That allows us to concentrate our attention on the trending issues of the day, such as the fiscal cliff, and ignore those who have been pushed over the edge.
This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209-249-3519.