BASTA protests with residents at the park (Photo by John Anderson)
Residents of the North Lamar Mobile Home Park are once again fighting for better living conditions under a negligent management company. An attempt by management company Impact Communities to install fencing led to the puncture of a gas line, cutting off natural gas needed to heat stoves in all of the homes, and water in some of them, for weeks. The residents in the park were not notified of the loss of service until they awoke and found their stoves were not working; management’s solution – placing PVC pipe over the exposed gas line – was a major safety risk.
Management also created more problems for residents by building an enclosure around the park’s two dumpsters, a “beautification” project that those living in the park see as unnecessary. The enclosure blocked one of the lanes in the two-lane road near the dumpsters, making them inaccessible to the garbage collection company – meaning that trash from the 75 units at the park quickly piled up. Last week, on the day the park’s residents association planned a protest with tenant advocacy group BASTA to draw attention to the trash and gas problems, the dumpsters were finally emptied.
But in the week since, trash has once again piled up. According to park resident Jennifer Salazar, families were forced to hoard trash outside their homes because the dumpsters were overflowing. Once they were emptied, they quickly filled back up. “It’s a big mess again,” Salazar told the Chronicle on Monday, “and I don’t know when they’ll collect trash again. It makes you think about your self-worth. If management doesn’t even care to think about our needs, you just feel dismissed and not cared about.”
A city code inspector visited the park after the gas line broke and put up a sign warning residents that the area would be unsafe until the line was repaired. A gas company visited the park to assess the damage and told residents that the fix could take weeks. Meanwhile, residents are forced to cook on electric cooktops, purchased with their own money, or outside on grills. Salazar told us that when the gas was cut off previously, the management company provided residents with electric stoves to use inside – but no such courtesy was offered this time.
The ownership company, NL Austin MHP LLC, has not been in communication with the residents, and the on-site manager, Renata Mehoves, has been mostly absent as well. We were able to get Mehoves on the phone Tuesday, Aug. 28, but she was unwilling to answer any questions about the issues raised by residents. “I’ve been instructed by the park owners not to talk to the press,” she told us.