The residents of the Dallas West Mobile Home Park on Commerce Street probably should have seen the writing on the wall almost a decade ago, when the Dallas City Council rezoned the property and turned their trailers and RVs into "non-conforming uses." If not then, when the Oak Cliff hipsters began flocking to Chicken Scratch.
It was certainly pretty clear when The Dallas Morning News reported last month that the property is being eyed for a posh new apartment complex. Nevertheless, the dozens of families who live there were surprised this week to find yellow notices on their door telling them they had 60 days to get out.
The residents are upset. So is longtime activist Carlos Quintanilla, who led them in protest at Dallas City Hall on Thursday. Univision was there.
"They told them, 'You have to vacate in two months. If you don't vacate, we're gonna evict you,'" Quintanilla says, describing the decision variously as "shameful," "disgusting" and "bullshit."
Randall White, who represents the trailer park's owner, an outfit called West Dallas Property Partners, acknowledges that the residents have been asked to leave by August 31 as the property is "readied for sale," but he paints things in a different light.
"All of the residents have lease agreements that have 30-day-notice clauses in them," he says. "The owner wanted to go above and beyond what would be required in this circumstance."
To that end, White helped organize a community meeting earlier this week that featured representatives from the Dallas Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity as well as information on nearby trailer parks so residents can get help relocating.
But Quintanilla says 60 days is too brief a window for the families who have lived there for decades. He would have liked more advance notice, and it would have been nice if the developer would establish a relocation fund to help ease the pain. "Let's talk to the children. These kids grew up there, they've lived there for 15, 20 years. These individuals have paid their rent like clockwork. ... These people, you talk to them, they've been there for a long, long time."
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White isn't unsympathetic to their plight, but he says the owners feel they have acted fairly.
"Certainly in any situation where there is change, it unsettles folks," he says. "But the reality is, it's been widely known." He likened it to his own experience back in his 20s when the owner of his apartment complex came buy one day and told him it was being sold.
White, presumably, left when he was asked. But Quintanilla says the trailer park residents plan to stay and fight. "They're gonna have to come with bulldozers and sheriffs," he says. They'll also have to arm themselves with lawyers for the breach-of-contract suits Quintanilla says will be filed on behalf of each of the residents.
"This has angered me more than Farmers Branch. It's angered me more then Irving," he says. "Not as much as cheese heroin, but this angers me."