The Residents of a West Dallas Trailer Park Are Headed for a Showdown with Developers
There was a time not long ago when no one really cared that there was a trailer park on Commerce Street, a stone's throw from downtown. The trailers, though generally well kept, seemed to be at home amidst the threadbare businesses and houses that characterize much of West Dallas, not that anyone was paying much attention.
Activist Carlos Quintanilla addressing Dallas West residents in June.
But then City Hall and developers began trying to capture the gentrifying spirit that has revitalized North Oak Cliff and transplant it north of I-30.
That's where we got the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the Trinity Groves development at its foot. A few blocks away, Brent Jackson's Sylvan Thirty is under construction. Now, planned for the site of the Dallas West Mobile Home/RV Park , is a project, probably apartments, by Atlanta-based Wood Partners.
The current trailer park's residents won't be living there. Last month, they were given a deadline of August 31 to get out. Their lease agreements stipulate that their landlord needs only provide 30 days advance notice. They were given 81.
That's when veteran rabble-rouser Carlos Quintanilla entered the fray, organizing protests and demanding the move-out date be pushed back and requesting various concessions from developers, such as money to cover moving expenses and free rent.
On Friday, residents got some of what they wanted. Cienda Partners, which currently owns the site but plans to sell it to Wood Partners, told residents they can stay until January 31, provided
they pay a $250 renewal fee and (see letter below) keep paying their rent. If tenants agreed to leave by August 31, they'd get $2,000. If they stayed until November 31, they'd get $1,000. Past that, they'd get nothing.
The Dallas Morning News' Roy Appleton was at the trailer park on Friday night when residents met to discuss the offer:
[A]fter [Quintanilla] read and explained the letter to the 30 or so people present, about 20 indicated by a show of hands that they believed the offer wasn't good enough. They want a rent-free extension and more money because they believe the offer wouldn't cover moving expenses.
"We appreciate it, but it's not enough," said Sonia Brink, a resident organizer of the gathering, which included a display of hand-lettered signs such as "No Displacement," "We Have Rights" and "Do Not Destroy My Sweet Home."
Quintanilla reiterated those points raised in the meeting in an interview today.
"These are individuals who have lived there for a very long time, and they've invested money in their homes," he says. In return, he says, the landlord has ignored needed repairs, failed to maintain security patrols and generally neglected tenants' needs.
He figures that some residents might take the $2,000 and call it a day, though more will continue to fight. What shape the battle will take isn't exactly clear.
"There are different options. We will continue the public protests. Some will go into court to file lawsuits against Cienda for unjust enrichment [and] fraud by inducement," Quintanilla says. "There's always the option of withholding rent if Cienda Partners does not fix the streets, repair the light bulbs, deal with theft of property" and deal with the constant mosquito infestation.
We've left a message with Randall White, who's serving as Cienda's spokesman. We'll update when we hear from him.
Update on July 30: White responded via email this morning. "The property's owners fully understand that some are upset over the park's closing," he writes. "The park's owners also look forward to helping leaseholders find new spaces for their RVs and mobile homes."
He also passed along Cienda's letter to residents: