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A Bay Area RV community bands together to fight City Hall

A Bay Area RV community bands together to fight City Hall
Final Refuge: A Bay Area RV community bands together to fight City Hall








Story by Louis Hansen | Pictures and movies by Dai Sugano

Revealed: December 19, 2018


Surrounded by the wealth fed by tech titans like Google and Fb, a small community of blue collar RV dwellers is preventing for the one place they will name house.

Surrounded by the wealth fed by tech titans like Google and Fb, a small community of blue collar RV dwellers is preventing for the one place they will name house.

Lisa Cosey-Stevens (under) works for San Mateo County. She loves her job.

However regardless of regular work and little debt, she trudges forwards and backwards to the workplace every single day from a darkish RV trailer, packed flooring to ceiling with luggage of garments, pet provides for her seven canine, thriller novels and meals.

September 2018

Cosey-Stevens, 63, has been parked on the shoulder of Bay Street in East Palo Alto, nearly two miles from Fb headquarters and a number of the wealthiest neighborhoods within the nation, since June. “No one knows how badly I want out of this,” she stated throughout an interview in her trailer. “It’s depressing to live like this.”

She’s a part of an unplanned and impromptu RV park, about 80 individuals pushed out of flats and into trailers and the sting of homelessness.


The working poor are spilling into Bay Area streets for lack of protected, reasonably priced shelter.

Pablo Lopez Landa fixes his RV’s door in September.

Elected leaders, police and social staff are scrambling to handle complaints and community wants, hoping to ultimately remove these pop-up neighborhoods.

RV resident Crystal Plancarte comforts her 1-year-old son, Nathan in September.

However in East Palo Alto, the pop-up neighborhood is preventing again.

Jesus Rodriguez, left, spokesman for the RV Households Affiliation of East Palo Alto, stands with Ruben Almazo, its president in September.

A number of residents shaped RV Households Affiliation of East Palo Alto in March, headed by a number of immigrants, a chef’s assistant, an upholsterer, a landscaper and a janitor, amongst others, to battle yet one more eviction from what was as soon as one of many Bay Area’s most reasonably priced cities.

October 2018

“We have chosen to stay because this is where we have placed our hopes and dreams.” – An excerpt from the RV Households Affiliation of East Palo Alto’s mission assertion:

“We’re going to be out — really out — in January. I know they’re going to push us out,” stated affiliation spokesman Jesus Rodriguez, 57, an upholsterer and Navy veteran who moved into his RV after his lease in East Palo Alto doubled to $four,000 a month. “I don’t want to leave where I live.”

September 2018

Their neighborhood of about 50 RVs strains the japanese finish of Bay Street and Tara Road, subsequent to a stretch of salvage yards, warehouses and empty tons guarded by chain hyperlink fence. It’s simply off a thoroughfare for native tech staff and sits adjoining to the location of a brand new, multi-million greenback youth schooling middle, Epacenter Arts.

A number of of the getting older RVs have giant banners draped over the edges, making pleas to the large employers within the space: “SOS – Facebook, Sobrato, Amazon, Google.”

Jesus Rodriguez talks concerning the which means behind the S.O.S. indicators.

An deserted bus on the RV encampment in September

The affiliation has a grand imaginative and prescient for East Palo Alto, a metropolis steeped in activism and landlord-tenant disputes: to get a number of acres donated by a serious tech firm to construct an RV park with safety, amenities and common, reasonably priced lease for low-income staff.

However first, they’re preventing City Hall to hold their houses. A proposed ordinance working its approach by way of metropolis authorities would ban most RVs from in a single day parking on metropolis streets.

September 2018

The RV community has set off neighborhood complaints about well being and security. The roadside encampment may cause visitors hazards and blind spots at intersections.

City inspectors have cited trailers for leaking waste and unsanitary circumstances. And residents acknowledge that some community members endure from psychological sickness and battle drug and alcohol addictions.

Martine Santillan, who labored as a janitor at Google for a decade till he was laid off final yr, seems to be round and explains his considerations.

The affiliation organized a petition drive and caused a dozen residents to a listening to this fall of the general public works and transportation committee, a seven-member advisory panel that gives coverage suggestions to the City Council. The draft proposal provided the committee choices to curb RV encampments: ban over-sized automobiles from parking on all metropolis streets between 2 and 5 a.m., or restrict in a single day parking in business and residential districts.

September 2018

The four-hour assembly included a couple of shouting matches and a threatened fight between a metropolis employee and metropolis council candidate (above proper, standing) that prompted a recess.

September 2018

Rodriguez, left, and an RV resident pay attention to the general public works and transportation committee chair Richard Tatum, middle.

Rodriguez handed out ready remarks to the committee and pleaded from the rostrum for mercy. Blue collar staff and laborers can not afford flats within the metropolis, he stated.  “We are the working homeless,” he informed the panel. “Everyone has a story.”

Rodriguez, middle, shares amusing with fellow RV residents in August.

The board sided with the RV house owners, rejecting any plan that may ban in a single day parking for RVs within the metropolis.

“I’m surprised,” Rodriquez stated after the assembly. He anticipated extra resistance from the general public and the town. “There’s a lot more humanity.”

However the community faces extra authorized hurdles. The East Palo Alto City Council will contemplate RV parking restrictions in coming months and has the ultimate say over whether or not the community stays or goes.

December 2018

East Palo Alto Mayor Ruben Abrica reached out to the community greater than a yr in the past, earlier than the town evicted a few dozen RVs from one other residential road. Abrica introduced police and social service organizations into the community, serving to to foster cooperation between the teams.

Residents name him “Alcalde” — Spanish for mayor — however he takes pains to clarify that a mayor in East Palo Alto has far much less energy than one in Mexico. Nonetheless, the town now pays for a personal trash hauler to gather rubbish and for a number of moveable bogs to serve the community.

A number of different nonprofits are pitching in. Undertaking WeHope in East Palo Alto brings moveable showers and a laundromat to the community each week. Different businesses and people ship meals. Close by help teams supply job courses, counseling and web entry.

September 2018

Jennifer Lyons, left, and her son Jules supply RV residents free meals.

August 2018

East Palo Alto dayworker Julio Vallejos receives a bag of his clear garments from a Undertaking WeHope employee.

Abrica introduced East Palo Alto into existence with fellow housing activists within the early 1980s. Almost 4 many years later, the difficulty driving the political divide is identical — reasonably priced housing.

He needs to discover a regional answer for housing the working poor.

Portrait of an RV resident Elizabeth Ariniga in entrance of a trailer in September.

“It’s not like they’re trying to be a nuisance to the city. It’s a survival thing,” Abrica stated. “It’s a strategy, a tactic to survive for a while.”

Crystal Plancarte modifications her 1-year-old son Nathan’s garments in her trailer in September.

September 2018

Underneath the short-term reprieve, life within the RV park stays secure, if at occasions chaotic.

September 2018

RV resident Gene Inexperienced got here again to the Bay Area from Houston to look after his disabled mom and aunt who additionally stay within the encampment.

A giant RV and two automobiles burst into flames one current night, drawing hearth vans and blocking a number of residents from their houses. The charred hulk of the motor coach was ultimately towed away by the town, whereas a number of different deserted automobiles nonetheless mark the roadside.

Early one morning in October, gunfire from a Halloween social gathering at a close-by property awoke RV residents. Two males have been shot and killed, and two others critically wounded within the fight.

No RV residents have been concerned, however it shook the community. Residents say police sometimes come by means of the world a number of occasions a day. Many are involved about security, and most personal no less than one canine. German Shepherds, pit bulls and aggressive mutts guard trailer doorways.

August 2018

A image of Marilyn Monroe hung by a resident’s mattress

October 2018

Gene Inexperienced together with his ripe tomato he is been rising by his RV.

September 2018

Victor Barrera, a 36-year-old landscaper, moved his spouse and younger son out of their RV and right into a shelter for security after a confrontation with an indignant neighbor.

Barrera, who was born in Mexico and grew up in Nevada, has been concerned within the affiliation since he moved into an RV in March. His household misplaced their Redwood City house when the owner elevated the lease from $1,300 to $2,800 a month.

Barrera and his spouse knew the dangers of shifting to a roadside community. However they felt that they had little selection, he stated.

He typically sees the camp as a social experiment, he stated, the place enterprise and political leaders have been making an attempt to see “what would happen if you raised the cost of living and didn’t raise the wages for a certain class of people … it’s definitely political.”

East Palo Alto dayworker Julio Vallejos, sleeps inside a make-shift room in August.

The dwelling is significantly cheaper. One resident estimated it prices about $930 a month to hold her 10-year-old RV operating with electrical energy, insurance coverage and registration, lower than half what a typical two-bedroom house prices.

“Everyone thinks we’re living for free,” stated the lady, who requested not to be named. “We don’t.”

A new metropolis protected parking program opening early subsequent yr might assist a handful of residents. Undertaking WeHope will oversee a guarded metropolis parking zone that may permit working RVs to keep in a single day.

However many are uncertain.

A RV resident tows her belongings down Bay Street.

September 2018

A RV resident tows her belongings down Bay Street.

Rodriguez estimates that almost 90 % of the automobiles would fail to qualify as a result of they lack insurance coverage or registration or aren’t operable. Most lack turbines to present common warmth and lightweight as winter approaches.

Bay Street in August

The protected parking program won’t assist Cosey-Stevens. Her 40-year-old RV wants main repairs to run once more. However it’s been her residence for greater than a yr, since she left a nasty marriage and a San Jose condo. An previous household pal this yr inspired her to transfer her trailer to East Palo Alto.

It’s shut to her job in Redwood City, the place she’s a clerk within the San Mateo County workplace of planning and constructing. Cosey-Stevens helps builders and householders plan tech workplace parks and luxurious housing tasks.

However the houses and workplace parks usually are not being constructed for individuals making a clerk’s wage. She’s unsure how for much longer she will reside within the Bay Area.

She started to cry, as two of her canine rubbed towards her legs. “I hate this life. I hate this life. How quickly can I get out of California?”