Friday, September 2, 2011 at 3:31 p.m.
Three miles away, a ratcheting sound and slight tremors bring smiles. They're signs of the thrill of a ride on Space Mountain. But here, at the Del Ray Mobile Home Park on South Manchester Avenue in Anaheim, the loud clanks and shakes bring more than just frowns.
As Emma Perez
walks through her mobile home on a recent afternoon, the repeated thumps of a jackhammer outside drown out her already-muted voice. She lost her voice recently, Perez says, adding that the heaping piles of loose dust near her open window don't help her throat any.
"My life changed. It changed completely," Perez says of her situation since the city's $66 million construction project began a few yards from her home. "I'm 63 years old and I want to be tranquil."
The city broke ground on the Gene Autry Way Project
in October. The plan extends the road over Interstate 5 and connects the Platinum Triangle to the city's resort district, making for easier access to popular destinations like Angels Stadium and Disneyland.
Emma Perez stands outside her mobile home a few yards away from construction for the city of Anaheim's Gene Autry Way Project.
OCWeekly/ Marisa Gerber
Santa Ana-based attorney Elena Torres, who represents Perez and several other tenants in the mobile home park, says she took the case because she wants justice. "I mean, what options do the tenants really have?" Torres says. "The city is just telling them, 'This is what we're gonna be doing.' And, the tenants are low-income. Some of these homes are so old they can't be moved and the cost to move a mobile home is about $10,000."
Another attorney recently settled a client's case with the city for $700, she says. Personally, Torres has reached a frustrating point in her cases. Neither her clients nor her firm have the financial resources to fund the experts needed to defend the case. A construction expert could testify about the damage to the mobile homes, Torres says, and a toxicologist, perhaps, could say whether the construction is stirring up any harmful toxins into the air. "Without any experts, [the city is] not going to be volunteering to compensate these people."
Torres says she feels especially bad for the tenants who are trying to take on the city on their own. "They're hopeful. I spoke with one gentleman and he said, 'They can't force us to sign.' And I said, 'No, they can't force you, so you won't sign, you won't accept and you won't get the $700 and then what are you going to do?' And he said, 'It's going to go to trail.' There's no attorney who is going to come into the case on the eve of trial. To do what? And he said, 'We'll go forward on our own.' And I said, 'Do you have experts?' He didn't say anything."
Vanessa Barrientos is the liaison between the city and the tenants. She hand delivers notifications of the construction schedule and fields tenant complaints about the project via email and at a telephone hotline. "I've been working with the residents for over a year, they know me by name," Barrientos says. The city is currently in the process of looking into issues of damages and compensation, she says, adding that there's currently "more than one attorney and different agreements."
"What am I going to do?" tenant Perez wonders. "Bear it? I'm going to try. This is going to be for two years, two years. It's horrible." Then Perez stops talking, sits down and shakes her head as the pounding noise, which had relented for a bit, reverberated through her home again.
Here, at the Del Ray Mobile Home Park, the booms and shakes are free, you just can't decide when you want to ride.