Facing the loss of their homes, longtime Garden Grove residents are fighting the City of Garden Grove’s plans to evict them while using taxpayer money for a hotel and water park project that is still seeking outside financing – and may not break ground for years.
The City recently told residents of the Travel Country RV Park they have 90 days to move. Residents are asking the Orange County Superior Court to stop the evictions unless and until the City and its Redevelopment Agency fully meet their legal obligations under affordable housing laws, including finding alternative comparable housing the residents can afford.
Residents and their attorneys were surprised and worried by the City’s sudden action.
“Garden Grove is our home, it’s where our children go to school, and it’s where many of us work,” said Marina Limon, a 23-year park resident and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, Limon v. Garden Grove Agency for Development (Case No. 30-2009 00291597, Orange County Superior Court). Limon is a member of ACCE, the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment. “The City’s told us we have to leave our neighbors, friends, and homes and we’re really nervous about where we’re all going to end up. There’s not a lot of affordable options.”
"Families at the Travel Country RV Park are longtime residents who support the local economy, and the City of Garden Grove is leaving hard-working families with no options,” said Remy De La Peza, staff attorney at Public Counsel, which represents the longtime tenants. “We are asking the court to enforce redevelopment laws designed to protect people facing eviction over taxpayer funded development projects. The City and its Redevelopment Agency haven’t complied with these laws so we’re asking the court to step in to stop the evictions.”
In 2009, Garden Grove residents sued the City, its City Council and the City’s Redevelopment Agency after the Agency moved forward with plans to convert the Travel Country RV Park to a hotel and water park without complying with the state’s affordable housing laws.
The Park has long served as permanent affordable housing for many of the area's lower-income service workers and their families. Many of these long-term residents support their families by working multiple jobs such as cleaning up Disneyland, working concessions at Angel Stadium, and working for the Garden Grove public schools.
The Park had been home to 170 lower-income families and many of the 40 remaining families have lived there for 15 or more years, have deep ties to the community, and have low incomes, making it extremely difficult for them to find other affordable housing in the City.
The City has committed $47 million in public funds to the hotel and water park with only the promise of a $50,000 private investment by the developer.
Under California’s redevelopment and affordable housing laws, cities that want to evict residents for public redevelopment projects must have an adequate “relocation assistance plan” that identifies the needs of the affected residents and comparable housing they can afford. The City adopted a deficient plan only in 2009, six years after it first undertook the project by buying the Park. The City’s amended plan remains deficient.
On June 16, 2011, the City gave the remaining residents a 90-day notice – that their leases were being terminated and that they were required to vacate the park within 90 days. When the residents made it clear they were seeking the court’s intervention to prevent their eviction, the City agreed to temporarily delay the evictions.
The residents’ lawsuit was to go to trial in January, 2012 but the trial has been delayed due to the recent reassignment of the case to another judge. Unless the court stops the evictions, residents will lose their homes before the case is resolved, leaving residents with no remedy if the court agrees that the City and Agency haven’t complied with the law. Park residents are represented by Public Counsel, California Affordable Housing Law Project and Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P as lead counsel.
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