When the weather is nice, Clarita Neal ends her day sitting on her porch, surrounded by her potted plants — a jasmine, rose of Sharon, geranium and others.
"I don't know if it's the favorite part of my day, but I do enjoy it," said Neal, who lives in the Willow Pointe Apartments, a 24-unit complex for low-income seniors and the disabled.
But Neal and other residents recently received letters from the property manager stating that they are violating the three-potted-plant rule.
Residents can't have more than three plants because it clutters their patios, making it difficult for emergency responders to enter their apartments. The no-clutter rule also governs plant stands and patio furniture.
The letter from Arizona-based Landmark Management Group warns that residents who continue to break the rules could have their leases terminated or not renewed.
But residents say they keep their patios tidy despite having more than three potted plants, and firefighters and paramedics don't have trouble entering the apartments.
"It's because we're senile," Jessie Martinez, 67, said about the potted plant crackdown. "It's like they don't think we have any common sense because we are old."
Neal and Martinez were among a half-dozen residents who spoke with The Bee on Tuesday. They also are upset that Landmark is focused on their patios while ignoring the weeds that poke through the landscape rocks in the complex's common areas. And they want a community garden.
Landmark Management Group President Julie Nylen said she understands residents' concerns but said her company is following the complex owner's wishes. She downplayed the warning in her letter that residents could have their leases terminated or not renewed.
"That's the last thing we would want to do," she said. "We just want to comply with the owner's wishes. We just feel this is reasonable."
Nylen said her company is not ignoring the weeds and may change landscapers. She said her company's experience with community gardens is that they don't work because residents can't agree on how to run them.
Condition of loan
The president of the Colorado company that built and owns Willow Pointe said he's required to keep the complex safe for all residents as a condition of his loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Housing Services. He said the USDA program also subsidizes tenants' rents.
"I'm sorry that tenants are upset about a limit that is being put upon them," Cordes Housing President David Cordes said. "But it's basically different from a private residence, where if you want to, you can make it impossible to get into."
Residents say the issue has deep roots and they have wrangled with management at least a couple of other times over their potted plants. This time, residents appealed to the city of Riverbank for help, sending a letter in May with 14 residents' signatures.
Riverbank helped Cordes Development acquire its funding and inspects the property. But residents said the city sent them information about contacting other agencies for help.
Residents said the plants dress up their drab porches and give them something to occupy their minds and keep their bodies active.
"I just have gotten into really enjoying plants as I've gotten older," Neal said.
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