Phoenix City Council eyes rezoning to prevent mobile home evictions
PHOENIX (CN) — For the first time in a while, residents of Periwinkle and other Phoenix mobile home parks celebrated a win in the fight for their homes.
Nearly 100 people from Weldon Court, Las Casitas, Periwinkle Park and the surrounding Phoenix area applauded after the Phoenix City Council community and cultural investment subcommittee voted 3-0 to support a motion to alter zoning laws to prevent anything other than mobile homes to be built in mobile home parks.
The vote came during a special meeting to address concerns of mobile home residents who’ve been told they need to leave their homes in the coming months.
Despite the parks and some of their residents having been there for decades, property managers say residents need to find a new place to go. Weldon Court is scheduled to close on April 1, Las Casitas is set to close May 1, and Periwinkle Park will close May 28.
“Every day I can’t focus in class because I worry one day GCU will take my home and my family will have to go out on the street,” 10-year-old Geovanny Yanis told the subcommittee.
Grand Canyon University bought the land Periwinkle Park sits on in 2016 with plans to build student apartments on the land.
Alondra Ruiz Vazquez, who’s lived in Periwinkle for nine years, said the stress of living on a deadline has affected residents physically. One resident died of a heart attack last month, which was attributed to stress. Gerald Suter, who’s 84 and has lived in Periwinkle for 29 years, has experienced worsening heart conditions because of unwavering pressure on him and his neighbors.
The state offers financial assistance to residents to relocate their mobile homes, but residents say what was offered isn’t enough. Even if residents could afford it, Michael Trailor, president and CEO of Trellis, the nonprofit hired by GCU to offer housing assistance, said none of the mobile homes can be moved because they’re too old and could fall apart if transported. And there’s nowhere in Phoenix with a similar price point to the three mobile home parks.
The subcommittee meeting began with a presentation from deputy city managers Gina Montes and Alan Stephenson, along with Trailor and a group called Helping Families In Need, which provides free services to Arizona families facing financial burden.
It covered recommendations for helping residents as their move-out dates approach, like rental assistance, case management with Trellis and Helping Families, emergency housing vouchers and homeownership down payment assistance.
Residents and other Arizonans said the measures still wouldn’t be enough, even if the people were OK with leaving their communities.
“I’m disappointed at the proposed ‘viable’ solutions that merely act a Band-aid over the ever increasing flood of land acquisition that serves to displace thousands and line the pockets of greedy speculators,” said Claudio Cirillo, a resident of the Phoenix metro area.
Instead, people pushed for a mobile home park zoning overlay to prevent other things being built in mobile home parks.
That answer was one of the few listed as “non-viable” in the city’s presentation.
“Arizona state law requires monetary compensation for any diminished land value from a new zoning rule,” Stephenson said, meaning landowners would need to be compensated for any loss in value through rezoning.
That rule stems from Arizona Proposition 207. But the same proposition says that the law doesn’t apply if the government uses the land “for the protection of the public’s health and safety.” Because of this, residents called Proposition 207 a red herring to distract from an otherwise viable solution.
City Council member Carlos Garcia agreed.
“The city of Phoenix has issued zoning overlays on property owners in order to protect golf courses and historically significant buildings,” he said. “There should be no hesitation for us to protect these homes.”
The subcommittee, made up of Garcia, Betty Guardado and Vice Mayor Yassamin Ansari, voted 3-0 to recommend the motion to the full City Council, which take up the issue March 22.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Ruiz Vazquez said after the meeting, her broad smile peeking past the edges of her blue surgical mask. “I feel like we’re gonna win this.”
Parents and children alike spoke animatedly behind her as they stood outside the council chambers to celebrate their victory.
Because the changing zoning laws can take more than just the few months mobile home residents have left, Guardado introduced another motion to place an 18-month moratorium on land development in the three parks.
Guardado also introduced a motion for the city to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona State University’s school of geographical science and urban planning “or a similar agency” to produce a study of of mobile home parks in the city to analyze ownership, underlying zoning, vacancy rates, quality of housing and recommendations for preservation and improvement. Ansari introduced a motion to reallocate $2.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to help people affected by mobile home displacement.
The subcommittee voted unanimously to support the four motions.