Dallas Mobile Home Park
A pecan tree and two elms shade Sonia and Francisco Brink’s place in West Dallas.
Potted plants and plastic flowers, tables and toys, exercise equipment, fences and more mark the yard outside the trailer they share with two grandchildren.
“I try to fix it up nice, you know, ” said Sonia, presenting her space, talking above the rattle of cicadas. As for the trailer, with its new outer wall of pale mustard-colored wood: “We were going to paint it until we got the news.”
Fliers left at doors delivered the news June 11: The Brinks and other tenants at the Dallas West Mobile Home/RV Park have until Aug. 31 to leave.
That deadline could make for a showdown.
Cienda Partners, a Dallas-based real estate investment company, has a contract to sell the prime 8 acres at 400 W. Commerce St. to apartment developer Wood Partners.
When that deal might close is uncertain, said Randall White, a Cienda spokesman and volunteer board chairman of the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce. “All the work being done on the ground is getting the property ready for sale, ” he said.
That work included an “information social” June 11 for the park’s residents.
Led by White, with translation assistance from City Council member Monica Alonzo, the event featured tacos and representatives from the city, school system and housing organizations. Handouts included lists of mobile home moving companies, area trailer parks and other possible resources.
“Thank you for being a tenant of the Dallas West Mobile Home/RV Park, ” headlined the piece of paper that told residents they had to pay rents through Aug. 31 and could face eviction proceedings and removal of property that remained after that day.
Ask park tenants about the unsettling surprise. Hear concerns about the deadline, the cost of moving trailers, the challenge of finding a suitable, affordable place to land. Hear words of irritation, sadness and acceptance.
Ask about the park itself, with its trophy trees and 154 rental spaces minutes west of downtown, and hear about a convenient and affordable oasis of shade, security and neighborly support.
“Life is very good here. No violence. No thefts, ” said Florencia Navarro, who came to the park with husband Eduardo from Mexico 24 years ago.
Eduardo, a carpenter, and Florencia, a teacher, have raised three children there. All still live at home including Eduardo Jr., who will be a seventh-grader this fall at Greiner Middle School.
“It’s peaceful here. There’re really no problems, ” he said, recalling cookouts and parties, hanging out with friends and three-on-three baseball games in a grassy space among trailers. “We’d play tennis with those things, ” he said of two metal poles cemented into tires. “We’d connect them with string” to create a sort of net.
Francisco Torres has lived most of his 18 years at the park. “I say it’s paradise, ” said the soon-to-be senior at Pinkston High School. “Everybody looks out for each other here. It’s like a community.”
Torres shares a time-worn trailer with his parents, three brothers, six dogs and a cat.
“It may be broken and things falling apart, but it’s like a castle to me, ” he said. “You could buy an expensive house, but you wouldn’t have the same benefits we have here.”
His father works at a glass shop, his mother cleans houses and they have begun looking for a house to rent, he said.
“It’s tough. We’re between being too poor and rich.”
Jean Breidt, their next-door neighbor, has lived at the park since 1984. She said the place had a dozen or so trailers when hers was moved in 29 years ago near the former site of Pappy’s Showland, the nightclub that closed in 1958.
Retired, Breidt lives with her son and grandson, paying $420 a month plus utilities for a space that includes the silver leaf maple tree and magenta-blossomed crape myrtle she planted early on.
“I love it here. We’re close to everything, ” she said. “The kids are so polite. People are friendly and helpful. I’m going to miss it a lot.”
But Breidt hasn’t missed the signs of change.
“I knew it was coming with all that’s going on in the area, ” she said, mentioning the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and the Sylvan Thirty apartment-retail project in the works nearby.
And now that the breakup has begun, she doesn’t expect a change in direction: “You can’t fight big business. They’ve got a staff of attorneys on retainer and that’s just the way it is.”
To that end, Breidt has begun packing. She hopes to find a house to rent and to sell her 40-year-old trailer for salvage.
“It’s been a nice place to live, but everything has to change I guess, ” she said.
Other residents aren’t leaving so quietly.
A Dallas West group, led by Hispanic rights activist Carlos Quintanilla, protested outside a public meeting about Trinity River corridor projects, forcing a postponement of the event. He and tenants took their concerns to last week’s swearing-in of the new City Council and to Cienda’s North Dallas office, where they were asked to leave, Quintanilla said.
Francisco Torres has created a Facebook page, Save Dallas West Mobile Park. Sonia Brink has written those words on the rear window of her Yukon. “I know I have to move, but I need time, money and a place to go, ” she said.
Brink is not alone in such sentiments. Quintanilla, who said he represents 47 tenants, has asked the park’s owners to give each Dallas West leaseholder a six-month, rent-free move-out extension, an $8, 500 “relocation allowance, ” help finding a new place to live and reimbursement for any trailer purchased “under or through existing Dallas West Trailer Park Management.”
The park owners should “at least be fair with them, just with them, have a moral compass, ” Quintanilla said.
White said Cienda set the Aug. 31 move-out date believing it “would be the least disruptive for tenants with schoolchildren.”
He said Cienda hasn’t responded to the assistance request. But park tenants will have the opportunity to “talk through their concerns and needs” individually with the owners’ representatives, White said. Quintanilla said he will encourage tenants to “let the judicial process take its course” if their request for assistance isn’t met.
Cienda bought Dallas West in 2006, a year after the City Council rezoned it and other property along Commerce and Fort Worth Avenue. The new zoning allows apartments at the trailer park site in a mixed-use development.