Monday, October 2, 2023

The Creekside Cabins Sinkhole Debacle Continues: Landlord’s Inaction Forces County of Mendocino to Intervene

The welcome sign to the Creekside Cabins now points into the sinkhole that has changed the course of the property’s future [All photographs taken by Matt LaFever]

A slow-moving humanitarian disaster is playing out north of Willits at the Creekside Cabins after a sinkhole swallowed the road in and out of the property 18 days ago. The only way the approximately fifty residents who reside there can enter and exit is a muddy footpath through an adjacent property. 

The County of Mendocino reports they have been forced to intervene after the owner of the property, Teresa Thurman, has not cooperated with officials and refused to pay for the necessary repairs that would allow residents to come and go from the property.

Garbage piling up because sanitation trucks are unable to enter the property

With garbage trucks unable to enter the property, piles of refuse are growing. Sewage reservoirs within the RVs are nearing capacity. Hitchhiking has become a relied-upon form of transportation for tenants 

Mendocino County Public Health is investigating these concerns and has issued a public health advisory that these conditions could contaminate water risking infections, skin rashes, gastrointestinal illness, and other infectious diseases.

An SUV is now stuck in a creek after a stir-crazy tenant attempted to build a makeshift bridge to exit the property

One stir-crazy resident attempted to build a makeshift bridge and drive across it resulting in an SUV stuck in the creek that abuts the property.

In the coming days, the County of Mendocino will take action to install a temporary bridge allowing tenants a window of opportunity to vacate the premises with their belongings. Social Services intends to assist those in need with shelter, but many residents are low-income with minimal resources to relocate. The county will remove the bridge after a short time and leave the future of the property in the hands of the landlord which have thus far proven idle. 

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Teresa Thurman, the property owner of the Creekside Cabins

This reporter visited the Creekside Cabins yesterday. Crossing the footpath tenants have used to navigate the washed-out roadway, the property owner Teresa Thurman quickly approached. 

Thurman has a documented track record of litigation over the last decade stemming from her property management practices in Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino Counties. Though initially willing to provide us with comments on the sinkhole situation when the situation first started, Thurman stopped responding to our inquiries when we requested her statements be provided in writing.

When Thurman approached, she demanded credentials and after we provided a press pass, asked us to leave the property. We communicated our intent was to interview tenants about their experiences. Thurman insisted we leave. 

Hitchhiking has become common in the aftermath of the sinkhole due to tenants being unable to use their vehicles

We found two women across Highway 101 in a turnout trying to hitch a ride south. One woman told us she was from Brookings, Oregon, and had come to the Creekside Cabins to visit friends and celebrate the New Year. She is now stuck because she cannot drive her van out of the property. She lost her job back in Brookings due to her extended absence.

We asked what the landlord had done to support tenants thus far. A long-time tenant told us the landlord was making sure “we didn’t blame it on her. She wants to cover her ass.”

A vehicle swallowed by sinkhole north of Willits [Picture by MCSO Captain Greg Van Patton]

On December 30, 2022, the private drive between the Creekside Cabins and Highway 101 gave way underneath a vehicle that found itself nose-first in a large sinkhole that quickly grew to a full-blown washout. 

The County of Mendocino contends that day first responders made contact with residents and established safety plans and provided them with resources such as food, medical supplies, and emergency services. 

On December 31, 2022, the county officials contacted Thurman after Caltrans determined the driveway from Highway 101 to the Creekside Cabins was a private encroachment and her responsibility to repair.

Initially, Thurman entered into a discussion with a county-recommended contractor to make the necessary repairs but ultimately refused to enter into a contract and expressed “unwillingness to perform the work, ” according to information released by the County.

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On January 14, 2023, Mendocino County’s Code Enforcement declared the property a public nuisance “due to the failure of the owner/operator to address urgent health and safety risks.” This designation resulted in the county’s decision to install the temporary bridge allowing residents to exit. 

The county’s social services apparatus intends to “work with eligible tenants” that might need to relocate.” The exact timeline of when this bridge will be installed and the impending exodus will commence remains unclear.

These tenants are left with limited and difficult choices. They could relocate and relinquish their future to Mendocino County’s industrial homeless complex navigating a byzantine bureaucracy in hopes of landing HUD housing. They could attempt to find a new rental privately in a market already stretched thin. Or, they could remain at the Creekside Cabins, entrusting their fate to Teresa Thurman, the landlord who drove to her substandard property in a black Cadillac Escalade to explain to her tenants why their problems were not hers to solve. 

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  1. Love the sign with an arrow pointing straight into the the sinkhole😂😂appropriate! I hope those tenants haven’t paid any rent this month or until the road is fixed. Need to hit that lady in the pocket book!

  2. Another slumlord slipping through the loopholes of property ownership? Or just a greedy old bitch unwilling to spend the money it takes to maintain her rental agreements? Seems to be both. This property was for sale not long ago, but as with many rental unit properties it probably had too many issues for a legitimate landlord to take the risk!

  3. Hang this woman. The property owner I’m referring to. Take away her assets as California is accustomed to. Nobody would deserve it more. What a P.O.S. Not that I believe that CA should be seizing assets but they do all the time. There couldn’t be a more deserving candidate.

  4. In order to keep code in California land owners must raise rents. Codes= homeless. There are thousands of homes to live in but code says no. They protect the poor all the way to their distruction

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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