Friday, September 22, 2023

‘It’s Not Right’: The Government-Ordered Exodus of the Creekside Cabins Displaces Dozens of Residents

Creekside Cabins residents stand around their packed belongings considering their fates [Photographs by Peter Armstrong]

Residents at Creekside Cabins, an RV park just north of Willits, have been ordered to be off the premises today, due to a public health emergency. An order ratified this week by the Board of Supervisors says anyone on the premises after 5:00 pm Wednesday will face misdemeanor charges.

But many residents have nowhere to go, and their vehicles aren’t in any shape to get them there if they did.

Information about the pending eviction started to come out a week ago, but communications and other services at the park are primitive, according to Janet, who said the power went out the day she had to call an ambulance for her husband.

“The county continually puts their press releases on their Facebook page, expecting all of us to have access to the internet,” she said. “There are maybe five who have access to the internet. We are in a dead zone for cell phones. I use the wi-fi, and calls get dropped constantly. We can’t even call 911 from here.” 

Information of all kinds arrives slowly. A boil water notice, dated January 18, is posted all over the grounds. Residents are advised to boil their water or add bleach to it, based on a sample of raw untreated water from one of the wells that took place on December 27th and tested positive for unspecified bacteria.

The county paid a private contractor to install the bridge yesterday morning. It’s scheduled to be removed by 5:00 tonight. With less than two full days to complete the move, none of the trailers had been towed out by 1:00 yesterday afternoon. People were trying to repair vehicles, but many expect to leave most of their belongings behind as they head into an uncertain future.

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Woodrow Still is sure he’s being wrongfully evicted. A woman in a truck beside him began to weep as we spoke. The truck runs, but the brakes make a lot of noise.  

“It’s not right,” Still insisted. “I don’t know what else to say…They’re breaking the law by saying we only got three days to move out, and not giving us a 90-day notice or anything. It’s not our fault that they can’t get the road fixed, or the bridge fixed. It’s just wrong.”

“This is my home,” wept the woman in the pickup truck. Asked what they were going to do, Still said, “What can we do? What can we do? We can sit here and fight, and get tickets, because I heard they’re having sheriffs come here tomorrow, to make sure people get out.”

“I think they’re trying to scare us,” said the woman. “And it’s working.”

Several residents have gardens, and elaborate outdoor shrines to dead loved ones. Still described some of what he’ll be leaving behind. “It’s a lot of river stones,” he said; “A lot of picking and carrying and packing and placing, and art. It’s art. It’s a shrine to our dead sister. And now we gotta leave it. Because how are we supposed to pack it out? You can’t pack something like that back up.”

Packed belongings stacked outside an RV

A few spaces down, their neighbor Manny has trained a sucker from a bay tree to grow into an archway to the entrance of a postage stamp yard. He may be one of the lucky ones. 

“I hope so,” he said, when I asked him if he’d be ready to be out by the next day. “I’ve got people who are supposed to tow me,” he said. “And I got an RV spot that I’m trying to get. So I’ve got to insure this by tomorrow or today.” Asked if he was able to come up with move-in expenses, he said, “I have most of it.”

Randy Feta is confident he’ll find a place in San Francisco, where he and his wife originally come from. He knows just about everything about all his neighbors, and is quick to heap praise and sympathy on everyone.

“I’m really hurting and really worried about all these people that are from up here, and the people who are settled and been here fifteen, twenty years in this one place,” he said. “And they’re disabled. They can’t afford to move. Even if they get help to move out of here, they can’t afford another spot that they’re going to…I just don’t see no sense to put all the money they’ve been spending on all this manpower, and not fix the problem…All these people are going to be out on the street, and going to the government for help.” 

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Near the back of the property, Denise, who’s worked her way out of homelessness once, lives in a 35-foot-long 1973 green bus with a sign on the door that says, “No Hippys.”

“It usually runs beautifully, but my starter’s been fried,” she reflected. “And I need to replace that. They didn’t give me enough time to order the part, so that I can get out of here. I have a couple options in the next town north. However, feasibility is near impossible to get it there now. And I’m not really comfortable leaving my stuff here.” She’s been hitchhiking to work or getting rides from friends, “But it’s been really difficult, having to hitchhike, having to haul in all my own supplies and haul out trash. It’s been a challenge. I don’t know where it’s going to go from here. I’m on the fence about what to do.”

A friend of hers who came to visit just before the sinkhole opened up was stranded and lost her job, so the two are now roommates in the bus. But Janet is on her own because her husband, who has emphysema, is in the hospital. The couple, and their aging boxer mix, have a temporary place to land. But Janet hasn’t been impressed with county services since the disaster. 

“I was asked twice if my husband needed oxygen, and I told them yes,” she claimed. “Nobody brought him anything. I was able to scrounge up oxygen tanks from somebody else who lives on the property who had tanks sitting around who is currently in the hospital right now.”

Denise summed up the situation succinctly. “It’s like thanks a lot. We had a home, and now we’re just basically SOL,” she remarked.

Several residents didn’t want to talk to me. They were scared, or ashamed to cry in front of a stranger. Not Janet. 

“Yeah, we are poor,” she sobbed. “I’m just gonna straight up say it. We’re poor.”

The county’s homeless point in time count starts at sundown today, about a half hour after the bridge between Creekside Cabins and Highway 101 is scheduled to be removed.

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  1. Doesn’t it seem like there should be a solution to this problem? If a sink hole is a natural disaster, wouldn’t insurance cover the repair cost? I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems crazy that all these people are going to be homeless when there could be a viable solution. The County puts up a temporary bridge to kick all the people out then takes it down. How much did that cost? There has to be a way to help these people.

      • And the City of Ukiah has paid out millions for the bad cops that have sexually assaulted women in our community. Insurance companies and our taxes are paying!

        • You know the animals shit and piss in the forest. They could of built a outhouse or a eco toilet. Where you just bury the waste. What was the excavator and big rig full of dirt for. Seems like they could of fixed it overnight.

    • That isn’t true it’s what there using as an excuse to get everyone out. They say it is a tweaker park. It’s not there is a few people in the park that I’m most likely r but it’s mostly older people disabled people with low income. That have been getting treated like crap. There is no feces like they say I’ve walked the whole park looking for proof. None so far!

      • Most people agree this is a sad, tragic situation, but that doesn’t change the reality, witnessed by many. The county inspectors found “many RV systems draining sewage & grey water from small hoses directly towards & into the creek…”. Are you suggesting all the inspectors & media reporting sources are lying?
        As far as it being a haven for tweakers, the Police Logs, over the years, have revealed that to be so. Aside from local witnesses, confirming it.
        It’s a shame that seniors & disabled folks are subjected to such poor conditions, but denial won’t solve the problems.

          • I might believe one or two inspectors lying, but I find it hard to accept that several officials, media sources & local folks who have visited there, in recent years, are all lying.
            Anyone who has driven by there, can see the property has been ‘run down’ for years. One local person said they stopped answering service calls for that property, because it was so bad.
            It was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’ & something should’ve been done to help those people, long before this storm emergency occurred. The owner should’ve been contacted by the county, long ago, to maintain the park & address code violations.
            Now, these poor folks are victims of inaction & the neglect of this property.

            • They should sue the county and the landlord. It is the county’s responsibility to protect people from slumlords who allow their rental units to become inhabitable. Bring in the Lawyers and make the clowns pay for their negligence!

              • Yes, I agree. Although, it’s a tragedy for these poor folks, I believe it’s wrong to imply this was not neglected, derelict property, where there was sewage contaminating the creek. Too many people witnessed it, to claim it was a lie.
                The county HAD to condemn the property, but I fault officials for not acting years ago. It’s not like this was a remote, hidden location. Anyone who drove by, on Hwy 101, could see those people were living in squalor, for many years.
                I wonder if there’s a lawyer willing to take on this case.

    • Where were the county inspectors for all these years that this property has degraded ? This has been a disaster waiting to happen, and now it has happened. Just another case of government negligence and a slumlord getting over!….Bring in the ambulance chasers, this is an easy slam dunk for the lawyers. Mendocino county building and housing inspectors neglected their duty to enforce the building codes, and the property owner broke the law by allowing her units and property to become inhabitable.

  2. Why is the county being blamed in this situation? What is ‘not right’ is how the owner refused to respond to this emergency & allowed the property to degrade into such poor condition.
    What is the county supposed to do? Look the other way while sewage leaks contaminate waterways? There was no mention of that serious issue, in this story.

    • The county has the responsibility to enforce building codes and issue citations for infractions. It’s pretty obvious that the county dropped the ball on this property and allowed ongoing violations to accumulate without enforcing the law.

  3. This is just a sad day that will lead our community into further separation and anxiety. I understand that the county is a business and so is creekside cabins and that makes it extremely sensitive in giving charity so many want in the form of the county giving a bridge to this community. The thing that strikes me the most other than the county declaring a health emergency because of a untreated water sample in a facility that treats their water is the fact that CalTrans is actually the dictator of jurisdiction in regards to the bridge, this leads me to believe the owner may be right on the ownership of all or majority of the right of way. The owner collects rent and must have insurance to cover something like this and why if she cares so much about her tenants has she not just fixed the issue and then sought compensation for revimbursement of all or portion of reconstruction, the litigation would most likely be shorter than that of who’s going to fix the problem and she could still operate what seems to be a thriving business venture. The county yes may have dealt some dirty hands but they cannot and will not bailout a private business no matter how many lives may be affected. I compare this story to one that played out during the pandemic in which Wildwood RV on hwy 20 had multiple violations in regards to septic and vehicles and trailers that were in inhabitible or not licensed and insured that they were forced to make an owner evict and remove residents and fix issues at hand, this played out during the pandemic and left people homeless as well yet the owner took head with the county expediting permits and allowed county staff to help with questions or other small services they could provide. So the county seems to have shifted a gear and made the earth rotate in the form of emergency repairs to this site contacting and working with state to expedite a normally lengthy process of permits and environmental reviews, the owner was given a list of contractors that could accomplish the job; yet that was insufficient and so now the residents and a community feel the tax payers in this county should burden themselves to help a private business as in government bail out. If the people of this county want to bail out a business then they should have been out at getting signatures and letting the county know the people they represent wanted it to be and the county would need to see at least a 1/4 of it’s residents agreeing to it in order to bring it to board meeting for possible action. So now the bridge is gone the fate of many is burdened upon the community to provide shelter and assistance and if and when the park opens will they be in any position to return, will the financial cost drive up rent or will the park be put up on the block for someone else to worry about or even worse is it going to be a palace motel incident where in it becomes a receivership of the county looking for financially viable ownership.

  4. Did they let sewage pumping trucks on the property while the temporary bridge was in place? Oh, wait, those people can just bag their sewage and hitchhike into town with it. So, mother nature cuts services to people living in the only place they can live and rather than help them, their lives are made worse.

  5. Sadly these folks have been cheated by an unscrupulous landlord and that landlord is getting away with it. Imagine if you had a piece of land and let people camp on it for a fee , yet you refused to maintain the facilities that made it habitable and then a disaster trapped the tennants on YOUR property. Look at all the vehicles and living conditions in this Creekside Cabin place, where were the inspectors for the last several years? Maybe these folks should unite and sue the county and the landlord! Government is non-legitimate if it refuses to protect the people it governs! Bring in the Lawyers!

    • Yes, I think the focus of this article misses the mark. Instead of blaming the county for condemning the property & evacuating the people, they should be addressing the county’s neglect in not acting many years ago. The county should’ve been citing this owner for faulty septic systems, building code violations, unlicensed vehicles, etc. It would’ve still created hardship for many of the residents, but they could’ve had much more time to make plans, repair vehicles & find alternatives.
      If the owner had required the vehicles to be currently licensed & registered on the property, some of the residents could’ve moved them to other RV parks. There was a ‘manager’ on site, but apparently all they did was collect rent.

  6. Ezekiel 16:49 Behold, this was the inequity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. Churches keep lying about the reason Sodom was destroyed by blaming homosexuals but that is never even hinted at in the story if you bother to read it. Ukiah is at war with the poor and homeless.

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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