A resident protests outside the Lazy Daze Mobile Home Park. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror
For the residents of the Lazy Daze Mobile Home Park in Phoenix, standing up to management means retaliation — but the community feels they have no other options because they worry their lives depend on it.
“When you go to sleep, you never know if you’re going to get up the next morning,” resident Rosa Galvez Lopez said. Lopez, like many other residents, is concerned about electrical lines and boxes that haven’t been replaced since the 1970s.
The boxes can serve up to 50 amps while newer parks can serve up to at least 100 to 200 amps — enough to safely handle typical 21st Century energy loads — according to research done by the residents of the park. The old electrical boxes have overloaded and caused electrical fires on properties across the park, residents said.
“Our life could be in danger,” Lopez said.
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The boxes are one in a series of issues, including onerous fees and a lack of communication from management, that spurred residents to organize and to bring their concerns to management with a united voice. But management hasn’t taken kindly to that, they say.
Many residents did not want to speak to the media or be seen protesting after past incidents in which they had been targeted with fees or other retaliatory measures, said Veronica Monge, co-chair of the Arizona Poor People’s Campaign.
When the Arizona Mirror attempted to contact the owners of the property, it was met with many of the same issues residents had been facing: phone numbers led to voicemail boxes that were not set up and emails went unreturned.
“This is the last bastion of affordable housing,” Monge said of the park.
Fees and trash
The tenants of the community near 43rd Avenue and Van Buren Street have been working with Monge and other local advocates, like former Maricopa County attorney candidate Julie Gunigle, the West Valley NAACP and LULAC, to better understand their rights and to detail what has been happening.
In a report titled “The High Cost of ‘Affordable’ Housing,” the Poor People’s Campaign detailed the lives of a few Lazy Daze tenants who have been harmed by unfair fee structures and poor management of the park.
The report found that the mobile home park routinely charges fees for violations of “rules and regulations” or “pet violations,” which then become the basis of eviction notices. The fees can range anywhere from $25 to $250. Typical rents at Lazy Daze are between $600 and $800 a month.
And when residents are hit with fees, they’re not told what the violation was or when it occurred, only that they need to “pay all their rent, utilities and fines or their rental agreement will be terminated.”
One resident spoke with the Mirror about a neighbor who was charged a “pet violation” fee for a pet that had been deceased for months. It took months for the resident to get the fee removed. (The Mirror is not naming the resident to protect them from retaliation.) Another resident was charged $25 for a vehicle that had been repossessed months earlier, according to the report.
And many of the fines were targeted at specific people.
Almost all the residents who attended the first meeting to organize a tenants’ union for the park told organizers that they began facing more frequent fines and some were served eviction notices. Management even began asking some tenants if they had been attending the meetings, according to the report.
The largest act of retaliation would come when the residents held a prayer vigil outside an ill resident’s trailer after a tenants’ union meeting. The next day, management directed all tenants to begin placing their trash cans outside that resident’s home.
The area outside that resident’s home is also a fire lane.
“I don’t understand how you can have a fire lane and trash cans in the same place,” Monge said Mirror.
The electrical boxes are not the only part of the electrical issue that residents are concerned about.
The older electrical infrastructure means that most residents can’t run multiple appliances at once. And after management removed the on-site laundromat, residents have begun installing washers and dryers in their mobile homes, which has presented new problems.
Many residents have begun noticing their lights flickering or small electrical fires starting because the park’s outdated electrical boxes cannot handle the electrical loads. According to one resident, a Salt River Project technician who visited the park found that the poles delivering electricity were outdated and needed replacement.
“SRP offered to replace the equipment free of charge, but (said) management would have to replace the electrical poles,” the report says. “Predictably, management declined.”
On Valentine’s Day, residents protested outside the property along with local advocates. But some residents were fearful of showing up due to the retaliation they had already received.
“Today, we want results,” Monge said.
Later that day, City of Phoenix code inspectors showed up and walked through the park. It’s unclear if any action will be taken and what the outcome will be. The city told the Mirror it was still gathering information on the situation at the park.
As for the residents, their current plan is to continue to apply pressure to the owners in hopes that they’ll change up the management structure of the park.
Lopez, who has lived at the park for three years, said she is awestruck by what she has been experiencing.
“I’ve never seen something like this before,” Lopez said, shaking her head.
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