Residents at the squalid Jack’s Bayou Resort are fighting back.
In addition, on Aug. 9, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Y. Hamilton granted a preliminary injunction ordering the owners to repair the items listed in a state report, refrain from retaliation, allow access for sewage removal and refrain from turning off electricity and water. The judge also ordered the owners to provide relocation benefits if repairs cannot be made.
Today the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office said that it is aware of the conditions there and it is consulting with other agencies to resolve them.
The lead plaintiff, Phyllis Marin, first spoke to GV Wire last April. She revealed wiring problems, poor water quality, exposed wires and other problems.
The story prompted a state agency to look into the park’s compliance with applicable law.
The Department of Housing and Community Development found 161 health and safety violations. Among the allegations in the initial report, HCD said that the owners illegally rented spaces and used illegal electrical, water, and sewer hookups.
Lawsuit Alleges Squalid, Unsanitary Conditions
According to the lawsuit filed in Fresno County Superior Court, Marin has lived at the location since April 2015. The park’s owner, identified in the suit as Adel Mohamed, kept deplorable conditions, overcrowded the park to “collect as much rent as they could from the impoverished residents, and use virtually none of the money to maintain the Park in habitable condition.”
Past GV Wire stories identified Saeed Mohamed as the owner (also referred to sometimes as Mohamed Saeed). Attorneys for Marin say that Adel and Saeed are two separate individuals.
Adel Mohamed is listed on county property records as the owner of the property on 30440 W. Whitesbridge Ave. (Hwy 180). Park residents, though, say they mainly dealt with Saeed and on-site park manager Mike Roberts.
Roberts is also listed as a defendant in the suit. He told GV Wire he is not being sued and did not provide any further comment.
Marin alleges that Jack’s Bayou Resort rented her a defective RV, with problematic wiring that rendered the air conditioning useless. The RV, she says, has no heater, windows without locks, holes in the floor, and pest problems.
Allegations in Lawsuit Backed by State Report
The suit echoes the complaints in the HCD inspection such as inadequate water utility, plumbing, sewer, and electrical systems.
The park did not act on HCD’s inspection notices of Apr. 5, June 18, June 26 or July 11. The reports listed violations and deadlines to fix them. Potential consequences for failing to comply included fines and referring the case to the district attorney.
The case has come across the Fresno County district attorney’s desk.
“A criminal case has not been submitted to my office for prosecution. However, the circumstances have been brought to our attention and we are consulting with other agencies in an effort to resolve the issues,” Assistant District Attorney Steve Wright told GV Wire via email.
The park finally began removing the defective sewage tanks July 17. That created more problems for the remaining residents, the suit alleges, by forcing residents to store waste in their own RV systems. Also, the removal of the external tanks leaked sewage into the wading pool of Marin’s children.
Marin says that Roberts threatened her with turning off power and water to her unit.
Even after the inspections and filing of the lawsuit in July, nothing changed at the park. HCD ordered the owners to provide adequate water and bathroom facilities. That hasn’t happened yet.
Residents Hit With Eviction Notices
After the April warning from HCD, the park distributed unofficial eviction notices to leave within 30 days. Some did, but others like Robert Escalante’s family stayed.
“There’s nowhere else to go. Out here, it’s hard to find like an apartment or house,” Escalante said.
While HCD said the owner finally updated his permit, the illegal spaces have not been made legal.
In July, Escalante’s family received a three-day notice to pay rent or leave, a precursor to eviction. The park followed up with a 60-day notice to leave the park by Sept. 30 or be formally evicted.
The notices aren’t scaring Escalante, he said.
“If something happens, we are going to wait and see what happens. We are waiting to hear from the lawyer,” Escalante said. He is not part of Marin’s lawsuit.
The entire episode frustrates Escalante.
“It gets me mad. They knew that they didn’t have a permit to (collect) rent here. They didn’t care. They kept on doing it,” he said.
Marin is joined in the lawsuit by her daughter Gabriela Marin, and Brenda Herrera, another resident at Jack’s Bayou Resort. Attorneys from Central California Legal Services represent the plaintiffs.
The Marins and Herrera did not list an exact dollar amount they are seeking, but because the suit is filed as a civil unlimited case, it would be at least $25,000. They are asking the court for damages for emotional distress, restitution for rent paid as well as punitive damages.
A case management conference is scheduled Nov. 13.
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