Saturday, December 17, 2016

Updates on the Shady Acres crisis

The crisis at Shady Acres continues, although the families have a temporary reprieve of sorts. In September, the County Commissioners finalized the purchase and sale agreement for the manufactured home park, which means that the County now owns the property and is, through Accolade Property management, collecting rent and is, in principle at least, responsible for upkeep on the property. There's a lot of urgent work to be done there, on health and safety issues in the common areas, and we keep on reminding the County of their obligations in these areas.

In the November elections, two the three County Commissioners (who are all, it should be noted, Donald Trump supporters) were running to retain their seats, opposed by progressive (Bernie Sanders-supporting) opponents, and Shady Acres was the most hotly contested issue in local electoral politics.   (It should be noted that during the primaries all of the incumbents' opponents, including conservative Republicans and independents, strongly supported the Shady Acres families.) On Nov. 8, in the context of the pro-Trump wave that swept Kittitas County, the incumbents retained their offices. So the focus of the struggle has shifted from electoral politics. back to community activism, and perhaps, soon, to the arena of 'lawfare,' that is to say litigation by public interest law attorneys and perhaps by the state Attorney General's Civil Rights Division. There are enormous uncertainties at the present moment, as everyone knows all to well, in terms of the future of the Fair Housing Act, core civil rights law, and immigration policy.

The endgame in late August/early September of the struggle over the County's acquisition of the property was enormously instructive, although often heart breaking. The activists, in and around the community, managed to demonstrate flaws in the Commissioners' frequently cited plan to replace the mobile home park with an RV parking lot, for (overwhelmingly white) visitors to the once per year rodeo and county fair.  The RV lot would require rezoning the property as "Commercial Tourist,' but under the Ellensburg City Code such rezoning simply can't happen in areas more distant that a half mile from the interstate interchanges. So once that was established, the proponents of the purchase changed their justification. At a larger public hearing, the proponents (nearly all of them current or former board members of the County Fair and Rodeo -- which overlaps, one might note, with core base of Trump support in the County) insisted that their real motivation was to provide larger holding facilities for animals at the fair, especially for swine pens. Swine, we were told repeatedly, were being held for three days out of the year in inhumane conditions, and thus the Shady Acres/Shady Brook property was needed to provide the animals with better conditions.  For activists who had been insisting that the underlying motivations of the mass eviction plan were anchored in race and ethnicity, these speech acts were taken as rather clear confirmation of the argument;  in the eyes of the conservative, pro-Trump leadership of the County, the needs of swine far exceeded those of the 32 human families, all of them low income and nearly all of them people of color.

The Commissioners, in their continuing negotiations with the Northwest Justice Project, which represents the Shady Acres Homeowners Association, continue to insist that they won't pull the trigger for mass eviction until a "housing solution" has been reached for the impacted families. But they refuse to say what that solution might entail. HopeSource, a local non profit with very close ties to the Commissioners, recently proposed constructing a large affordable housing complex and secured a half million dollars in supporting funds from the Commissioners, even though they hadn't gone through a regular RFP process ; it emerged that HopeSource had not engaged in any consultation with the Shady Acres Homeowners Association or their attorneys. The "Spurling Place" project seems to have died for now, mainly because of NIMBY opposition by neighbors.  It isn't clear if there are any other credible affordable housing plans really on the table for now, although HopeSource seems committed to retaining that $500,000 funding guarantee for an unspecified housing project at a location yet to be determined.

So for the moment, the residents have a little breathing room, although they continue to live under an anxiety-producing Sword of Damocles, not at all certain when the mass eviction notice will be given.

The  basic economic facts of life remain unchanged; local agribusiness and motels, which employ nearly all the Shady Acres adults, refuse to pay their employees a living wage.  (We honor a few sterling exceptions, such as Kelleher Motors, who continue to be conscientious employers and staunch supporters of the families.) The local rental housing market is saturated, and low income workers and their families simply can't afford to live anywhere other than mobile/manufactured home parks. There are severe zoning and other economic and political restrictions on where MHPs can exist in the county, so  low income families, especially Latino, remain between a rock and a hard place. The county's leading industries, farming and hospitality, depend on low-wage labor, but there isn't a corresponding political will to provide decent affordable housing for the great majority of these highly vulnerable families. The wave of xenophobia and white nationalist rhetoric sweeping the region in the wake of the Trump victory sure isn't helping.

There have some unfortunate statements of late in the press by the Commissioners, incorrectly asserting that something like half the Shady Acres residents are delinquent in their rent and are being served with eviction notes. This simply isn't the case; nearly all have been paying their rent conscientiously, despite the tough times.

There are some moments of hope and cheer. We had a good session the other day doing weather proofing, to help with heat loss during the cold winter months, and will keep on with that through the winter.   We were all enormously heartened when, in response to Klan recruitment activity, about seven hundred people marched through campus and town in support of a tolerant and inclusive community.

We will, in any event, gather at 4:00 pm on Monday, December 19 for a holiday party with all the Shady Acres families and their supporters, in the fellowship hall of the First United Methodist Church at 3rd and Ruby.  Pastor Jen, who has been tireless in her support of the Shady Acres families, often likes to remind us of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's observation that God is to be found, first and foremost, in the manger. Whatever faith traditions we might hearken to, the sacredness of the manger and the image of a candle flickering in the darkness, surely sustain us at this moment of profound uncertainty and boundless possibility.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Unpacking the Rhetoric of the Master Plan

Memorial Day, 2016 (Rob Fraser)
Since news of the Shady Acres (Shady Brook) purchase and sale agreement became public on April 20, the Board of County Commissioners’ primary justification for the planned mass eviction of over thirty low income, overwhelmingly Latino families has been the public document (evidently finalized on February 26, 2016) known as, “The Kittitas Valley Event Center Master Plan,” on line at

Commissioner Paul Jewell has repeatedly stated on the record that the Board simply acted opportunistically, in accordance with the Master Plan document, when Jerry and Diane Barton, the property’s owners, approached the County and indicated their willingness to sell.  It is therefore helpful, as we try to make sense of the roots of the current crisis, to do a close reading of the Master Plan’s 148 word discussion of Shady Acres (Shady Brook), on page 10:

“Shady Brook Mobile Village – is a private property located between
East University Way on the north and Iron Horse State Park on the
south, and North Alder Street on the west and the irrigation canal to
the east. The property includes commercial uses fronting onto East
University Way (Last Chance Saloon). The County owns 2 residential
lots located at the southeast corner of the site. Wilson Creek flows
south from University Way through the property.

The property is not well maintained and includes a large number of
derelict and deteriorating singlewide mobile homes and lean-to
structures configured in in close quarters and directly abutting
Wilson Creek.

The County has made an offer on the mobile village portion of the
property and is currently conducting due diligence on the condition
of the site and the assistance that would be necessary and
appropriate to relocate the low-income tenants.”

As an anthropologist who studies language and power, it strikes me that the wording of this passage betrays a significant array of cultural, class and racial biases, which the authors were probably not consciously aware of. (Such is the nature of most bias.) 

To begin with, in contrast to the phrase, “manufactured home park,” the term preferred in modern planning and in Washington state statues, the Shady Brooks location is only termed in the text a “mobile village,” occupied by “mobile homes.” (The adjective “mobile” incorrectly coneys the sense that these houses can be easily relocated --which simply is not true technologically in most instances. Also, in modern American English the term "mobile home" carries a rather pejorative connotation.) The use of the term “tenants” incorrectly renders the Shady Acres residents the equivalent of the short-term, largely student, tenants who have been displaced over the years by the County’s acquisition of private residences as the Fairgrounds have expanded. In fact, the great majority of the resident families at Shady Acres own their own manufactured homes, which are their primary financial asset. These assets would be wiped out by the park’s closing, since the houses simply cannot survive relocation, so far as most external technical observers can tell. (The residents are only “tenants” in the narrow sense that they rent the small pad of  land on which rest their homes, of which they are the legal owners.) They are not transient residents; some have lived in their homes for over seventeen years and the average time of occupancy is about eight years.  Even a cursory conversation with the residents by the Plan's authors would have revealed that many of these homeowners have invested thousands of dollars, and a great deal of labor,  into improving their manufactured homes, through interior and external additions, and that this additional financial investment and sweat equity would be entirely lost were “relocation” required.

A curious structural blindness is conveyed by the final phrase, “The County is currently conducting due diligence on the condition  of the  site and the assistance that would be necessary and  appropriate to relocate the low-income tenants.”  The language here renders the resident families simply objects of government action, with no indication that the residents’ own perceptions and decision-making capacities might need to be factored into policy-making. Commissioner Paul Jewell, a primary architect of the plan, has acknowledged that no efforts were made by the County to contact the resident families or converse with them in Spanish before the Master Plan was finalized or before the Board voted to execute the purchase and sale agreement.  As of this writing, the Board has not held any kind of collective public or private meeting with the resident families or with the board of their homeowners association. Mr. Jewell simply distributed, ten days after the news broke, a letter to the various households, informing them that mass eviction was not “imminent.” This failure to consult the families, or even to see them as having the capacity for independent judgement or as partners in the planning process, is consistent with the master plan’s language, which portrays the “tenants” simply as those in need of “assistance” by an ostensibly benevolent government entity.

Nor does the wording indicate any awareness that Shady Acres is a vibrant neighborhood that provides many social services to its residents, and functions as a kind of informal mutual aid society.  In the words of noted writer Phillip Garrison, widely considered the leading authority on the county’s low-income Mexicano communities, “Shady Acres really is a neighborhood…The residents babysit each other’s kids, lend each other money, look in on each other when sick and otherwise perform the duties imposed by decades-long relations with people you live near…[T]here are very few other collections of 30 families in the county that care for and depend on each other as much as my friends in Shady Acres.”  6/28/16, Letter to the Editor, Daily Record, )

In contrast, all that is conveyed by the writing of the Master Plan is the spectacle of an ugly slum, an eyesore, a blight—-filled with “derelict and deteriorating…structures configured in close quarters.”  Here is a space of squalor devoid of full, flesh and blood human beings, only occupied by “low income tenants,” who, implicitly, lack any “right to the city,” in Henri Lefebvre’s  (1968) telling phrase (further developed in David Harvey 2008).

The passage's final term, “relocate the low income tenants” is problematic in several other regards. First of all, there is no acknowledgement of the well-known shortage of affordable housing in Ellensburg and Kittitas County, that  renders it impossible to “relocate” the families in question, without massive investments, acquiring or building  new low income housing. There is no mention of how much the homeowners pay each month to rent the land on which their houses sit, how truly close to the edge these families are financially, and how devastating higher rent would be for them and their children. 

Since the Shady Acres controversy erupted in late April 2016, the Commissioners have repeatedly stated that there is in fact no “crisis,” since the County will not close the park until a “housing solution” has been found. Yet, they have consistently refused to articulate what such a “solution” might entail. The Commissioners remain unwilling to guarantee that the integrity and coherency of the neighborhood will be preserved in any new location, or even to promise that all the families will be kept together. That unwillingness is clearly prefigured in the Master Plan’s rhetoric: the phrase “relocate the low income tenants” makes it sound as if the only challenge faced by the County will be housing individual people or families, rather than accommodating an entire interdependent neighborhood. Nor is there any acknowledgement of the staggering anxiety that the purchase and sale will unleash on over 100 adults and children--as they face many months, or perhaps years, under a Sword of Damocles, uncertain when the mass eviction countdown will commence. To put it lightly,  the Plan's wording dramatically renders the residents as less than full partners in the democratic process.

Perhaps most important, from a legal and constitutional standpoint, there is no acknowledgement in this passage that Shady Acres is an overwhelmingly Latino neighborhood in a majority white county. Within Shady Acres, residents proudly rely on the Spanish language and are bound together by their shared Mexican cultural heritage, anchored in the western states of Michoacán, Guerrero, and Jalisco.  Children refer to elders, regardless of biological relationship or ethnicity as abuelo (grandfather) or abuela (grandmother). This degree of cultural coherence is, as many have noted, key to the positive functions of this neighborhood, which helps its adults and children maintain a strong, resilient sense of identity in the midst of an often hostile external environment.                            

Finally, it simply does not appear to have occurred to the Plan's authors that were the County to become the owner of the park and shut it down, and thus  trigger the mass eviction (euphemistically termed “relocation”) of about thirty minority families, that a government entity would be acting to disperse an ethnic minority community.  Given that a number of these residents are actual, eligible or soon to be eligible voters, a government entity would be acting, as well, to undercut or disperse a degree of actual or potential Hispanic voting power.  The legal and constitutional pitfalls would seem to be obvious.

Re-reading the Survey 

Much has been made of the fact that the County-wide survey, on which the Master Plan is based was methodologically flawed in multiple ways.  The salient question, often cited to justify the closing of Shady Acres and the mass eviction of thirty families, is a clear instance of a “push poll” question, designed to elicit a largely positive, or at least, neutral response:

[Question 40]: Mobile Home Park - acquire the mobile home park to resolve
code and safety issues;  facilitate better low cost housing options for occupants; and  restore and adequately buffer Wilson Creek. (p. 31)

No indication is given in the question that the park is going to be closed or that an entire, well-functioning neighborhood is going to be destroyed for the purpose of constructing 30-35 RV parking spaces.

The survey response rate was about 4%, normally considered too low a rate to base public policy upon. The survey’s distribution was limited to registered voters, and neither the initial postcard mailing nor the on-line survey was available in Spanish. Nor was there any consideration of the fact that a number of the Shady Acres residents do not read or write in any language, at least not at a level sufficient to complete the survey, and lack internet access in most instances.

In any event, as many have noted, what possible survey, no matter how well designed, could justify the active destruction of an entire neighborhood, unless for an overwhelming public benefit? (Presumably, even if the 90% white population of the County surveyed unanimously supported the forced expulsion of the  County's 10% Latino population, no Court in the land would consider that survey data as legitimate for the purpose of dictating public policy, if only because of due process and equal protection concerns.)

Added to that, the public hearings that informed the Plan's development were only in English. No interpretation services offered, and no serious efforts were made to include the Shady Acres resident families in the planning process. Furthermore, as we have seen, he wording of the Master Plan itself is replete with cultural limitations that betray profound ignorance about the community that it proposes annihilating. The Master Plan, in other words, must be recognized as a “poisoned fruit,” that simply cannot function as the legitimate basis for public policy, in reference to the future of the Shady Acres neighborhood.

Sources of Bias?

I am not an attorney, but I gather that from a strictly legal standpoint that the most salient factors in this kind of case may not be evidence of intentional bias as such. The most important questions, rather,  probably related to the impact of the planned mass evictions in terms of fair housing issues and in terms of the coherency and integrity of an ethnic minority neighborhood.

Still, the question of the source of underlying discrimination or bias, so clearly manifest in the rhetorical construction of the Master Plan, is a fascinating one for social scientists. Why were the above points, which strike so many observers as rather obvious, not taken into consideration by the authors of the Master Plan? Why do they remain opaque to the current members of the Board of County Commissioners, who insist that race and racial bias are entirely irrelevant to the case?

Here, we enter into the realm not of conscious racism per se but rather the complex, rather murky territory of “white privilege,” a largely unconscious, taken for granted set of expectations about the world that render invisible, in many key respects, both the life circumstances of people of color and the operations of race-based social hierarchies. These orientations intersect with set of (largely unconscious) assumptions about social class that are often held by white middle class actors. Thus, a white person who consciously believes him or herself free of racial bias, and who is in principle committed to principles of equal justice under law, may nonetheless act in ways that reproduce an overall structure of implicit  racial hierarchy or race-correlated bias. (As a “recovering white person,” I fully recognize that I have in the past, and still continue at times, to operate in ways that are informed by my own tacit, unexamined sense of white privilege; I am, at the end of the day, deeply grateful to my friends and interlocutors who honestly and forthrightly point out out these limitations and suggest better pathways forward, as much as such critiques inevitably sting at first.)

The very first newspaper article on the Shady Acres crisis reported what many of us regarded as a textbook example of unrecognized white privilege, in a quote by Commissioner Paul Jewell.:

The county plans to continue leasing property to the First and Last Chance tavern.

"It's kind of an icon," Jewell said.

SOURCE: “ County to buy mobile home park”, Jesse Major and Julia Martinez, Daily Record, Apr 20, 2016

The Tavern in question is frequented almost entirely white people.  It is widely regarded as a threatening place by people of color in the area, especially by the Latino children who reside at Shady Acres. It is widely associated with many incidents of public drunkenness and public urination on the residential grounds of Shady Acres, in particularly during the Rodeo.  How, many of us wondered, could the Tavern be seen as an "icon', but not the homes and the neighborhood of thirty Latino families?  Many of the homes, as noted, have lovingly constructed interiors and carefully put-together decor, and the whole neighborhood is manifestly "iconic" of Mexican-American cultural vitality.  (Many of these homes, ironically have beautifully crafted home altars, centered on actual icons of the Virgin and the Saints.)  Here, it seemed to us, was an implicitly racially biased rhetorical construction:  only the white-operated and frequented establishment was an "icon,'" worthy of continued protection.

When an email that I wrote to university colleagues on this seeming instance of racially-inflected white privilege was surreptitiously forwarded to Commissioner Jewell, he angrily phoned me in my office and berated me for accusing him of being a “racist.”  Our many mutual acquaintances inform me that he continues, ten long weeks later, to be deeply offended by what he regards as an entirely unfounded allegation of racial bias. I am fully prepared to accept to accept him at this word that he harbors no conscious racial animus towards anyone, and I am personally distressed that he feels subjected to an hominen attack, which is very far from my intention. Yet it is fascinating that when Mr. Jewell was offered the opportunity, at a recent joint meeting of the BOCC and the Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee, to repudiate his now infamous phrase, he didn’t take that opportunity.  Rather, he is so greatly pained by the purported charge of racial bias that he refuses to walk back the statement; he has angrily interrupted me during public comment period at Board hearings and refuses to exchange civil greetings with me.

This reaction would seem to be consistent with the phenomenon termed by Robin DiAngelo as “white fragility”:

“White people in North America live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility. White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation.”   (International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3, No 3 (2011)

We see another instance of unacknowledged white privilege and white fragility, in Commissioner Laura  Osiadacz’s much-discussed denunciation at the most recent BOCC meeting of the Friends of Shady Acres, as stirring up fear among the Shady Acres residents: 

“I think that’s very unfair for those residents having fear placed on them that isn’t there,” Osiadacz said. “And I think that it’s selfish. I think these people are doing it for their own personal reasons.”

For Shady Acres residents and their allies, Commissioner Osiadacz’s statement was baffling.  How could families, having learned that their entire neighborhood was going to destroyed, and that they would likely be torn away from their closest friends, not feel a legitimate degree of fear?  How could anyone not suffer anxiety upon learning that their principal financial asset, the house that they own, was in all likelihood going to be demolished without them receiving any compensation?  For Ms. Osiadacz, fear is an irrational response, since she and the other two Commissioners have stated that the countdown to mass eviction will not be started until a housing “solution” had been found. The residents should simply trust their official pronouncements, even though the shape of the ultimate solution has not been shared with the residents and they are simply told to await for more “data collection” by a consulting firm.

Ms. Osiadacz's unfortunate wording was widely seen as deeply condescending towards the residents. Were they, as low income, people of color, incapable of objectively interpreting the predicament into which the Commissioners had placed them, as worthy of a fearful response?   Rather, fear can only have been “placed” upon the residents by external (overwhelmingly white) activists.  In making this claim, critics noted, Ms  Osiadacz echoed  the racially-charged rhetoric of arch-segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, who infamously attributed Civil Rights demands by local African Americans to “outside agitators.” Here, we see, once again,  the implicit racial politics of this entire tragic case rising to the surface: real opposition to white people in power must, it is being assumed, come only from the predominantly white activists, rather from oppressed people of color themselves.  Yet the Commissioners still refuse to meet directly with the Shady Acres Homeowners Association in a public meeting, but only rely upon an intermediary consulting company to gather data about the families in question. They hint that they may form a "taskforce" to determine the future of the residents, but have not even committed to include the board of the homeowners association on such an entity. (As with the survey concept, the entire idea of a "taskforce" to justify the destruction of an entire neighborhood strikes many as flawed from the start.)

Moving Forward?

For many of us, the most moving aspect of this unfolding social drama is the way in which it has catalyzed new friendships and alliances that cut across across divisions of class, language, ethnicity and race from throughout Kittitas County.  People of good will, across the county’s wide  political and religious spectrum, have been drawn together to stand with the Shady Acres families. Speaking for myself, I hardly knew my neighbors in many Protestant, Catholic or LDS congregations, as well as many fiscally conservative Republicans (especially in the Upper County) until Shady Acres brought us all together. We’ve gardened together, prayed together and spent long hours together trying to decipher relevant county documents and state laws.  All of us involved in this struggle have had our horizons enormously expanded.

To be sure, none of us have enjoyed facing, again and again, the overwhelmingly chilly reception we’ve faced from the County Commissioners at public meetings, but we’ve been more than compensated by the expanding circle of warmth, fellowship and solidarity we’ve felt, which is now spreading to the other Manufactured Home Parks in the county, as their residents follow the example of their Shady Acres brethren and form their own homeowners associations to protect their rights. We are seeing, perhaps, the rebirth of a new model for inter-racial solidarity and pluralistic community in the County. Wouldn’t it be marvelous if the Commissioners and their allies could find a way into this growing circle of tolerance and commonly-recognized shared humanity, and we could all move forward together in the spirit of mutual respect and partnership? Wouldn't it be miraculous if the threatened annihilation of a small, vulnerable neighborhood served to remind us that we are all, in the most fundamental sense, our brothers' and sisters' keepers?

Thursday, June 16, 2016



Kittitas County Homeless and Affordable Housing Committee June 10, 2016 Meeting
Through a formal motion and amendment process, the HAHC voted to forward the following statement to the BOCC:
  1. Supports the ongoing efforts of the BOCC to effectively resolve the impacts on local residents associated with the County’s pending purchase of the Shady Brook Mobile Home Park.
  2. Recommends that the BOCC give strong consideration to seeking an alternative purchaser for the Shady Brook Mobile Home Park property with the intent of maintaining affordable housing.
  3. Recognizes the value of the Shady Brook community as a unique, intact neighborhood and recommends that the “BOCC plan” maintain the fabric of the neighborhood rather than dispersing individual families throughout the county.
  4. Is concerned that the available supply of affordable housing in Kittitas County is inadequate for current and future needs and closing Shady Brook without appropriate mitigation will reduce and further constrain available capacity.
  5. Recognizes that an inadequate supply of affordable housing in Kittitas County impacts the quality of life for local residents and weakens the economic competitiveness of Kittitas County by threatening the ability to support and grow our workforce.
  6. Requests that HAHC be represented on the working group that is tasked with developing the “BOCC plan” for Shady Brook.
  7. Recommend that the BOCC gather more data and conduct a public engagement process to inform the “BOCC plan.”
Submitted for consideration by David Miller, member HAHC (6/10/16)

Open letter to Commissioners

June 15, 2016

Open Letter to Board of County Commissioners, Kittitas County, WA

Commissioner Obie O’Brien
Commissioner Paul Jewell
Commissioner Laura  Osiadacz

Dear Commissioners,

We are concerned citizens who write representing Friends of Shady Acres, a community organization that advocates for the Shady Acres Homeowners Association and supports affordable housing solutions in Kittitas County. We write in support of the June 10, 2016 resolution, passed unanimously by the Homelessness and Affordable Housing Committee in a public meeting. We ask that you give particular attention to point 2 of the resolution, to wit, that the Committee, “recommends that the BOCC give strong consideration to seeking an alternative purchaser for the Shady Brook Mobile Home Park property with the intent of maintaining affordable housing.”

At the June 10 open meeting, a Committee member specifically asked Mr. Lowel Kruger, executive director of the Housing Authority of Kittitas County, if the Housing Authority were prepared to purchase the Shady Brook Mobile Home Park. Mr. Kruger responded that the Housing Authority is ready and willing to purchase the Shady Brook property from Mr. and Mrs. Barton, at the same price that the County has offered, and that the Authority has the financing necessary to complete this purchase. The Housing Authority would then be able to administer the property and maintain the 30 or so resident families in their homes.

In response to follow up questions, Mr. Kruger further indicated that the Authority is also prepared to make a fair market offering for the Branding Iron mobile home park at 505 S. Pearl Street. This combined offer would allow the Bartons, who have indicated a desire to retire from the mobile home park business, the opportunity to sell both properties. Since the Housing Authority is committed to maintaining Shady Brook as an affordable housing complex, the Bartons would be spared state and local excise taxes, which they would need to pay under the current purchase and sale agreement.

We urge that the County, after consultation with the Bartons and Housing Authority, agree to assign the purchase and sale agreement, to the Housing Authority as the new purchaser. The Bartons thus would suffer no financial penalty (and will indeed realize a modest financial advantage.)  No taxpayer or County reserves will need to be expended on this purchase. Thus $1.45 million in County resources will be available for other purposes. The over fifty manufactured housing pads at Shady Brook will remain available for low income housing purposes, substantially contributing to the County’s affordable housing mission. Most important from a humanitarian standpoint, the vibrant and highly functional Shady Brook/Shady Acres community will remain intact, without disruption to its many families.

As an added advantage, the Housing Authority would then be able to work with the Shady Brook/Shady Acres residents to move towards low-interest financing of new energy-star manufactured homes. Public-private partnerships should be able to aid in landscaping and the beautification of the property, allowing the park to be an even better neighbor to the County Fairgrounds and Event Center.

We also note that HAHC members at the June 10 hearing remarked that the consultative process leading to the Event Center Master Plan was not an inclusive one. No effort was made to communicate in written and oral Spanish with the impacted population, primarily composed of Spanish-speakers, some of whom do not read. The Shady Acres Homeowners Association, an organization registered with the Secretary of State, has been unequivocal in expressing the residents’ joint desire to remain living in their own homes, in the community that they cherish.

We further note that the resident families at Shady Brook/Shady Acres have been placed in an intolerable situation of uncertainty, not knowing when mass eviction and coerced relocation proceedings might begin. This is, simply put, inhumane.

We thus urge the BOCC to begin immediate consultation with the Bartons and the Housing Authority, with the aim of assigning the Purchase and Sale agreement to the Housing Authority, thereby maintaining the Shady Brook/Shady Acre neighborhood in its current form under Housing Authority management.


Guadalupe Huitron
Phil Kelleher
Phillip Garrison
Kathleen Barlow
Mark Auslander
Larry Lowther
Alex Mandujano
Ellen Schattschneider
Jen Stuart
J. Hope Amason

Monday, May 30, 2016

Words of Shady Acres

 Statements by residents of the Shady Acres/Shady Brook Manufactured Home Park, in Ellensburg WA

Family Retablos/Offering, CWU Museum

Family Prayer:  We ask you Virgencita (Affectionate term for the Virgin Mary), to please intercede,  so the situation in which we live can be solved; for us to find a good solution--please help us to not lose our home; we implore you with all our hearts…I know we have not lived in this place for long--merely two years-- but it is what in the meantime we can pay; this is one of the cheapest trailer parks and here there are not many places where we can find a similar arrangement (paying what we are paying now).”

"I have worked many jobs in Ellensburg, in the hay industry, in cold storage, in construction, and at nurseries. I also buy, repair and resell used cars. With my savings I finally bought a mobile home in Shady Brook. I am married with four sons and a daughter.  I really love Shady Brook, since the rent is affordable, there is no traffic and our children can play outside. All the neighbors are kind and look after each other. Another great thing about living in Shady Brook is that we can walk to our church, which we really love.  Shopping is easy for us, and it is easy for the kids to get to school on foot.  (My younger son says he loves going across the street to Winegars and 7-11 for “slurpees" with his friends!)  We don’t know where we would live if we lost our home. That would just be devastating for our family. We ask all our friends to help us stay in the community that we love. " (Anonymous resident) 

Public Comments by Shady Acres Residents, at Open Hearing of the Kittitas Board of Commissioners, May 24: 

Adriana Villa:  I have lived in Shady Acres, for 17 years. In this community my daughters and I have been very happy until we found about the sale. We ask that you take us into consideration. Please come to a decision that can help us. Because we want to continue being a community. A bad decision would have a negative effect on all us, especially my daughters--because of their school, their friends, their doctors, all nearby. I have always contributed to the community. These are people with good moral character --so please treat as such.  I only ask that you allow us to continue being the beautiful community that we are. And I ask God to grant you the wisdom to grant us a safe and just outcome. (May 24, public comment to Commissioners)

Jovita Linares:   I am very saddened by the situation that all of my neighbors have been put through. I never thought we would go through something like this, through decisions that adults are taking that do not take into consideration the impact upon us. We haven't been able to sleep well. I don’t know if you are a father or a mother. I am a mother. Imagine coming home every day from work, Imagine your children saying, what are we going to do? What answer can I give them, when I don’t know myself? My heart has been broken in many pieces because of the decisions you are making. We are such a beautiful creation that God has made. We are not dependent on anyone else, we depend on ourselves, to provide for ourselves. (May 24) 

Ron McClellan:  I live in Shady Acres. I have lived in Ellensburg for the past thirty three years; I moved here in 1973. I worked for Don Williams, Okanogan-Seattle Transport, and McKnight Express.   I drove trucks for forty-two years here in Washington state and up in Alaska. For ten years I hauled jet fuel, based in Anchorage, supporting the cargo planes going back and forth across the Pacific. Around 2006, I started to experience excruciating back pain; eventually, I learned my spine was deteriorating and that I needed multiple surgeries. I  loved my job and worked as long as I could, but had to stop driving, and retired early, in 2012. I’m still in constant pain. I’m hoping to get a special surgical procedure for my spine —but that would be extremely expensive, and I’m saving up money for that, because of the high deductible ($4,500) on my medical insurance. I’m on Disability, and just can just barely make ends meet. It will be three years before I qualify for supplemental insurance. I bought my trailer in 2006 from Jerry Barton, hoping to have a place to retire to; I moved into Shady Brook in 2012. I’ve found it a pleasant place to live, with friendly and supportive neighbors. The kids are always outside running and playing. I really don’t know where I could move to. As an experienced truck driver,  I don’t think my  trailer, which dates back to 1969, could survive relocation to another trailer court. Where am I going to go?  (May 24)

Sr. Linares:  I have lived in Shady Brook since 2001, in four trailers in that place. In 2009 I had the opportunity to buy the trailer where I live now. I had to make the repay the loan, and pay rent for the lot. We can’t buy a $250,000 home. I believe that you have all houses and your children sleep peacefully and you sleep well, but when I get home my children ask where are we going?  Will we be sleeping under a bridge? We pay 325 dollars per lot rent. Looking on line I see that to the equivalent house we'd have to pay $1200 to $1800. Where will I get that money from? Would I take away clothing and food from my children? I understand your work, you have the capacity to help us in a good manner. You are saying you are going to find a good solution but we are not seeing that yet. What will happen if one of our elders in the community had an aneurysm or a heart attack because of this terrible pressure? We need action, please.  (May 24)

Francisco Ibbara:  I have lived at Shady Acres for over 15 years. I lived in California, then came to Ellensburg.  I liked it. I came for a better opportunity for my family, and Shady Acres gave me that that opportunity. To move, would be to take my family to a much less safe community. Please take our place for our moment. Please make the right decision.  That way I can go home and tell my 8 years old daughter that Shady Acres will continue to be our home.  (May 24)

Lorena Garcia:  We are here talking about our situation. We don’t know what is going to happen. We are a family that really likes where we are living. My kids can buy an ice cream across the street. My husband is the only one that provides for our household. He has worked  at Twin City Foods for 18 year.  We were so happy (and here she began to cry) when we had the ability to buy a house, what we call a house. It is a double wide. If we had to purchase a regular house that was the same size, we couldn’t afford it, it would be over $200,000/  We fear we would have to move out of this town. We attend our church that is close our house. All we are asking is that you think what is going to happen to us and everyone else. We have experienced a lack of sleep, tremendous amount of stress. This is not only harmful for elders; ; we are all suffering from a fatal uncertainty over what is happening-- to all of us.  (May 24) 

RDLR:  (President, Shady Acres Homeowners Association)  I have been listening to everything said there. I feel confused, hearing there is no plan for all these families, even though you are asserting you care. As we just heard, the families are going through a very traumatic period.   If I had the resources so that my family didn’t have to go through this trauma, I wouldn’t be here. I am a family man, I earn 10 dollars per hour, I have to help my wife and help my two daughters,t o succeed. It has been a great effort for me to succeed, for my family. My daughters say Dad, we want a house, I don’t have the words to say no, all I can say is let’s wait a little while and see what we can do. Right now, this is what we have and this what we can do.

After hearing all that has been said today I feel like I have made my home in the sand. I really hope you put your hands and put your heart into this00many families have made their life here, and it is complicated. The majority of the people I know are hard working. They work 10 to 16 hour shifts just to help their families and move forward. It is our decision to be there, we are trying to make our good life there, it is our choice. From one side I hear don’t worry, but I can’t but wonder what is going to be the end of this situation. I don’t know if it would be better to have an exact date or to continue in this trauma when we don’t know what is going to happen?  (May 24)

RDLR  Estoy hablando en representación de mi familia y de toda la comunidad de Shady Acres. Trabaje duro para comprar me casa, en la cual están invertidos mi años de esfuerzo, para tener un mejor hogar para mi familia. Es mi bien más importante.

Mi familia y yo tenemos mucho amigos cercanos en Shady Acres. Si esta comunidad es dividida por este Candando nuestras relaciones van a ser quebrada y mi inversión en mi casa que es mi propiedad será perdida. No sé si mi casa se podrá mover con seguridad ya que es 50 años vieja. Quiero lo mismo que todos, mi versión del sueño américo, que es ser dueño de mi casa.

Si el condado decidiría mover a mi familia también alteraría mi economía ya que trabajo en Ellensburg, la ubicación de las escuelas de mis hijos y relación con todas las personas que tengo alrededor y el apoyo que me dan, además de la seguridad de tener un hogar seguro.

Le pedimos al Condado un visión clara para nuestra comunidad y que tomen en cuenta la esencia de las familias y los problemas que van a provocar con esta desalojo de hogares.

Faces of Shady Acres

Rob Fraser's photographic series of the  families of Shady Acres/Shady Brook Manufactured Home Park, facing eviction by the Kittitas County Board of Commissioners, which seeks to close the park and build a seasonal RV park to service the adjacent County Fairgrounds and Event Center (which hosts the local rodeo):

Guadalupe with her father Carlos.

Rev. Scott Sinner (Mercer Creek) prays with residents and friends

Ron attends every meeting, to support his fellow residents

Mother and Daughter

Ibarra Family

Carlos Huitron, bringing water for the flowers

Preparing Scarlet Oak for planting

Interfaith vigil, 6.18.16

Villa Family

Pinkie: the "mascot" of Shady Acres!

Donna Margarita (left)
Memorial Day, 2016

Community members

Franco Ibarra with niece

Community Meeting: June 4

Jasmine Ibarra and her children, walking to Homeowners Association meeting


"We all watch out for each others children. I put this basketball hoop up on the tree for them."
Francisco Ibarra

Jasmine Ibarra and her daughter

Father and daughters, Memorial Day 2016
Children of Shady Acres, Memorial Day 2016

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Media Coverage

07.30.16  Letter to Editor:  There is an Option to Resolved Shady Acres (Jessica Hope Amason)

07.30. 16 Letter to the Editor: Shady Acres is not a Good Investment of Funds (Stan Blazynski)

07.30.16.  Letter to the Editor: Event Center Plans Hinge on Private Investment  (Steve Verhey)

07.29.16. Letter to the Editor: County Putting Taxpayers on Hook for Shady Acres    (Susie Weis)

 07.28.16.   Letter to the Editor: County Not Complying with Affordable Housing Plan (Carl Nelson)

07.25.16.  Letter to the Editor: Reviewing Facts behind Shady Acres Decisions (Laura Osiadcz)

07.20.16 Candidates for Commissioner Speak out Against Shady Acre Purchase

07.19.16.  City to Sign Letter about Shady Acres:

07. 12.16. Letter to the Editor: Shady Acres Resident Appreciates the Support (Carlos Huitron)

07.06.16 Letter to the Editor: Time to Elect New Commissioners (Kevin Anderson)

07.01.16  Letter to the Editor:Support of Shady Acres  (Rev. Lowell Murphree)

6.30.16. Letter to the Editor: Shady Acres Supporters not ones triggering fear  (Ellen Schattschneider)

6.28.16   County Officials and Community Leaders Tour King County Mobile Home Parks (Tony Buhr) 

Letter to the Editor:Osiadacz's comments recall civil rights area.

6.25.16   Shady Acres Residents Speak Out (Tony Buhr)

6.25.16.  Shady Acres Tied to Fairgrounds (Tony Buhr)

6.25.16  Letter to the Editor:  Support Rob Fraser for County Commissioner (Mark Auslander)


Shady Acres Owners Want to Sell to the County


 KNDO TV story.  (Tree plantingand the community)

KIMA TV story: (on Commissioner's Meeting)

Prayer Vigil Held at Shady Acres (Daily Record, Tony Buhr)


Guest Column: Land's Best Use is Shady Acres (Ishbel Dickens)


Editorial: Keep Options Open on Shady Brooks

Shady Acres Residents Attend County Planning Meeting:

Letter to the Editor:  Comparing Donald Trump and Paul Jewell (Steve Verhey)


Housing Panel: Maintain Shady Brook Neighborhood

6.9.16. Residents share ideas for shady brook mobile home park.

5.28. 16. Daily Record. Shady Brooks Won't Close without a Plan.

5.28. 16. Daily Record.    Petition Started against Shady Brook Purchase

5.25.16.  Paul Jewell, opinion column on Shady Brook (see also public comments at end)

 5.21.16. KIMA-TV. Cultural Celebration brings dialogue in community.

5.12.16. CWU Observer. Central Community Rallies to Support Displaced Residents at Shady Brool/

5.12.16.  Mark Auslander, Guest Column in Daily Record. "Better Option for Shady Brook") 51°

5.10.16. Larry Lowther, Letter to the Editor, Daily Record  (County, Community needs to find a better solution)

5.7.16. Letter to the Editor, Karen Mattocks. (Daily Record): Administrator would help county avoid mistakes

5.7.16. Opinion Column. A Need for Affordable Housing is Both Urgent and Long Term.  (Mike Gallagher) Daily Record.

5.7.16. Groups say more affordable housing will take organized effort. (Jesse Major, Daily Record)

5.4.16.  County Hears from Shady Brook Residents, Advocates, Daily Record. (Jesse Major)

5.4.16.  Letter: Newspaper  Coverage just fanning flames. Daily Record.

5.3.16.  KIMA TV. Dozens show up to Kittitas County meeting on behalf of Shady Brook mobile homes.

5.2.16. Shady Acres residents form homeowner’s association. Daily Record News. (Julia Martinez and Jesse Major)

4.30.16.  No foundation: Ellensburg lacks options for people in need of affordable housing. Daily Record (Nicole Klaus)

4.29. 16.  KIMA TV. Mobile Home Community in Ellensburg Worries about their Future. (Jack DePilar) 

4.27.16. Photo gallery: Shady Acres Mobile Home Park. ( Brian Myrick)

4.19.16.  County to Purchase Shady Acres Mobile Home Park, tavern (Jesse Major). Note: This is the article that "broke" the Shady Acres story.