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Family refuses to budge from trailer where 18 live?

February 22, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Many people couldn't be paid enough to live in a crowded double-wide mobile home that's wedged between a dump and a big-rig truck parking lot, especially if that home has no electricity or running water.

The Torres family won't move out.

For the past month, county officials have tried to remove Jose and Carlos Torres and whoever else has been living in their double-wide mobile home off Maddox Road.

Maddox is a dusty, forlorn strip of land south of Cole Road east of Kloke Road. The land is in the county but is part of Calexico's sphere of influence. The trailer is parked on the edge of a cinder block dump and a truck parking lot, nestled next to a neighboring house.

County officials say more than 15 people have been living in the trailer for at least weeks at a time. What electricity they have is supplied by an extension cord from the neighbor's house to the trailer.

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Contacted at the trailer on Thursday, Torres said in Spanish, "It's just one family."

He dismissed reports of 17 people living in the trailer, literally waving his hand at the suggestion.

Calexico and county officials aren't leaving it at that.

In December, a county employee posted an "Order to Stop Construction" at the trailer site because it was not a permitted use of the land. He took a report.

"At the time septic gray water is being dumped into pail, no electrical service hook-up, extension cord from neighbors provides electricity," according to the report.

An "official" stop order notice was sent to Isaias and Delia Zamudio, the Torres' real estate agent.

On Dec. 19, the county gave the Torres family 24 hours to get out.

The next day, members of the family told Child Protective Services "this was their home and they did not understand why they have to leave. Patricia Valenzuela of Child (Protective) Services spoke with father, mother and daughter," a county report states.

With Christmas coming, the family was not forcibly evicted.

After the New Year, county officials received a call from Ricardo Hinojosa, Calexico planning director. He said Torres had asked the city to allow his family to live in the mobile home.

Hinojosa's response, according to the county report: "No. The zoning and land-use designation did not allow the use."

After personally hearing Torres' tale, members of the City Council asked Hinojosa to find out if the county would give the Torres family a grace period to find somewhere else to live.

County officials explained to Hinojosa that "the reason for our order was health and safety issues not limited to zoning violations."

Hinojosa agreed with the county's ruling and told county officials he would pass on the word to members of the council.

On Feb. 6, CPS staffers visited the house and told the Torres family the new deadline to get out was Feb. 11.

"Mrs. Torres explained to me that 18 people lived there and that they had nowhere to go. (Staff) advised her it was to their best interest to leave the premises by Monday," the county report states.

At that visit, the staffers noted, "The power was still connected by the extension cord and the neighbor's house was secured so we could not enter to explain that the extension cord must be disconnected."

On Feb. 7, Jim Semmes, director of the county Department of Social Services, told county planning department officials "the county" had placed 10 family members in a hotel for a week at the cost of $2,387.

County Planning Director Jurg Heuberger then learned the family does not qualify for financial assistance based on income brought in by family members, according to a county report.

"Also, the tenants explained … that they do not want to move. They were offered a location in Brawley but tenants do not want to move to Brawley. Per Social Services they need to show some initiative to resolve their problem," Heuberger writes in his report.

On Feb. 8, City Manager Richard Inman sent Heuberger a letter stating the council would address the problem. County officials let the Torres family stay past the Feb. 11 deadline.

On Tuesday, the council addressed the issue — sort of.

According to the city's general plan adopted in 1998, the area is industrial. However, that plan is not a binding document. According to banks or lenders, the plot of land is zoned for "residential vacant," said Torres' neighbor, Benjamin Horton, a real estate agent.

Horton told the City Council this in public session.

He also explained why he was providing electricity to the family: "He's my neighbor. I can do no less."

City Attorney Michael Rood said the issue needs to go before the Calexico Planning Commission.

The commission will have to decide whether to grant the Torres family a conditional-use permit.

The next meeting will not be for a couple weeks.

The Torres family isn't going anywhere.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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