Westview clean up efforts at a stand still

Friday, September 28, 2018

With the heat of looming eviction gone and residents having done their part, Westview Trailer Court in Alta is waiting on their landlord in Canada, Roy Worbetts, to do his.

This time around, Westview’s tension is with the owners, not the city.

Lots have been cleaned, skirts have been replaced, yards have been cleared of debris and junk, flowers have been planted and residents have shown renewed pride in the rental property in Alta—something their landlord has yet to match, residents say.

Management showed disinterest early on in cooperation with the Westview Revitaliation Plan, formed in part by Cedar Rapids-based union organizer Jesse Case with TeamCAN (Teamsters Community Action Network) to defend residents’ interests and resolve problems with the city as part of a long-term vision for the park.

Outlined responsibilities in the plan for residents, set to be complete by the end of the summer, have been completed, according to resident Tom Lane.

But despite attempted rent increases, residents report that Worbetts and his local manager, Michelle Castro, have not made any necessary safety or visual improvements, such as fixing open sewer lines, cleaning out common lot hazards and fixing street lights. Previous managers living there dumped their cat’s feces in a pile outside, which is still sitting there to this day.

Management could not be reached for comment at press time. Calls to public health departments and the Department of Natural Resources have reportedly fallen on deaf ears. “They ain’t worried about it,” Lane said. He said requests for progress updates on fixes and improvements always prompt a runaround from management. Attorneys referred by TeamCAN are helping tenants address safety violations.

The formed tenant association has banded together to resist attempted rent increases by their landlord. Castro reportedly did not deliver notice of the lot rent increase via the legal channels. Ideas for a “rent strike” to allow tenants to put the $35 increase into a separate account, payable when major repairs have been made, have been scrapped. The increase amounts to a raise of approximately 15 to 20 percent on rent for some residents.

Rent increase attempts added insult to injury after management chose not to take advantage of garbage collection offered by the City of Alta earlier in the year. The landlord’s alternative raised housing costs 17.5 percent, according to Pastor Denise Parillo’s open forum address to City Council in May, advocating for some of the residents.

Mayor Al Clark reported he was pleased with the tenant progress in the months following the presentation of the Westview Revitalization Plan, with lingering concerns about the landlord’s neglected responsibilities that have also concerned residents.

Going forward, Clark said the city will be putting more scrutiny on Westview’s owner rather than its residents, given the good faith effort they’ve shown in doing their part.

About a quarter of Westview’s residents have lived there for over 10 years. The community in Alta is also home to about 78 children.

“This time we’re not fighting with the city,” Lane said. “This ain’t just something that happened overnight. It goes back to the old management that didn’t do jack squat. They just took the rent and let it fall apart.”