Riverdale mobile home park emptying; 152-unit apartment complex planned
RIVERDALE — As the deadline to vacate the Lesley’s Mobile Home Park site looms, only a handful of stragglers remain.
“I’m waiting to the last minute,” said one of the remaining residents, Flora Espinoza, who’s lived at the park for 23 years. Lesley’s, which sits in the shadow of Riverdale Road where it crosses the Weber River, has space for 55 units, but only five or six units are still occupied.
Espinoza still hasn’t found a buyer for her unit, at least at a price that’s acceptable to her, and she’s holding out. “I’ve cried a lot over this,” she said from her porch, one of her grandsons eating inside the unit while her two dogs, Chiquita and Luna, sniff around outside.
Likewise, Keanu Rodriguez and his parents remain, unable to sell their older unit and unsure what comes next. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out myself,” he said.
He’s searched for apartments, but his credit rating isn’t good enough to pass muster. Making things worse, his family’s unit is too old, by law, to move, so they’re likely going to be out the $20,000 they paid for it about a year ago.
Meantime, as the May 31 deadline approaches for remaining Lesley’s residents to leave, plans to develop a complex of apartments on the Lesley’s land and a pair of smaller adjacent parcels move ahead. Wright Development Group of Centerville has submitted plans to the City of Riverdale that call for 152 units spread across five apartment buildings and they come up for review by the Riverdale Planning Commission on Tuesday.
The planning commission is an advisory body to the Riverdale City Council, which has final say on the plans.
The future of the Lesley’s site has been focus of debate since the spring of 2021, when the plans to redevelop the site — getting rid of the mobile home park — first publicly emerged. It sparked concern among residents, many of them working class, worried they wouldn’t be able to find another low-cost housing option.
Then in early September last year, Lesley’s operators formally gave notice to residents that they’d have to leave by May 31 as plans to redevelop the property edged forward. Evictions followed and one of the tenants ordered to leave — she had paid $26,000 for the unit, apparently unaware the land was to be redeveloped — allegedly had her unit torched last January. She faces an aggravated arson charge in 2nd District Court in Ogden along with her nephew.
Now, just five or six units remain occupied, estimates Jason Williams, one of the last handful of residents.
He’s lived at Lesley’s for 22 years and is selling his unit, which will be moved later this week. Then he’ll start living in a recreational vehicle, driving around to RV parks, maybe to Arizona. Many former residents have made other housing arrangements, some, he suspects, are homeless.
“Sadly, there are other people I’ve never heard from again,” he said.
Many abandoned mobile home units remain, some scavenged for their aluminum exteriors, some boarded up. Abandoned belongings litter the grounds in some spots, while those who remain harbor raw feelings.
“No one is sympathetic that you’re losing your home,” said Espinoza. Those involved in the redevelopment plans are “so rich, why don’t they buy the trailers from us?”
She’ll probably move in with a son in Ogden, at least initially.
Rodriguez notes the toll the situation has taken on his father. When they bought their mobile home about a year ago, they didn’t know redevelopment plans were in the works at Lesley’s that would ultimately force them out. Likewise, the seller of the unit didn’t tell them.
“It was hard on my dad. He was pretty heartbroken about it,” Rodriguez said. Now, the family is trying to save up as much money as they can as they scramble to figure out what comes next.
All along, Williams has advocated for the Lesley’s tenants, first railing against the redevelopment plans, then aiding his neighbors as they sought alternative housing. The plight of the residents, he maintains, underscores the need for legislative change to counter the power owners of mobile home parks have over tenants.
“The man did win. Maybe that’s the way Utah legislative laws are set up. The one gets richer, the poor get poorer,” he said.