City Tramples Woman's
by J. H. Huebert
The Sun (Yuma, Arizona)
August 20, 2002
Patricia Stanphill wants the City of Yuma
to leave her alone.
Twenty-seven years ago, Ms. Stanphill made an investment that would see
her through her retirement years and provide her with something to pass
on to her children. Her investment is called A Shady Tree Trailer Park,
home to dozens of working class families in the Carver Park
But now Ms. Stanphill fears she may lose it all, because the City
Council has targeted her neighborhood as a "redevelopment
area," with her property squarely in the crosshairs.
Why Ms. Stanphill's property would need "redeveloped" is
unclear. She prides herself in the care she's taken of her property
through the years. The tall ficus that she planted as saplings keep the
park pleasantly green. She rents her spaces to decent, hard-working
folks who are doing the best they can to make ends meet.
None of Ms. Stanphill's tenants or neighbors ever complained to the City
about her park, nor has the park ever been cited for violating any City
code. The City apparently thinks that affordable housing for low-income
families is less than desirable for Carver Park and would like to see
something else in its place.
While only City officials know for sure what "redevelopment"
might entail, so far it has resulted in a rental inspection ordinance
ostensibly "in the interest of the public health, safety, morals or
welfare" of Carver Park residents. This program allows a City
inspector to barge into rental properties in Carver Park without a
warrant-a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. The inspector may
also, at his discretion, condemn a property and kick a family out of
their home with only 72 hours notice. It also allows the City to fine
property owners $500 per day for each violation of the ordinance.
Those are harsh penalties that could put low-income families on the
street and fine property owners so severely that they couldn't afford to
make the repairs the city claims are necessary. That makes Ms. Stanphill
wonder if the city wants to help Carver Park residents-or if its real
motive is merely to condemn as many Carver Park properties as possible,
as quickly as possible, so that it can take them and give them to other
people with more political power.
If you're thinking it's really not that bad, you're right. It's worse.
The redevelopment ordinance authorizes the City to use eminent domain to
take, by force, Ms. Stanphill's park-and that makes Ms. Stanphill and
her neighbors even more frightened.
"I don't want them to be able to take my property so they can give
it to a private developer, but I'm afraid that's what they have in
mind," said the feisty Ms. Stanphill. "If I thought this land
should go to developers, I'd sell it to them and make the money myself.
But I worked too long and too hard to give this place up-no matter what
the City offers to pay me. My tenants are hard working people who need
an affordable place to live, and they're who I want to serve-not the
politicians and their rich developer friends."
Using eminent domain to take property for private purposes (rather than
a public purpose, like a road or a courthouse) violates the Arizona
Constitution. If the City thinks it can get away with trampling Carver
Park citizens' rights, Ms. Stanphill intends to teach the city a lesson
in constitutional law.
The City should immediately repeal the unconstitutional inspection
ordinance, and it should prove its good intentions right now by passing
an ordinance that takes eminent domain off the table in Carver Park.
2002 J. H. Huebert