Antonio Manzo has deep connections to St. Helena, where he has worked and raised his family for many years. Unfortunately for Manzo, he may soon be forced to uproot his family and relocate. Manzo currently resides in the Vineland Vista Mobile Home Park in St. Helena, where half of the park's residents have been forced from their homes in recent months.
On Nov. 19, the park's occupants filed suit to block the closing of the place that they call home, claiming that the attempt by owners Kathryn Hall and Hall Vineland Property to close the park is illegal and that the owners are violating laws regarding mobile home parks. Tenants aren't demanding much more than for the park to remain open. "That's the key, certainly, because the purpose of bringing the lawsuit is to prevent what we think is an unlawful closure that will displace families that have lived there for years," California Rural Legal Assistance representative Ilene Jacobs says.
Residents stated in the complaint that the park owners, who bought the property in 2008, pressured them to leave the trailers to circumvent state law procedures and retaliated against those who didn't leave by raising rents by 20 to 29 percent. The complaint also alludes that the efforts were discriminatory toward the predominantly Latino residents of the park, many of whom work in the Napa Valley vineyards.
Vineland Vista isn't the only mobile home park that has been closed to clear land for resorts or other tourism efforts recently. "All of the residents are looking for an opportunity to be part of St. Helena," Manzo says, "and we need affordable housing," Manzo says.
But affordable housing may be out of the question in Napa County. According to a recent report from the California Building Industry Association listing the 190 least affordable metro areas to live, Napa County is home to the 14th least affordable housing market in the nation. (Sonoma County is not far behind at 21st, and Marin County ranks second, behind New York City.)
The future of the Vineland Vista case is still uncertain. "We hope we can reach a settlement that will satisfy everyone," Jacobs explains, "but it's so early it's hard to say. We want the best results for our clients. We want them to be able to live in this community where they have lived for a long time."
As for his personal future, "I love St. Helena," Manzo says, "and I would like to spend the rest of my life here."