Last October, Beverly and Philip Smith received notice they had one year to move their manufactured home out of the East Portland park where it sits. Moving their 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom house could cost over $25,000, and they don't know where they can put it.
The Smiths and 19 other residents of Kelly Butte Place are fighting with the city of Portland to stay on the property. As WW first reported last month, they have little recourse against property owner Adam Hoesly, because they own their homes but not the land the structures sit on ("Move Your Home," Feb. 17, 2021).
It turns out plenty of other people knew about the danger facing the Smiths before they did: The neighborhood association was notified in May 2018, and city regulators knew in June 2018—two and a half years before Kelly Butte residents were notified they had to leave.
"If we knew that this was coming down the road a year or two earlier, we would've put our house on the market and tried to get out of the situation," Philip Smith says.
The fact that neighbors learned of the Smiths' peril before they did is the result of a city policy that places residents at a disadvantage when landowners or developers want to redevelop property.
Both the former and current owners complied with the city's rules. City code doesn't require landlords to give residents the same notice they give other parties. And in the case of manufactured home parks, where residents own their homes, the city offers them practically no recourse to compete to keep the land—nor any support in relocating their sizable homes, which are customized to the location, including back patios.
"In every scenario, those impacted are the last to find out," says Margot Black, a tenants' rights advocate. "This is the system working—that's the biggest problem."
The following timeline of events shows who knew what was coming.
May, 23, 2018: Hoesly notifies the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association and the neighborhood's district coalition about his plans to redevelop Kelly Butte Place by removing the 11 manufactured homes and replacing them with 26 single-family homes. Both organizations had 14 days to respond before Hoesly could submit permit applications to the city.
They didn't object. Neighborhood association co-chair Timothy Crawley says the notice didn't register on his radar in time to set off warning bells. "You get these stacks of 10 pages, folded in half, taped together," he says. "I can't do anything with those."
June 14, 2018: Hoesly submits the redevelopment permit application to the Bureau of Development Services for Kelly Butte Place. At this time, he is still not the official owner of the property, yet he has fully developed plans to build 26 single-family homes. The property's owner, Mark Perkins, is notified by the city about Hoesly's application—although he already knew.
The city is not required to give any notice to tenants about the redevelopment, says Ken Ray, a spokesman for BDS.
May 15, 2019: Kelly Butte tenants receive an "intent to sell" notice in their mailbox from Perkins, the former owner. He does not state the offer amount. About a week later, the tenants offer to buy the land for $1.1 million. While tenants have the right to compete for purchase, the owner is not required to accept it.
Jan. 14, 2020: Perkins sells the property to Hoesly for $3.3 million.
Oct. 15, 2020: A notice of closure is sent to Kelly Butte residents—nearly 10 months after Hoesly took ownership. He's required to give 365 days' notice to residents.
Oct. 20, 2021: The homeowners are expected to be off the property, with or without their homes. At least 30 days before this date, Hoesly is required to give $4,000 payments to the residents.
Crawley says he's extremely worried. "The lack of spaces available is a big problem at this particular time," Crawley says. "You've got 11 families that could potentially face the worst-case scenario—they end up on the streets."
Meanwhile, across town: On June 25, 2018, Hoesly files for a redevelopment permit, similar to the one he filed for Kelly Butte Place, for another manufactured home park that he does not own, in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood. Strawberry Acres is located on Southeast 132nd Avenue. The current owner is Perkins—the former owner of Kelly Butte Place.
In an email to WW on Feb. 22, Perkins wrote he has no intent of selling this property, which hosts 26 families.
"We get inquiries from investors at least once a month on that particular property," Perkins says. "I always give the same answer—that it's not for sale."
But the permit process on this property—Hoesly informing the city of an intent to redevelop—follows the same pattern as Kelly Butte. BDS confirms the permits remain under review.
"This is why BDS should be notifying [tenants]," tenant advocate Black says. "So they don't hear about it from the press."