Former Soledad Trailer Lodge tenants share stories of how, why they left

Stone angel decorations hang outside a mobile home at the Soledad Trailer Lodge. Austin Dave/ The Signal

It was like any other community, except that the neighborhood described by a resident as “one big family” eventually dissolved almost collectively by fear and defeat.

That’s how three former tenants of Soledad Trailer Lodge, the abandoned mobile home park in Canyon Country, described their last moments at the locale.

Security guards now secure the park’s perimeter, and the once-active mobile home park is now partially piles of rubble near the intersection of Soledad Canyon and Solamint roads.

The park has sat without tenants for months.

Before the security guards were added, multiple neighboring businesses and members of the community reported witnessing graffiti, drug use and homeless individuals entering the homes. Some neighbors went as far as calling the park an “eyesore.”

On Feb. 28, The Signal ran a story about the abandoned park’s run-down condition, followed by coverage of demolition work that commenced March 1.

Despite a slow demolition, which has halted due to an ongoing environmental-related investigation, mobile homes that are left standing still carry belongings left behind by what once appeared to be a normal community.

This is their story as they tell it.

Plenty of property, left behind by former tenants, remains inside and outside the mobile homes at the Soledad Trailer Lodge in Canyon Country. Austin Dave/ The Signal

The tenants

If he could describe the community in three words, former 12-year tenant Juan Alex Rodriguez would say “one big family.”

“We all knew each other,” said Rodriguez, who alternatingly speaks in English and Spanish. “We all celebrated birthdays together, and all the kids would play outside. There was one girl there who wanted to celebrate her quinceañera, but she didn’t have a dad, just her mom. So, we all pitched in with food and everything to make it happen.”

But perhaps what he misses most about living in space No. 23 was that the residents, many of whom are of Latino descent and worked in construction and gardening, respected the fact that he had four autistic children and two toddlers. “No one complained about the noise; there was peace there,” said Rodriguez, a construction worker who has since moved to Palmdale.  

Palmdale resident Maria Castro, who lived near the front of the park, kept busy cleaning and tending to her three children, who went to nearby schools for eight years. “There weren’t bad people living there,” she said. “We didn’t have any problems with the other tenants.”

A third former resident, who wished not to share his name, had lived at the park for about eight years with his wife and two young children.

“They were nice times,” he said in Spanish, “but I knew it was time to leave when things got very serious.”

The beginning of the end

When they first moved in and throughout their stay, the three residents and their families said conditions of the leased mobile homes weren’t adequate. Some spent their time and money changing or adding flooring, replacing windows and deep-cleaning rooms.

Castro said she enjoyed keeping her unit as clean as possible, but after she injured her knees due to her tattered porch, she thought mobile home park landlord/manager Pat Crellin would help with repairs. Several requests made were left unanswered, she said.  

But that was not the only instance where requests for repairs were not addressed, the tenants said.

When it rained, their homes flooded, including when a pipe broke in Rodriguez’s space. “Our drainage was always bad. It would leak, flood and get everything wet,” he said.

Due to several failed attempts to reach Crellin, tenants took matters into their own hands. At one point, Rodriguez called his mobile home park insurance company, Pacific Specialty Insurance, regarding the “unlivable conditions of the park after flooding” to see if he could receive funds for a new place to live — but his claim was indefinitely closed, according to a letter from the insurance company in December 2018.

“To date, we have attempted to contact your landlord without success,” the letter read. “We are currently closing (your) claim at this time, and will reopen once the required documentation and return call from your landlord is obtained to review your claim further.”

The California Department of Housing and Community Development, which has jurisdiction over the park, also received “several complaints of sewage problems over the years,” according to spokeswoman Alicia Murillo.

One of those complaints, received May 29, 2018, detailed how the tenant “tried communicating with the park manager but he is not answering, and I’ve tried calling a plumber but he would not fix the problem. Any assistance is appreciated.”

Conditions only worsened when people at night would trespass into the park from the front and back sections to engage in illicit activities due to a lack of security, according to the former tenants and surrounding businesses.

Crellin did not respond to a request for comment on this and previous stories after multiple efforts made via phone and email.

What’s known about the manager

Crellin, who is listed as a Santa Clarita Realtor, had been the manager of Soledad Trailer Lodge for several years. Things were fine until talk of demolishing the park and building a new development began, according to former residents and sources who knew of the plans.

Crellin had submitted three “one-stop review” applications over the course of 2015 through 2018, according to city Senior Planner James Chow. “It’s not a permitting process,” he said. “(Those who submit a one-stop review application) just get some preliminary comments and general feedback from city staff and Los Angeles County Fire.”

The latest application was for a project that would have included 147 apartments and 8,000 square feet of office commercial space, Chow said. City officials have been unable to ascertain why Crellin stopped moving forward with the plans. Councilman Bob Kellar confirmed that the initial plans were to transform the property into housing.

The owner of the property, Robbco Properties, led by Valencia Travel Village owner Ira Robb, has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Leaving the park

It wasn’t until summer 2018 that residents began to leave the homes they had rented for years after learning about the plans for development.

Tenants were told verbally to vacate the units by a given date or law enforcement would be called on them should they refuse to leave, according to multiple accounts by former residents.

“People were too scared, so many of them left,” said Castro. “Those remaining got a written notice to leave.”  

Castro, Rodriguez and their families were among the last to leave.

“I was the last to leave because I wanted tenants to take action and not be scared,” said Rodriguez. “These were our homes, and we felt like we were being kicked out with our children so easily and unjustly because we were seen as ignorant.”

Sgt. Danial Dantice with the SCV Sheriff’s Station said via email that the Sheriff’s Department had no information regarding any evictions. The Los Angeles County Superior Court has one unlawful detainer case listed brought by Robbco Properties during the summer of 2018.

The case, filed in August 2018, involved Rodriguez’s wife as the defendant and the court ruled in favor of Robbco Properties, ordering Rodriguez to move out.

The former tenants, all residing in and around the Santa Clarita Valley, said this chapter of their lives is one they don’t like to remember, despite the good memories they had with their neighbors.

Rodriguez, however, said he would like to see justice for what tenants invested and the unresponsiveness from the landlord and owner.

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