By Sheri Williams
Members of the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building and Construction Trades Council came to the aid of an elderly Sacramento woman who was in danger of losing her home because of its hazardous condition, allowing the senior citizen to keep her property.
Wanda Clark, 71, is a city janitor who has owned a home in Oak Park since 1995. But an abandoned addition project landed her in trouble with the city after the house sat vacant for nearly three years, with significant structural problems and black mold. The problems stemmed from an addition above the garage that began in 2005, but was never finished because the contractor failed to complete the work and Clark couldn’t afford to hire a new one.
“We think this is a sad story of someone who fell victim to a less than desirable contractor and caused her a lot of misery,” said Kevin Ferreira, Executive Director of the Sacramento-Sierra’s Building and Construction Trades Council. “We are here with our unions and our contractors to donate our time and resources so that Ms. Wanda Clark doesn’t have anything to worry about as far as the demolition of her house and we are looking forward to working with her to see what we can do to relieve the pressure in her rebuild of her new home.”
After Clark was unable to fix the problems over a period of years and the house was deemed dangerous and unsafe, the City of Sacramento petitioned the courts to put the home into receivership, a legal process that could allow the house to be sold to recoup city fines and costs. The city said it tried to work with Clark to find a solution, but was unable to, landing Clark in court and at risk of losing ownership of the property.
Hearing of the situation, the Building Trades stepped in to help Clark with an offer to remove the problematic structure for free. Kevin Ferreira, head of the Building Trades, said he and other local organizations helped broker a deal with the city that would have the city pay off the fines Clark owned and give her clear ownership of the property once again in exchange for the Building Trades effort to ensure the property was safe by removing the hazardous structure.
“I am so very grateful for the community’s support and for helping to come up with this solution,” said Clark. “I am now able to maintain ownership of the property where I have lived for decades, and where I raised 20 children and grandchildren.”
In January, dozens of Building Trades union members made good on that promise by demolishing the addition and main house. Along with providing all of the union labor for free, Ferreira said the Trades covered all of the trucking costs and arranged for Teichert to cover the dump fees. Habitat for Humanity covered remaining fees associated with the demo, including the safety fencing and portable restroom rental for the demo team.
Chief among the volunteers were members of Operating Engineers Local 3. After Ferreira reached out to them, the union found a signatory company, Al’s Land Clearing, to help. Chad Randall of Al’s Land Clearing committed his company to tearing down the structure and hauling it away.
That happened on Jan. 17, when union excavator operator Kelly Cho, who works for Al’s, got to the site. In less than an hour, Cho brought the structure down to the slab, ready to be cleared. Operating Engineers 3 is continuing to help by working with another signatory employer to provide the necessary land surveying and fencing.
“It’s great to be able to work with our industry partners at Al’s and Teichert who are willing to give back to our community and stand shoulder to shoulder with the union to help take care of people in need,” said Local 3 Sacramento District Representative John Rector.
Building Trades worked to save Clark’s property with a coalition of organizations including the Sacramento Housing Alliance, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento, Lift Up Love Always, Greater Sacramento NAACP and the City of Sacramento. Some of the funding for the effort came from the Aggie Square Innovation District fund, which unions helped to negotiate as part of that nearby project to expand the UC Davis footprint in the neighborhood.
A half dozen union representatives and signatories attended the demolition, including Ferreira, Rector, Local 3 Vice President Justin Diston, Sacramento Business Agent Jesse Thanyne, Laborers Local 185 Business Manager Doyle Radford, Jr. and Mike Santos of Al’s Land Clearing.