Desert trailer park closes after legal battles 

click to enlarge Duroville
  • AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, file
  • This April 30, 2009 file photo shows children riding bikes at the desert mobile home park called "Duroville" in Thermal, Calif. After a decade of legal wrangling, the encampment known as Duroville was scheduled to close Sunday June 30, 2013, by court order.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- The last remaining families are moving out of a squalid mobile home park on tribal land as it shuts down for good.

For the past several months, many residents have packed up and left the desert encampment, popularly known as Duroville, and settled in a nearby 181-unit trailer park that was built as a replacement.

Sunday was the deadline for the rest to move out of Duroville, located in the Coachella Valley 130 miles southeast of Los Angeles. The mobile home park was scheduled to close by court order after a decade of legal wrangling.

Only the owner, Harvey Duro, and his family members were allowed to stay, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported in Sunday's editions.

Since Duroville is on tribal land, it's not subject to local and state health and safety codes. For years, thousands of farmworkers lived in broken-down trailers without hot water along dirt streets roamed by wild dogs.

The mobile home park had been repeatedly cited for violations such as open sewage, faulty wiring and fire hazards.

"A lot of the issues we dealt with were Third World safety and health issues," Tom Flynn, who was appointed by a federal judge as a receiver, told the newspaper. "I'd never seen that in the United States."

The 40-acre encampment has about 300 mobile homes, and its population can swell to 6,000 during the valley's harvest season. Harvey Duro, the park's owner and a member of the Torres Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians, opened the land to migrant workers in 1997 because of a shortage of affordable housing in the area.

Many former Duroville tenants relocated six miles away in Mountain View Estates. Others moved into subsidized or market-rate housing.

While advocates for the residents cheered Duroville's closing, they also lamented about the time it took.

"There's no excuse for our clients to have had to live in the unbelievably substandard and dangerous conditions at Duroville," said Ilene Jacobs of the nonprofit California Rural Legal Assistance, which represented four tenants in the court case.

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