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Charles Carroll (left), with R.J. Logan, holds his notice to vacate, to which he has added his own comments. Brian Hutson
Charles Carroll (left), with R.J. Logan, holds his notice to vacate, to which he has added his own comments. Brian Hutson

Susan Bethke, a seven-year resident of the Scenic Bluff area, chose her house northeast of downtown for its location near her son’s school and their church. From the get-go, she knew the area — consisting mainly of small, modest homes — was prime real estate for developers, both for its views of downtown and its location near the Trinity River Vision project. But she never imagined how abruptly her and her neighbors’ lives could change.

Bethke’s rented house, plus two nearby homes and the 133 duplex units of Parkview Village Apartments, are currently owned by Bob Joplin. In August, residents of these properties were given notice to vacate their homes in 30 days, the minimum time allowed under state law. The hand-delivered letters did not name the property buyer, the Dallas real estate investment group Cienda Partners.

Bethke and several apartment residents say Cienda and its law firm, Jackson Walker LLP, have intimidated most of the residents, many of them low-income single mothers, into fleeing, sometimes under dire circumstances. It’s not that Bethke opposes development, she said, but the short notice and lack of resources to help residents move have put unbearable hardships on her and her neighbors.

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Last year, similar evictions by the same investment group in West Dallas caused a public backlash. Here, residents haven’t done much protesting — and have received almost no help from city officials in seeking fair and humane treatment.

At a Sept. 16 Fort Worth City Council meeting, the area next door to the Parkview development was rezoned from residential to mixed-use to accommodate future development by a handful of investors and property owners. The proposed project, called The Scenic, will include upscale condos, restaurants, and other businesses. The zoning commission’s report cites the area as one that has the potential to act as a “gateway to downtown.”

“The city has millions of dollars to promote development but [not to] help the victims of that development,” Bethke said. “I’m not going to let [Cienda Partners] bully me. The kids here had just started school. Many families fled so fast that they left their pets behind. Even a dog deserves to be treated better than this.”

After getting the notice to vacate, Bethke did some research and found the name of the company that had bought her home and the Parkview duplexes.

“I saw on their website that they worked with Habitat for Humanity and other charities, so I thought, ‘They seem like compassionate people.’ I called and left a voice message,” she said.

The response was anything but charitable. Soon after, a Cienda director called Parkview’s owner, demanding that residents not be allowed to call their offices again. The same tactics were being used on the property’s seller, Bethke said. She said Joplin told her that he has been threatened with litigation if he fights the terms of the purchase agreement, which will be finalized when the last tenant leaves.

Carlos Quintanilla, a community organizer in Dallas, has dealt with Cienda before. A year ago, 42 families living in a West Dallas trailer park were given notice to leave within 30 days. Quintanilla was able to organize the residents, who held a protest outside Cienda’s offices. With the public scrutiny brought on by Quintanilla’s work, the company relented and gave the families six months to move and $2,000 per family for moving expenses.

“What they tried to do was scare everyone to move out as fast as possible,” he said. “These people were very nasty, rude, and they don’t hesitate to make threats about sheriffs coming to evict them. When anyone called their staff, they tried to put the fear of God in them.”

In Fort Worth, a month after the notices were mailed, half the Parkview residents have left, uprooted from their fragile network of families and work.

“Many of the residents here are single mothers,” said Bill (not his real name), a Parkview tenant. He asked that his real name not be used because he fears retaliation by Cienda and its lawyers.

“The only way these single moms were able to work was with the help of friends and family living nearby who could watch their children,” Bill said. “Cienda promised to give ample time for residents to move and to provide funds for the transition. They did nothing they promised.”

In the months leading up to the August notices to vacate, an independent developer named Guy Brignon spoke to area residents about the development plans. He never identified the developers he was representing. In an Aug 26 letter, Belinda Norris, president of the Scenic Bluff Neighborhood Association, outlined grievances her group had with Brignon, whom residents can no longer find to question. According to the letter, Brignon promised that ample time would be given for tenants to prepare to move out and that the company would help families find new homes.

“The [abrupt] eviction is a breach of our trust,” Norris wrote. “We are asking ourselves what else we were told that this company will not keep their word on.”

Cienda Partners did not respond to requests for comments on this story.

Kevin Neal, media and public affairs coordinator for the city, said city officials were unaware of the situation at Scenic Bluffs and that the city’s planning and zoning department has not been in touch with “any parties in these transactions.”

Bill said Parkview offices received a call from Mayor Betsy Price’s office congratulating Joplin on the sale.

Bethke said she tried numerous times to get help from the mayor’s office and was referred to council member Ann Zadeh’s office. Zadeh’s staff referred her to the city housing department. Neither were any help, she said.

Wendy Vann Roach, a member of nearby Charleston Home Owners Association, said she searched for help on the city website and looked for assistance through the planning and development department’s Neighborhood Empowerment Zone program. The initiative promotes affordable housing and other benefits in designated areas. Roach said several area residents tried to help Parkview tenants find legal assistance and new places to live.

“What the situation showed me was [that] maybe in this type of circumstance, the renter needs more protection or more time to relocate and a shorter time for security deposits to be returned,” she said.

“In situations like this, you have a property owner who is trying to do business, and these people’s lives were caught up in that. It hit really close to home.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. If these people expect any consideration or help from the mayor or city council of Fort Worth, they are living on the wrong side of town. They should know that you have to live on the west side or near south to expect any notice. Or services. Betsy Price couldn’t find Riverside with a map.

    • Preach, Roy, preach.

      “Folks” like Betsy tend to drive through neighborhoods such as Riverside really fast.

      Wrong complexion, wrong tax bracket and wrong political party, doncha know.

  2. Carlos Quintanella is a known associate of the “mesh masked bandit” who was recently sent to prison. In fact, rumor has it that Carlos charged each member of the community in referenced above a “fee” for representing them and then absconded with the funds. Not a very good source……..

    • My “shady” sources were documents I read, events I witnessed, and real folks I spoke with. You are the one throwing stones, hiding behind the comment box. My email is public. I look forward to talking to you.

  3. Rafeal, fake name your info is incorrect, tenants git six months, received compensation and won the battle with Cienda, they unfortunately still had to move but under far different terms.As per your irrelevant association with the mesh bandit, he committed a very serious mistake he was found guilty and sentence. I am sure that one time in your miserable life you had a friend or relative who committed a crime, that does not make you s participant in it. As for eho I am, my record speaks volume I.e Farmer Branch, the City of Irving, the homeowners of 635, apartment tenants, mothers whose Children died of Cheese Heroin and many issues that I spearheaded and where we made a difference. I have a face and here is my number to anyone who wants to call me to ask about my commitment to defend my community, I do not hide behind a fake name and throw stones. http://www.accionamerica.com

  4. Thank you Edward for this article. Your story tells it just like it happened and shows how big investors are using intimidation to force people out of their homes and ethically this should not be ignored.

    I was driving up Race st tonight thinking about how that area has already been zoned and the plans for development underway. I saw an older house that will probably be demolished and thought to myself …that is someones home and what gives anyone the right to take it away from. Ok I understand that this is all business and legal and many people want to improve the area but to me I am thinking the development is not as important as someones home and there needs to be more consideration no matter who that person is….the one poster is right about Riverside not being a prority to city officals … money talks louder! Although, at first I really did think I could get help through these offices and learned something I never expected!

    Too many people are turning their backs and letting investors like Cienda force people out of their homes and Edward expressed it perfectly.

    Cienda learned the hard way what can happen when they tried to force out the residents at the trailer park in Dallas…. Carlos stood up for the residents and was a strong voice that needed to be heard! He fought back against the bullies…. More people need to stand up and be heard! You never know if it can happen to you also…. at least now Cienda has a history and maybe it can help others in the future.

    I would not trust these developers and investors and if you do business with them just beware and know exactly what you are agreeing to. Most of all protect any people involved.

    I wonder who the poster works for that is being so negative? Edward hit a nerve apparently 🙂

  5. I’m a little confused by what these people are concerned about? Did the landlord do anything illegal here? I don’t see that. Yes, it is not fun, but it is life. This is partially why you read what you sign. The buyer also has nothing to do with this, why are they being ‘protested’? They are just a buyer. The current owner sent the letter from what I am reading. But again, yes it is a short notice, but it’s a legal notice they agreed to within the lease agreements they signed. Really nothing more. And I know Riverside, lived in Oakhurst for over 11 years. Sorry, it’s not fun, but it’s not like they are illegally kicking them out.

    • You mistake “legal” with moral and ethical. Understandable, it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry at one point in the south.

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