By Antonio Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer
Wanda Clark, the 71-year-old grandmother and custodian who stands to lose her home, received a 30-day extension last week to work out details in an effort to save her Oak Park property, said Betty Williams, president of Sacramento Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Clark’s home in south Oak Park is in court-appointed receivership and was scheduled to be auctioned off on Nov. 3 if she could not pay housing code violations and attorney fees.
Williams told The OBSERVER that time was of essence to help save the property Clark purchased 26 years ago. Discussions to save the home on Washington Avenue have been continuous since Oct. 25.
“The receiver has agreed to stay the auction of the property until Dec. 3 while we all work out a plan,” said Williams. “All we needed was time to get everyone to the table. We are working with the receiver and the City to get a positive outcome for Ms. Clark.”
Williams, Rashid Sidqe of the non-profit Lift Up Love Always (LULA), Kendra Lewis from the Sacramento Housing Alliance, and Leah Miller, the president and chief executive officer for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento, have been in discussions with Senior Deputy City Attorney Michael J. Benner and City Manager Howard Chan.
As Clark’s plight drew more attention and the issue of gentrification emerged, Peter Lemos, the City’s code compliance chief, said the City is dedicated to assisting Clark, a Black woman who works for the County of Sacramento.
“The city remains committed to continuing its work to help secure a positive outcome for the property owner,” Lemos said in a written statement.
In an email dated Oct. 25, Clark was notified by the receiver’s attorney in the Kirk Rimmer Law Office that she would need more than $175,000 to keep the property. The cost would cover code violations, attorney fees, and the amount owed on the house.
Williams said she could not provide further details other than the previous auction date was pushed back. She and Sidqe did say if Clark is able to hold on to the property, the structure of the house would have to be bulldozed.
Kevin Ferreira, executive director of Sacramento-Sierra Building and Construction Trades Council (SSBCTC), who spoke at the news conference with other supporters of Clark, insisted that he would assist in any construction matters.
“It would have to be (demolished),” Sidqe said. “All parties agree that the house is unlivable and is a safety hazard. But that doesn’t mean she should lose the property. She never missed a mortgage payment. Ms. Wanda should be able to keep her property she worked for with dignity.”
Williams, Sidqe, and other members of the community stood by their words of advocating for a person who was doing nothing but trying to add extra space onto her home to house her children and grandchildren.
Clark unknowingly hired an unlicensed contractor to build a section above the garage of the three-bedroom home. Through a home equity loan, Clark paid more than $35,000 for the work.
The job was never completed, and the person she paid later passed away, leaving the north side of the home visibly unfinished with decaying wooden panels. The city began issuing fines on the house beginning in 2009.
As the unpaid fees continued to rise, the home was put in receivership, a legal process that allows a representative to take over control and management of property that is the subject of litigation.
Clark had to vacate the property two years ago and has been living with her sister across the street from the home. The loss of the house would have been a true sign of gentrification placed on the backs of seniors with moderate income.
“The NAACP and the rest of us are not playing with this. We do not put our seniors out on the street. We do not put our folks under bridges,” Williams said at a news conference last month in front of the vacant house just off 14th Avenue.
“She moved in (this house) in 1995. She hasn’t missed a mortgage payment, she works as a janitor, 71 years old, every day, 12 hours to maintain this house, the very least we can do as a community collectively, is to make sure that she keeps this house,” Williams said.