Valley Voices

Rosalina Carson and Rosalba Cardenas: Why we are suing Fresno

It’s not simply a lawsuit.

We are mothers. We are wives. We are school volunteers. We are churchgoers. We are employees. We are leaders. We are concerned residents. We are Fresnans. We are just like everyone else in the community.

And now we are plaintiffs. We are Familias Addams Por Un Mejor Futuro, a group of residents who care about Fresno and the futures of our children.

As The Bee accurately reported, we are suing the city because it has failed to identify land for affordable housing, denying residents an opportunity for better housing. The city failed to rezone 700 acres of land for development of multifamily affordable housing as it committed to do in its 2009 housing plan by June 30, 2010.

Those are the details, but this story is much deeper than a lawsuit. It’s about our quality of life and the health of our children. Believe us, being plaintiffs is the last thing we want to do. We have children to raise and families to love, but we need to make sure our children are raised in a healthy neighborhood in a healthy city.

Like all Fresnans, we work hard to put food on the table and to make sure our children have what they need. But now we need to make sure our hard work pays off. The city needs to work as hard as we do to keep our families safe. All of us, all members of Familias Addams Por Un Mejor Futuro, share the same basic story. We live in unsafe, unhealthy or unfair housing conditions.

It could be a trailer park where the landlord refuses to fix the plumbing and the smell of sewage fills the park. Meanwhile, the rent keeps climbing and we continue to live in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

It could be a living situation that involves a house in the county, far from public transportation and sidewalks. The house is in poor shape and demands constant repairs.

The house belongs to one of us, and we are proud that we own the house, but it was an escape from a far worse situation. The choice was either to suffer in a rundown and neglected apartment, or scrimp and save $40,000 to make a down payment on a house that needs a great deal of attention in an area that pushes us farther away from our community, school and church.

We have all lived in many places throughout our city and beyond. Each area feels like a pen for “certain people” – to keep us in our place.

No more.

There is a housing crisis in our city: over 40 percent of homeowners and 65 percent of renters are burdened by unaffordable housing costs. This crisis particularly hurts people with limited means, but it affects all neighborhoods and is continuing to grow. The consequences of the city’s inaction only worsen with time.

The ultimate goal of our lawsuit is to create opportunities for healthy housing for all throughout the city. We also want the city to take us into account. Right now the city doesn’t care about us because we’re poor. We are excluded from decision-making processes, because we don’t have the dollars to have influence. This lawsuit is our voice. It’s our down payment on a better future.

We didn’t want to file a lawsuit, but we felt we had no choice. The city was not listening. We hope the city hears us now, and we hope that the city believes in creating one healthy Fresno.

Rosalina Carson and Rosalba Cardenas are residents of the Jane Addams School neighborhood in Fresno and members of Familias Addams Por Un Mejor Futuro. They have served their community as volunteers and community advocates for over 10 years. Details: 415-686-1368