Building Walls

Building walls both literally and figuratively is what we did for a while! In 2004, we both had decent jobs with mortgage companies, no kids, were doing OK. We bought another new construction home that we were so excited for. We got to pick the floor plan, lot, colors, finishes. We moved in in August 2004.
We had paid a lot premium for a cul de Sac lot and began questioning why our cul de sac was left open…to the large low income apartment complex next door. There had been a gate there during construction and the builder assured us it would be sealed off once construction was complete.
The problems began soon on. We were $500k homes next to low income apartments with direct access, everything that was not bolted down one our cul de Sac was stolen or destroyed. We put cameras up on our house, black and white that recorded to vhs 24/7 and we caught some unbelievable behavior. Urinating in our yards, breaking bottles in the street, loitering, you name it. The apartment residents quickly learned it was a gang out where their security could not respond and the police would take hours to get there. We were primarily white homeowners with African American apartment residents, racial tensions were through the roof.
We began exploring and found out that the apartments were the result of a housing ordinance in Sacramento that required 15% of all new construction be low income housing in our area and builders could combine their 15% to create these massive complexes that amounted to nothing more than projects. We also found out that the opening in our cul de Sac was a public access easement and would never be closed and was absent from our neighbors title documents.
We filed a lawsuit against our home builder along with 5 other homes. One neighbor had a brother in real estate law that represented us. We were a rag tag group with no clue and this was a huge learning experience. After a year of back and forth, we ended up in arbitration, trying to avoid years of a drawn out court battle. We ended up settling with our builder for $15k a house and them paying to build a 15 foot sound wall in between us and the apartments if we could get the city to abandon the easement. Another owner also got a claim paid by title insurance for the absence of the easement on their documents which equated to a loss of their land in that area.
How do you get an easement abandoned?? We started going to events where our city Council person was, talked to him, got put in touch with his staff, and the planning dept, who walked us through the process. We had to describe our plan, get signatures from every department within the city so they could comment on the impact to them. Send letters to homeowners and the apartments, and ultimately present it before city Council. Council saw the torture we were being put through, years of video and crime reports, and they sided with us! We could build the wall!!
Our builder got to work building a 15 foot concrete block sound wall between us and the apartments, it was a beautiful thing! Celebration was short lived. The apartment residents proceeded to jump the sound wall and it made little difference in our neighborhood. We were defeated and out of ideas. My neighbors and I would sit out front in the evenings, essentially guarding our property. Through this, I met several neighbors who were curious what our plight was. A few of us Co founded a neighborhood association that got police and neighbors involved.
The final straw for me was when I was out guarding my home one evening with a neighbor. I called police to report activity on our street. The apt tenants we were calling on approached me, while I was 4 months pregnant, and got physical with me for calling, pushing me around while the neighbor photographed it.
We were leaving that house. We were under water in it because if the market crash, this was before modifications and short sales were being done, the only option was to walk away. But, we worked in mortgage, and the rules hadn’t tightened up quite yet. The other option was to buy a new home before we defaulted on the old one, a buy and bail.
Our new house was buying down, it was smaller, and cheap. We made the decision based on whether we could afford the payment on unemployment because of all of our job losses. We swore we’d never leave. I just wanted to be hidden away, unaware, ignorance is bliss! No apartments nearby, so far back in the neighborhood that no one goes there unless they live there. It’s not been perfect, but that is what brought us to our home 9 years ago, and what changed our definition of home along the way

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