Life’s changes can be profound



Ted Escobar

We all know life changes. But we can’t predict how it will change, and sometimes, the changes can be profound.

There were as many Hispanics as any other ethnic grouping defending property values at land use hearings in Granger last week.

Their target was a second H2A housing project on Cherry Hill. The Yakima Housing Authority, which owns one such complex on Cherry Hill, has planned a second project higher up the hill. Representatives of the Housing Authority tried to convince folks they had no such plan.

The folks didn’t believe it. The first complex will eventually house 210 men, the Housing Authority said. The folks made it clear that’s enough.

There were several reasons the 80-100 folks attended. There was concern about who was going to live there, about their safety and public safety.

But the issue most discussed was property values. Families who live on Cherry Hill, or plan to live there, do not want H2A housing on any more of the hill.

The home owners were too late in recognizing the first complex. You could gather from their testimony that they’d ignored decisions the City Council was making. In a few days, probably next week, they’ll learn if they were too late to stop the second complex.

The hearing was comic at times. Not comic in content, but comic in delivery. There were moments of laughter, mostly because the folks in that room were relatively inexperienced at hearings. More than once, you heard, “I’ve never done this before.

The folks made me laugh a couple of times, even as I tired. At about 8 p.m., I was begging, under my breath, for hearing examiner Gary Cuillier to end the hearing. He said something to that effect a few minutes later, but we went on to about 8:30.

One of the last persons to speak, perhaps the last, was Michelle Oswalt. She didn’t intend to, but she gave the room one last round of laughs.

Raising her hand and speaking without being recognized, she said, “You don’t need my name and address. I’m not going to testify.”

The crowd reacted light laughter as Cuillier looked around for other hands. Then Owsalt started to ask a question. She finished by making a statement.

“I need your name and address,” Cuillier said.

“I said I didn’t want to testify,” Oswalt said.

“But you did,” Cuillier said.

The crowd got behind Cuillier, and the hearing started to look like an episode of The Price is Right. From all over the room, people started encouraging Oswalt to reveal her name, even though just about everyone in the room knew her.

Carl Hurlburt raised his voice, and pointing at the sign-in sheet, bellowed, “Come on Michelle, get down here.” Oswalt relented.

Most everyone else came to testify, but they got a little off track at times.

“We don’t want any more ugly 2-story brown apartments,” one woman said.

“Obviously we’re not living in Beverly Hills here,” one man said.

That may be true, but the folks on Cherry Hill were defending it as a television star might defend Beverly Hills.

“We need more single-family housing,” Greg Ibarra said.

His wife, Jaqueline, said, “We chose to come here. Many others want to come, but we have zero single-family housing. We need people who will invest in the community.”

Eric Lopez said Granger is considered an impoverished community and asked how the H2A project would improve that situation.

Juan Alaniz, who lives in Eagle’s Nest, at the top of Cherry Hill, wanted to see only the kind of housing that will add value to the hill.

Wow, I thought, life does change in profound ways, even in my home town.

Back in 1970, these same Hispanics would probably have been on the other side of a property values discussion. Not as many as today owned homes, certainly not on a hill with a view and rising land value.


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