Daniel Barwick, West County Community Services

FIRST LOOK — Daniel Barwick, a West County Community Services property manager who lives onsite at Park Village, contemplates the laguna, which flooded much of the low-income and homeless housing site at the end of February. This photo was taken on his first day back onsite after the flood subsided.

Park Village, Sebastopol’s very-low-income and homeless housing site, is located right on the banks of the Laguna de Santa Rosa. So when the laguna overflowed after several weeks of heavy rains in February, Park Village was the first to feel the brunt of the flooding.

There are 85 people who live at Park Village, a cooperative venture between West County Community Services (WCCS) and the city of Sebastopol, which owns the land. Sixteen of the residents are formerly homeless families and individuals who WCCS brought onto the site in eight trailers.

In addition, there are 17 very-low-income families, who have lived there for a long time in anchored mobile homes.

“For the trailers, the evacuation plan worked very well,” said Tim Miller, director of WCCS. “We towed the eight formerly homeless families to higher ground.”

These trailers were towed back onto the property unharmed last week.

“Unfortunately, about half of the mobile homes that have been there for decades aren’t moveable — contrary to the name “mobile home” — and they suffered everything from major to very light damage depending on where they were in the park,” Miller said. (The western end of the property was above the flood line.)

Daniel Barwick, WCCS property manager who lives at the site, said that during the flooding several families initially decided to stay in their homes, but were later evacuated by boat by the Sebastopol Fire Department. Barwick’s second floor apartment wasn’t flooded, but he also chose to evacuate.

“I didn’t want to be trapped in my apartment with no way to get off the property,” he said. 

Now that the floodwaters have receded, repairs are in full swing.

“At this point, everyone has moved back in, and we’re working with the residents to assess their needs and connect them to the services they need to recover,” Miller said.

“We’re fortunate to have a case manager, Karla Fittipaldi, who is there and constantly assessing what needs to be done to help them,” Miller said.

In addition, they’ve been getting help from members of the larger community.

“On Sunday we brought in a Buddhist spiritual group from Santa Rosa, Tzu Chi, and 10 of them came to volunteer and help families clear out, pick up and scrub down, and that was wonderful. It shows that people care,” Miller said.

Just a week before the flooding, Sonoma West Times & News ran an article on the new office trailer that WCCS had just moved onto the property. Located on the far eastern side of the property, overlooking the laguna, the new trailer took on three feet of water during the flooding.

Park Village office trailer

The new Park Village office trailer took on three feet of water during the flood.

“Nobody expected this,” said Barwick, the property manager. “The trailer was raised up and we all thought it would be high enough.”

By the end of last week, Miller said the moisture level in the office trailer would be low enough to begin rehabbing it.

“We’ve torn out the walls, scrubbed the floors and disinfected them. After that, it’s a relatively minor repair. Our goal is to have it up and running by April 5,” Miller said.

On Friday, March 8, there was a flood recovery fundraiser for WCCS at Horse & Plow Winery in Sebastopol. Cars lined both sides of Highway 116 as guests streamed into the event. The evening raised between $25,000 and $30,000, according to Miller. That money will be used to help residents of Park Village and other WCCS sites get back on their feet.

A flood recovery fundraiser for WCCS

A flood recovery fundraiser for WCCS at Horse & Plow Winery in Sebastopol.

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