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Village Court Residents Gone; Bitterness Stays


The southern half of the Village Court apartments, a cottage-style complex for low-income residents in north Glendale, was silent, empty and dead at noon Tuesday.

Its gardens have grown wild from neglect. Paint was beginning to peel off the buildings' wooden window frames. No one walked the sidewalks. The lawn chairs in the patio were rusty and empty.

The two remaining tenants had quietly stashed away their belongings in cardboard boxes. The others have all relocated, but leaving hasn't been easy.

The apartments in the 1100 block of North Central Avenue were built in World War II to house Air Force officers and their families. Three years ago the Mormon Church brought them. In June the church served 120-day eviction notices on the residents of 75 of the 146-unit complex.

Church officials said the southern half of the apartments, which border a Mormon church, will be razed to make room for an expansion of the worship hall and a parking lot.

The northern wing remains occupied. The church has not made public any plans for it, but its 100 or so residents fear that they also will soon be ordered out. "We don't know what's going to happen," said Gretchen Berlew, whose cozy two-bedroom home escaped demolition. "This is like my own little house. Wouldn't it be awful if I had to lose it?"

The evicted tenants, most of whom are elderly and living on fixed incomes, were given two months' free rent, and a relocation agency was hired to help them find new homes.

Some of them thought their eviction was not fair and decided to fight the church. Marion Simmons, a Village Court resident for more than 20 years, and two others filed a lawsuit claiming the church had no right to deplete the city's low-income housing stock. It was dropped when Simmons died of cancer.

Another group of residents went to City Hall in September and asked the council to reconsider the zoning administrator's decision to allow the demolition. The council refused.

Seven days after moving to a new apartment, Barbara Simmons--no relation to Marion--also died. She had been suffering from a lung disease for years, a friend said, and was wearing an oxygen mask when her husband helped her out of Village Court. Susan Barklay, another resident, suffered a stroke while packing and was sent to a convalescent home.

"It's a very lonely feeling in the village right now," said Wayne Westand, one of the two remaining residents. He fought back tears as he prepared to leave Friday. "Lonely, sad and poignant."

Westand was angry. Not so much against the church--"they did what they had to do"-- but against the Glendale City Council. "They were remiss in investigating the situation. It shows the city doesn't care about non-property-owners."

The other tenant, who requested anonymity, was downright bitter. "At a certain point in your life, society tells you that your contributions are no longer needed so lay down, die and get out of our way. That's what they did to us."

She said she rented a place "out of desperation without even looking at it." Social Security is her only source of income. She does not know if she can afford the $135 monthly rent increase the move will cost her.

Both tenants were given extensions from their Nov. 1 deadlines to finish packing. Church officials in Glendale and Salt Lake City responsible for the evictions could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

John Hanson, the apartment manager, said, "It's always tough when you have to move anybody, but the process went pretty well. We've been able to place everybody, and everyone seems satisfied."

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