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There was a second response – a very lengthy one - to my first article from an anonymous person posting under the name, “Locked.” I suspect “Locked” is one of my neighbors and a board member of LMA Locke Management Association, the public agency which has filed a lawsuit against me to take my property. Locked’s writing style is recognizable, accusatory, with no factual basis. Original article (part 1) is found here: http://www.sacramentopress.com/headline/56717/Locke_property_dispute_part_1 I’ll take Locked’s questions and comments one by one...
Locked: Who's throwing stones?
Esch: LMA board threw the first stones at me when they sent me a threatening letter from their newly-hired lawyer demanding my property title and telling me I had four days to hand it over. When I did not cave, (did they really think I’d just roll over and hand them my property title?), they threw a second handful by retaliating with a lawsuit to try to seize my property. I threw some stones back at them when I filed a HUD complaint, regarding the discriminatory statement made in a March 26, 2011 letter, signed by Clarence Chu, that preference for property purchases in Locke belongs to “…400 Chinese Descendants and Ancestors of Locke...” Mr. Chu told the HUD Investigator that he didn’t read the letter before signing it and someone else wrote the letter for him. More stones back at me from LMA came in May 2011 when I was served with a second court filing. This time for an August 2011 Superior Court hearing requesting Superior Court to place a restraining order on me. Why? Because I trimmed my trees, weeded the lawn, painted the pink siding on my house brown, removed an illegal propane tank, cut down a hazardous post and opened my properly licensed business. Note: At the same time I was doing these things, the Chairman of LMA had work crews erecting two giant statues in front of the School House Museum, with none of the required building permits or Locke Preservation Committee reviews. The day before LMA’s August restraining order hearing, the judge threw their suit out, based on their frivolous complaints and scolded the LMA board for not following their own CC&R rules.
Locked: You know that there was no racism involved.
Esch: LMA’s lawsuit filing to take my property references at length the history of the racial discrimination in Locke, California, and the injustice of the California Alien Land Law of 1913 in which foreigners were not allowed to purchase land but could lease it for three years. I can only assume that LMA’s lawyer is referencing this antiquated, unfair law as LMA’s justification to take my property from me. Some have termed what LMA is doing to me as reverse discrimination, since I happen to be of a race other than their stated preferred national origin. Reverse discrimination is still discrimination. You say no racism exists in Locke. Racism does not outwardly exist in Locke, but on LMA paperwork, letters, court filings, and signage, sadly, it does indeed exist. It especially exists in the direct and indirect assertions made by LMA as to their justification to take away my property deed. More to the point, favoritism runs rampant in Locke, LMA board members have not been told to obtain legal business licenses for their businesses, and they have been allowed to make major changes to their buildings and land without permits or historic preservation reviews. Also, all of the past and present seated board members who own Locke property have been given waivers to ROFR by their fellow board members, directly opposing the procedures of their own CC&R’s.
Locked: You lost the case. These are facts not stones.
Esch: I have not lost the case. The HUD investigation is open for another two years. A second HUD investigation, resulting from a discrimination complaint made by another Locke resident is presently being filed against the LMA Board.
The LMA Superior Court hearing to take away my property is scheduled for December 22, 2011 in Sacramento’s Superior Court.
Locked: I understand that you want to keep your house but what exactly do you hope to gain by spreading the false rumors that Locke is a racist town?
Esch: Locke is not a racist town, but racism (the California Alien Land Law of 1913) was at its root and founding and persists into today in an inverted way. The statement made by LMA that preference to purchase property in Locke should be given to a single national origin is certainly racist, by definition. The signs in the Boarding House Museum claim that Locke was built for and by one single national origin. Another sign says “Locke is almost exclusively populated until very recently by” a single national origin. Contrary to those claims, the 1930 US Census and earlier records in the county’s archives, Locke is and has always been a global community since its origins in 1907 when the rail yards and the cannery employed hundreds of immigrants from all around the world, not just one single origin of people. It would be refreshing to see LMA and LF Locke Foundation give credit to the other 23 nationalities that lived in Locke as well on its signage, monuments, museums, literature, website and at Locke’s street celebrations. The failure to take notice of the many nationalities that participated in Locke’s life is yet another form of racism and is perverted history.
Locked: This only harms this community. It insults the people who started this town because they could not own land in the first place because of the Alien Exclusion Act. I did not see that in your brief history of the town. Gee, I would consider that the most important part of the history and why the whole town even exists.
Esch: You’re mistaken, it is not the Alien Exclusion Act of 1920 and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 that did that, it is the California Alien Land Law of 1913, as I mentioned, above. Instead of repeating what you’ve been told, why not explore these matters in depth, yourself, and become familiar with the actual and true facts? The people who founded this town were from many nations, not just one. I hope LMA and LF soon finally acknowledge every culture’s contributions to Locke and the Delta. One reason the town even exists is due to the contributions of many cultures.
Locked: What effect do you think it will have on tourism and your future business?
Esch: It’s time to tell the true story of Locke, originally named Lockeport. If LMA would tell the accurate history of our town, it would bring more visitors from around the world. The fabricated claims written in the 1970’s in order to gain grants and funding for buildings that needed to be stabilized and electrified and for the installation of an operational sewage system in the town served their purpose for the time. (But, what about fire protection? The incomplete exterior sprinkler system that was installed on fewer than half of the buildings with taxpayers’ monies in 2003 cannot be tested, there are broken fire hydrants, exposed dangerous wiring on some of the buildings, there is only one fire alarm in town and it is disconnected, there are no posted evacuation plans for visitors or residents, and it is questionable whether most of the fifty buildings even have an operational smoke detector or fire extinguisher.)
Locked: You want to change a residential home into a commercial one which has been residential for at least 30 years. Your closest neighbor’s home is eight feet from what will be your new commercial business’ front door.
Esch: The building I purchased is within the commercial/residential zone of Locke, as are my neighbors’ homes on Levee Road and Main Street. I invite you to look at the zoning and planning map for Locke, as I have. The county would not have issued me a business license if I were not in a properly zoned area. The house to which you refer is more like forty feet away (not eight) from my front door - was King’s Radio & TV Shop back in the 1950’s. If my neighbor chooses to live in it, but not run a business from it, that is his prerogative, just as I have the right to run my licensed business from mine, in a properly zoned area.
Locked: How would you feel if someone opened a business in front of your home after you have lived on a quiet residential street for 25 years?
Esch: If any of my neighbors had a problem with the commercial/residential zoning of Locke in 2005, they could have raised their objections at the SHRA and CAC meetings that were held in the Schoolhouse Museum. My next door neighbor told me he is considering opening a business, too. I hope he does.
Locked: Over half of the LMA board is made up of your neighbors and people who might become your fellow merchants.
Esch: Four of the thirteen LMA board members reside in Locke. Two other board members own Locke properties, including the Chairman of LMA who chooses not to live in Locke. He owns seven of the sixteen buildings on Main Street, including three unstaffed museums. If other board members wish to join me and become fellow merchants, that would be great – we need more merchants to staff the closed-up stores. However, those currently operating businesses and museums without business licenses need to do apply and obtain them just as the rest of us are required to have licenses.
Locked: These are people you are calling racists Martha, your neighbors.
Esch: Racists, no. People who play favorites, yes. People who act as a clique, yes. Elitists who practice cronyism, yes. The LMA board is on a fast path of self-destruction, and if it hopes to retain its position, it had better clean up its behavior and start using proper and fair procedures.
Locked: What will you gain by doing this? You will only alienate your neighbors and you have.
Esch: The LMA board has treated their public audience, renters and residents of Locke with disrespect for several years, disdainfully calling the residential and business renters “Invitees” and telling us we have no rights in the matters of our own town, no voting power, and no voices that will be considered on issues that concern us. LMA board has the hypocritical voice of the 1913 California Alien Land Law speaking. We hope to soon cause change in these matters. Most of my Locke neighbors are supportive and feel the LMA has been unreasonable in its actions against me and other residents. As for my neighbors, two of them hurl obscenities at the tourists who walk past their doors. A third neighbor, who is on the board, reached five feet over my fence with a chainsaw on a stick and trimmed the trunks of my tree last month without asking me. I don’t care if I alienate those three. My other neighbors defend my position.
Locked: What tourists will come to see the racist town?
Esch: The same tourists and more – and Locke is not a racist town, it is also not an “almost exclusively Chinese” town.
Locked: You are myopically focused on your one goal and are disregarding where your stones are and will be falling. You are the one throwing stones.
Esch: Myopically focused? You bet. You’d be myopically focused, too, if a public agency filed a lawsuit against you to take your legal property away and harassed you and your friends at their public monthly meetings.
Locked: You fail to mention in your article the public petition presented to the LMA asking them to vote to exercise the RFR.
Esch: Oh, yes, let’s talk about that. Curiously, and quite illegally, in late February 2011, one of the LMA board members, accompanied by a multiple property owner in Locke, went door-to-door with a petition for the LMA to buy the property for which I was already in legal escrow. Thirteen (13) people of the sixty (60) residents signed the illegally-administered petition.
Locked: The e-mails sent by owners also.
Esch: Yes, at the March 8, 2011 LMA meeting, LMA board member, Deborah Mendel stated that she had received several e-mails from friends and neighbors during the 25 day ROFR period, wishing to buy the property for which I was already in legal escrow. Mendel’s confidential e-mails are part of a series of serious Ralph M. Brown Act violations by LMA board that apparently occurred on the issue of my property purchase.
Locked: Over half the property owners in Locke requested that the LMA exercise the RFR.
Esch: There are fifty (50) properties in Locke. Thirteen (13) signatures on an illegally-administered petition are about one-fourth, not over half. Perhaps you are counting thirteen as the majority of property owners in Locke, due to the odd voting power structure on matters of homeowners of Locke. In 2004 when the LMA was formed, Locke was parceled by the SHRA Sacramento Housing Redevelopment Agency and property owners (including many long-time squatters) were given property deeds - most for the first time according to Sacramento County records. Sixteen of the fifty-some buildings had no interested buyers, were not publicly listed, and were purchased by three people who, along with all the other new parcel owners, did not have to go through ROFR Right of First Refusal and its 25 day waiting period. These three individuals control the majority of the voting power in Locke today with one vote granted per one parcel. Since LMA is a public agency, it must abide by Federal and State laws and it is questionable whether one vote per parcel, not one vote per person, is even constitutional. Additionally, the LMA board has allowed the ROFR 25-day period to be waived early of passed with no actions taken for all of their fellow board members who have purchased Locke property since 2005 when they were formed. Cronyism, plain and simple.
Locked: The people of this community joined together and spoke out.
Esch: And many more in this community and other communities are speaking back.
Locked: We are not racists. Most of the people are the same race as you. It was a dirty card to play, false and you continue to promote this cause in the press. It only hurts us all.
Esch: Based on the LMA’s written statement that a single national origin must be “notified due to their own preference to purchase the Locke property,” racism is hurting me, as I do not fit LMA’s preferred nationality, and am now saddled with fighting their lawsuit against me. I agree with you on one thing, though, the LMA’s pursuit of this vindictive and ultimately fruitless lawsuit only hurts us all.
Editor's note of disclosure: Article author, Martha Esch purchased a Commercial/Residential property in historic Locke, California in March 2011 and the Locke Management Association has filed a lawsuit against her, disputing she has the right to own the property and run her business. The case is pending a jury trial in Superior Court in 2013.