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Student Film About Displacement Of A SeaTac Mobile Home Park Will Be Screened In Seattle

Ashley Gross
Wendy Salinas, left, with Tyee High School teacher Andi Newman, and fellow filmmaker Elisha Velazquez

A tight-knit community in SeaTac has been fighting for almost two years to stay in their mobile homes. Wednesday evening, Northwest Film Forum in Seattle will screen a short documentary about their possible displacement that was produced by three teenage girls who have grown up there.

The film opens with a shot of them walking through the Firs Mobile Home Park, a spot tucked away behind a motel on International Boulevard, not far from the airport. The girls describe their home.

“This is where our grandmothers lived, our cousins lived and aunts and uncles lived. We’re all connected somehow – even if we don’t have family here, it’s like we’re all family,” one of the girls narrates.

This community was plunged into uncertainty in 2016 when the owner of the property gave them notice that they would have to move.

“Everybody was really panicked because we didn’t know what we were going to do,” said Wendy Salinas, a 15-year-old freshman at Tyee High School in SeaTac. She made the film with her friends, 15-year-old Elisha Velazquez and 13-year-old Crystal Sanchez.

Salinas and her family have lived at the mobile home park for nine years. She said they bought their home for about $20,000 and pay $500 a month to lease the spot.

Credit Ashley Gross / KNKX
Residents own their mobile homes, for which they've paid tens of thousands of dollars, but lease the land for about $500 a month.

“There’s apartments next to us and stuff but they’re really expensive – over $1000 a month – and we can’t afford that,” she said.

Making the film became a way for the girls to feel less powerless and to help get the word out. They interviewed other young people who are their neighbors – something that required Velazquez to push outside her comfort zone.

“I’m shy so it was hard to talk to them,” she said. “But then it got easy because I knew if we did this it was going to help keep our homes.”

They received guidance and help from Andi Newman, an English Language Learner teacher at Tyee High School, who has been involved in the effort to keep the residents in their homes.

“What you have there is a community that has a sense of longevity,” Newman said. “For a student to have that sort of community for a long time is something that’s becoming increasingly unusual in South King County with the rising of rent and home prices.”

Their documentary was shown to the entire student body at Tyee and at a community meeting at a nearby elementary school.

The Firs Home Owners Association is trying to fundraise to buy the property, which has been appraised at $10.7 million. The association has also been fighting the displacement in court. Oral arguments are scheduled for March 30.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.