For more than two weeks, trash had piled up in the five overflowing dumpsters at Halcyon Mobile Home Park, one of Seattle’s last manufactured home communities. 

Usually, garbage at the 76-home park near Haller Lake gets picked up twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. But when property managers attempted to solve one problem — a neighboring homeless encampment that was spilling into the park — by erecting a fence in early August, they created a new one for the 50 or 60 people living in the park. Garbage trucks weren’t able to get to the dumpsters where residents put their trash. By Thursday, the stench of rotting garbage wafted through the hot August air.

For over 50 years, Halcyon has been an affordable housing option for Seattle seniors. Neighbors banded together to save their community from redevelopment in 2019 when they learned the park was up for sale, and in December the city granted the park special zoning status just for mobile homes. 

Lately, though, residents say the park has suffered from a combination of poor communication with management, unrest from the homeless encampment — recently removed by the city of Seattle — and division among neighbors about how best to ensure the community’s survival in an increasingly affluent Seattle

The garbage pileup, as well as rent increases and the encampment, are flashpoints. The park also sits on a former landfill, and residents have complained that their homes are sinking into the unstable ground.

While most Halcyon residents own their homes and cover any maintenance costs themselves, they still have to pay rent for their slabs, which includes water service and the twice-weekly garbage pickup. Many are on fixed incomes with only Social Security payments for support, and Halcyon is one of the last affordable places in Seattle for them to live.

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A new ownership group, Halcyon MHP LLC, and property management company Bridgeview Management took over Halcyon in December 2019, according to property records. Bridgeview Property Management did not respond to multiple calls and emails seeking comment.

Dominique Chandler, 65, has lived at Halcyon for seven years. Until recently, it was a place she could afford on her $1,500 monthly Social Security income. In the past two years, she said, her rent jumped from $550 to around $975. She often skimps on food to pay her bills and feed her cat, Leo.

Her neighbor, Steve Stevenson, said rent used to increase about $50 a year. This year, his rent went up $200. He’s able to afford it for now with both his Social Security benefits and union pension. But he suspects rent could keep going up until everyone in the park is paying the $1,250 list price on the management company’s website.

“When I moved in here, there wasn’t an empty house here,” he said. “All of a sudden we have 20-some empty spaces, and there’ll be 76 empty spaces if they keep jacking up the rent.”

Stevenson said he plans to take management to court and sue for lower rent since the company hasn’t given him a new lease. 

Eloise Mickelsen, 77, a Halcyon resident and former president of the homeowners association, said the residents who left those vacancies took buyouts from Bridgeview when the company took over the park.

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Around noon on Thursday, Terry Tautolo drove his Waste Management truck under a low-hanging power line that had prevented other drivers from using the back entrance of the park. Residents gave him a hero’s welcome.

Tautolo doesn’t usually drive this route, and his truck barely cleared the line. Neighbors like Rod McCord, a 19-year resident of the park, cheered and rushed to get the bags of trash they’d been storing on their porches for days. Chandler gave Tautolo a high-five and thanked him profusely.

Mickelsen wishes her neighbors would have some patience and work closer with management. Mickelsen spearheaded the 2019 campaign to save the park when she was HOA president, but since her term expired in 2020, she’s put her head down and tried to quietly make progress for her community. 

Mickelsen said she worked for months trying to get the city to clean up the neighboring homeless encampment, which crews finished up on Wednesday. She says she told her neighbors that she’d called the city to arrange garbage collection on Thursday afternoon. 

“All I want is that we cooperate, work together with management for the betterment of the community,” Mickelsen said. “I don’t want to further encourage negativity and division.”