FORD CITY - County officials say dozens of apartments just outside Taft are sinking and crumbling, with people living inside. That's why on Friday a four-unit complex was demolished. Kern County Supervisor David Couch said this may be the first of many.
The shifting apartments are in Ford City, an unincorporated town just outside Taft. Most all the units are occupied, and according to county officials, on the verge of collapse.
It was a teardown eight months in the making. County officials say the four-unit building was slanted and sinking, just like dozens of occupied apartments on Adams Street in Ford City.
"Potentially, if these were to collapse we'd be in the same position they are in India. We'll be here with dogs searching for bodies of victims," said Dave Noerr, Taft City Councilman. "We don't need that and don't want that. This is America."
Aurora Cruz lives in one of the buildings. "The house is falling down," she said. "The walls and the floors are rotten."
Cruz said she pays $500 a month for her two-bedroom apartment.
"I ask the manager many times to fix the problems and in almost five years nothing has been done," said Cruz.
"They should not live in squaller, filth and unsafe conditions because they're of limited means," said Noerr.
According to county officials, the ground is sinking because water from the mountains settles in the valley and softens the ground. It's happening beneath buildings full of migrant farmworkers.
"Every one of these has people living in it and multiple small children living in it," said Kern County Supervisor David Couch. "That's the face of what's going on out here. Those are the people we'll be pulling out of wreckage if we don't do something about this."
Six months ago, county officials say the now demolished complex was full of people. Officials said it sloped so much the sewer lines snapped, leaving raw sewage in a grassy patch.
"Children were playing in it," said Noerr. "It's a horrible sight and it shouldn't happen."
But, officials worry Cruz's building may do the same or worse.
"I wouldn't spend one night in the place she stays in every night," said Couch.
The county is considering making plans, not just to tear down one, but to possibly level them all.
The county said it offered housing relocation services to those living in the now demolished building. It plans to offer housing relocation services if and when other buildings are torn down.