“I have to explain the language to him,” said Ayala. “Everybody’s mad, but there doesn’t seem to be any answer.”
According to Ayala’s neighbor Mitchell Turner, the train arrived about two weeks ago. After waiting a few days for it to be moved, he called Union Pacific to find out what was going on. A few days later, he found a message on his answering machine.
“The gentleman sounded very nice, but he basically said, ‘You’re screwed,’” said Turner. “It’s their property and they can do what they want, and as long as they want to keep it there, they will.”
Union Pacific spokesperson Tom Lange said Wednesday that the railroad currently has about 50,000 cars that have been idled by the recession, and those cars need to be somewhere. The good news is that the number is down from 166,000 cars in April. Also, because some of the cars are grain cars and the grain harvest season is approaching, it’s possible the cars stored near the Rose Garden will soon be put back in service.
Turner said he understands the need to store the idle cars, but he doesn’t understand why a stretch of track so close to houses was chosen. “On either side of our development, it’s just empty fields on both sides of the tracks,” he said.
Lange said storage locations are chosen based on many factors, including clearances required to shift cars from one track to another. He said he was unfamiliar with the stretch of track in question, but that he was looking into the possibility that they could be moved further from the houses.
“It may or may not be a case where we can do something,” he said. “We’ll be talking about it and see what other options we may have.”
Residents have reached out to their local representatives for help, but there’s not much they can do. Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor said in an e-mail that “This is creating a trainload of issues. I went over there, it is crazy where they placed these cars, so close to the housing. I do not get it.”
In addition to the visual blight, resident Jana Deiri and her husband Zack are concerned about possible vermin that might be inside the cars, while others are concerned that the cars could attract undesirables. “This is not the place for those,” Jana said. “This is a big disappointment.”
City Manager Donna Landeros said another concern is the impact the visual blight could have on home values in the area. Like many relatively new neighborhoods, Rose Garden has seen a considerable number of foreclosures, and the train won’t help the housing market.
“It’s like kicking a neighborhood when it’s down,” she said.
Residents have also gone to the Oakley City Council for help, with similar results. City Councilman Kevin Romick addressed the issue in a Sept. 30 posting on his blog, romickinoakley.wordpress.com:
“The City has reached out to Union Pacific in the past on this issue and several others,” Romick wrote. “Each time they have been rebuffed with the a reminder that – State, County and Local governments have absolutely no control of the railroads. City Manager, Bryan Montgomery, jokingly reminded us all that there is God and then the railroad.”
Landeros said that Brentwood has adopted the strategy of forwarding complaints to UPRR and providing contact information for Director of Public Affairs Wes Lujon in hopes the railroad will tire of the pestering and move the cars a few hundred feet. “I can’t understand why they wouldn’t want to avoid all the complaints,” she said.
Those who wish to register a complaint may contact Lujon at 916-789-5957. The address is Wes Lujon, C/O Union Pacific Railroad, 915 L St., Suite 1180, Sacramento, CA 95814.