Unincorporated: California’s Forgotten Communities, Once Magazine: Issue 7
Nearly every day, Modesto Junior College student Arleen Hernandez battles an aging septic tank that backs up into her toilet and shower, bringing with it “bits of paper and chunks of mold.”
When Hernandez’s parents moved to Parklawn in 1986, they didn’t realize the extent to which their new neighborhood, an unincorporated area adjacent to the city of Modesto, lacks basic public services.
Parklawn is not connected to nearby city sewer lines, so Hernandez and her neighbors flush their sewage into overloaded septic tanks. There are almost no sidewalks and not enough storm drains. During heavy rains, children dodge traffic in flooded streets in the neighborhood locals call “No Man’s Land” on their way to school.
Across California there are hundreds of neighborhoods like Parklawn. These poor, dense, and unincorporated communities on county land—which uniformly lack some combination of sewer systems, clean drinking water, sidewalks, streetlights and gutters—have been the victim of years of governmental neglect.