The holdout

Neighbor to Enloe’s ER doesn’t want to move

Photo By Tom Angel

June Williams, who calls herself the “last holdout” with an air that is both proud and reluctant, surveys her neighborhood of 50 years from a front porch almost directly across from Enloe Medical Center’s emergency room.

Williams, 80, watered the lawn today but is not altogether pleased with how her hedges have been kept up, and she plans to get the weathered front door, with its peeling paint, fixed soon. But then again, she muses, it might not be worth the money or effort, if she just has to pack up and move anyway.

Like an L.A. freeway, the future of the Enloe expansion project depends on one last holdout, Williams. The city’s interpretation of the hospital’s Master Plan describes her as having “indicated their desire to sell the property to [Enloe].”

That’s not exactly true.

Williams’ modest, ranch-style house on Magnolia Street is decorated much as it must have been when she and her husband, newly married, moved in back in 1955. The night after they bought the house, Williams and her husband, Ralph, who managed Miller’s Market, couldn’t sleep, worrying that they couldn’t afford the hefty mortgage.

Since then, Williams has watched her street change from a family neighborhood to one dominated by a multistory medical center. The emergency room is active through the night, and she is surrounded on three sides by Enloe offices and parking lots.

Enloe redesigned part of its proposed expansion project after another elderly resident on West Fifth Avenue indicated she doesn’t want to sell. But Williams’ property is crucial to the plan. To even begin construction, the hospital had to get her on board.

Williams doesn’t want to make waves or go up against Enloe, but she doesn’t have fond memories of the last expansion, in 1979. “My first year of retirement I saw that monstrosity being built,” she says.

“I have no neighbors now,” observes Williams, who is retired from Pacific Bell and still volunteers as treasurer for the Telephone Pioneers club. She used to come home from work and chat over the fence, but everyone’s gone. Even the property behind hers, on Arcadian, has been purchased by Enloe and rented out.

As Enloe has grown, so has Chico. It’s a far cry from what it was when her builder father moved the family here when she was 4 and used to count the few cars passing by from a porch on The Esplanade.

Williams says she doesn’t fear change, but she doesn’t want to move until she’s good and ready.

When Enloe’s attorney, Carl Leverenz, who is also on the Enloe Foundation board, started calling her, she says, “I kept putting him off.” Finally, she agreed to have him over to the house.

“I said, ‘I’m not ready to move,'” Williams says, but eventually she agreed to sign a document that gives Enloe the first right to buy her property should she decide to sell.

“I should have refused it,” she says. “I feel like I’m being forced out.”

Still, Williams likes Enloe—she went to school with N. T. Enloe’s son Tommy—and appreciates the care she and her family have received there. When her husband suffered a stroke shortly before he died three years ago, she called the hospital asking if someone could walk across the street with a gurney. The staff was glad to oblige, but a few weeks later Enloe billed $650 for the trip of just a few yards. (A call to a friend who works with FlightCare got the charges reversed, and Williams donated half the money to the helicopter fund.)

The helicopters don’t bother her any more than do passing trains, and she patiently breaks off speaking when one passes overhead.

Selling out, she says, is a tough call.

“I don’t want to give up my independence,” she says. “But I feel like I don’t have anyone backing me.”—D. A.