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Activists Target Mobile Home Parks : Adults-Only Housing Challenged in Legislature, Courts

March 31, 1985|LYNN O'SHAUGHNESSY and SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writers

Civil liberties groups are striving to make 1985 the year in which mobile home parks--the last legal bastion of adults-only housing in California--will be barred from excluding children.

"It is the last loophole in housing discrimination against children," said Gloria Allred, a Los Angeles attorney who successfully sued an all-adult mobile home park in Malibu last year. "The battle is joined."

Proponents on both sides of the issue predict that the long-debated question of who may live in mobile home parks could be decided this year in the Legislature, the California Supreme Court, or both.

In the San Gabriel Valley there are about 175 mobile home parks with more than 10,000 spaces, said a spokesman from the state Department of Housing. While most are in the East Valley, El Monte leads the list with 50 parks and 1,675 spaces.

Several Parks Elsewhere

Pomona has 19 parks with a total of 1,868 spaces, La Verne has eight parks with 1,752 spaces, and San Dimas has six parks with 1,350 spaces. Other concentrations are in Rosemead, South El Monte, Baldwin Park and Glendora.

Attention is being focused on mobile home parks because the other strongholds of all-adult living have been struck down by the courts. In 1982, the state Supreme Court ruled that apartment owners could no longer refuse to rent to children because doing so violated anti-discrimination provisions of the state's Unruh Civil Rights Act. A year later, the court ruled that condominiums could not ban children.

A case originating in Los Angeles has provided the Supreme Court with the opportunity to rule on the mobile home issue.

Last November, the Appellate Department of Los Angeles County Superior Court ruled that mobile home parks in the county could no longer bar families with children unless the park qualified as senior citizen housing. The decision is being appealed by attorneys for the Point Dume Mobile Home Park in Malibu, which tried to evict Steven and Barbara Zipp after their daughter was born in 1980.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide by April 10 whether it will accept the case for review, said Allred, the Zipps' attorney.

2 Bills Introduced

Meanwhile, two opposing bills dealing with mobile home residency have been introduced in the state Legislature.

William Craven (R-San Diego), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Mobile Homes, has introduced a measure that has gained the support of numerous consumer advocacy and civil rights groups, including the Consumers Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Gray Panthers and the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation. It would prohibit mobile home parks from discriminating against children, but it would permit the existence of senior citizen parks for those 55 and older.

A second bill, to the surprise of consumer groups, is being carried by Assembly Majority Leader Mike Roos (D-Los Angeles), a foe of other adult-only types of housing, who filed his bill this month just before the deadline for bill introductions.

Roos' bill would maintain the all-adult status quo. As a result of the Zipp case, Los Angeles since November has been the only county in the state where the all-adult park is illegal. Linda Wilson, an aide to Roos, said the bill was intended to abrogate the Zipp decision so the laws would be uniform throughout the state.

Owners Support Bill

Roos' bill has been endorsed by the Western Mobilehome Assn., which represents 2,000 park owners. "I hope people understand having Los Angeles County out of step with the rest of the state is not a good policy," said Denny Amundson, the association's executive director.

The Zipp decision has caused confusion among park owners, residents and prospective buyers with children in Los Angeles. Some families apparently are still being turned away from mobile home parks, while others are being warned that they could be evicted if the Supreme Court rules in the park owners' favor in the Zipp case.

"I'm taking the position that adult-only (parks) are alive," said Linda Lester, one of the Point Dume park's attorneys. "I will continue to take that position until we exhaust legal remedies."

Craven said he introduced his "compromise" bill to end debate on the issue. The senator said recent court decisions that have gone against mobile home parks make it obvious the tide has turned away from park owners who want to exclude children.

'Equitable Solution'

"To us, it seems to be a logical and equitable solution," said Craven, who formerly authored all-adult mobile home legislation. Craven's bill would protect present residents who live in parks that in the future could become senior citizen parks. The bill also includes provisions that would allow younger people to live with a senior citizen under certain circumstances.

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