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Lomita Park to Close : Mobile Home Tenants Seek Relocation Help

October 27, 1985|KEVIN L. CARTER | Times Staff Writer

LOMITA — Ernestine Holmes moved here in 1966 from Pontiac, Mich., with hopes for a comfortable retirement life in mind and her mobile home on the way.

She was 65, Lomita was 2 and a spot was waiting for her in the Palos Verdes Mobile Home Park on Pacific Coast Highway.

After 19 years, two strokes and three changes in park ownership, Holmes, 84, the oldest of about 100 park residents, still lives on Lot 23. But it is doubtful she or any other residents will be there long.

In Commercial Zone

Wei-Chuan Construction Co. of Monterey Park, which purchased the park in March, 1984, has informed residents that it plans to close the park, presumably to build a commercial development. The land has long been zoned commercial. Officials of Wei-Chuan were not available for comment.

The planned closure has prompted residents--who own their homes but rent their lots--to band together in a grass-roots effort to get a city ordinance that would make the company provide relocation money and other assistance.

The ordinance, which is being drafted by City Atty. Leland Dolley, is expected to be presented to the City Council for a hearing Nov. 18. Lawyers for the park's owners and its residents are working with Dolley on the ordinance, which would affect all of the approximately 900 people in Lomita who live in the city's 17 mobile home parks.

Residents of the Palos Verdes Mobile Home Park want Lomita to model its ordinance after one that Carson adopted in 1982, said David Stiles, a park resident and a member of the tenants' association steering committee.

City Has an Option

The Carson ordinance states that before a park can be closed, the owner must file a report with the city stating the impact of the closure on residents. The city then has the option of requiring the owners to provide compensation and relocation assistance for residents.

In negotiations over the Lomita ordinance, Wei-Chuan has asked for a limit of $2,500 per home in relocation aid, which Stiles called "absurd."

City Councilman Hal Hall said Lomita has lost some mobile home parks in recent years as owners saw more profit in other uses for their land, but he does not believe it is a trend.

Stiles believes otherwise. "It's been the trend in Southern California to get rid of mobile home parks," he said.

The Palos Verdes park is made up of young families and older, mostly single residents. Stiles, a 32-year-old Army veteran who works as a biomedical technician at the Veterans Administation Medical Center in Long Beach, said mobile homes often are the only choice for young people who want to buy houses or for older people on fixed incomes.

"I thought this was a very good investment at first," Stiles said. He planned to live in the park with his wife, Cindy, and their two sons for about five years. Then he planned to sell the mobile home and buy a traditional house. Soon after he moved to the park in December, 1984, however, the construction company told residents they had to move within 60 days, even though state law requires a year's notice.

It was then that Stiles and other residents decided to form a group to bargain collectively with the city and the park owners. First they tried to buy the park, Stiles said, but when they could not reach agreement on a price, they concentrated on trying to get the ordinance passed.

The residents have until next October to relocate, but many residents do not think they can afford to move. Many of the mobile homes on the property are as much as 30 years old and would not be accepted at other parks, said Betty Chapman, also a member of the tenants' association steering committee. Many of the park's elderly residents cannot afford to relocate, she added.

In addition, many mobile home parks in the area do not allow families, Stiles said, and many residents do not want to move long distances from Lomita because of proximity to work, family and professional services.

Could Go Bankrupt

If he were forced to move without relocation help, Stiles said, "I would probably lose my mobile home to foreclosure, go bankrupt, try to scrape up some money for a small apartment, regroup and lick my wounds. But I'm 32. How do you tell someone who's 65, 70 or 80 what to do?"

The 84-year-old Holmes said she does not know yet what she will do. She is one of hundreds of applicants for the recently built Lomita Manor senior citizens' complex, but she is not sure whether she will get one of the 78 apartments.

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