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Dispossessed Tenants Wonder Where They'll Go Now : Trailer Park Residents Frustrated, Helpless as Moving Day Approaches

March 15, 1987|JULIO MORAN | Times Staff Writer

David Jordan is angry and frustrated. But mostly he's scared.

His home for the past 12 years, Maury's Trailer Park in Hawthorne, is scheduled to close Aug. 1 to make way for a mini-mall. Like nearly all of the 60 residents--many of them children--who still live in 18 older-model coaches at the park, he says he doesn't know where he will move and fears he may not find a place.

"There's nowhere to go," Jordan said recently as he sat in a neighbor's 18-year-old coach and discussed the residents' plight. "Most of the people here are on limited income. They can't afford to move into apartments and pay three or four times what they are now paying in rent."

Two-bedroom apartments in Hawthorne are advertised at about $700 a month. Tenants at Maury's pay $165 a month for their spaces, although that will go up to $215 in April. Residents at Maury's and most other mobile home parks own their homes, but rent the lots they sit on, usually on a month-to-month basis.

Other Parks Not Suitable

Jordan, an unofficial spokesman for the tenants, said a real estate broker for the park's new owner gave them a list of Los Angeles area parks with vacancies. But Jordan said the tenants looked into the list and found that the spaces weren't big enough, children or pets weren't allowed, the vacancies were no longer available or the parks were too far away.

"How the hell can you live 100 miles away from Los Angeles and still go to work?" said Jordan, a house painter. "Or what do you tell someone who has kids? Get rid of them just so you can move your coach?"

In interviews, other tenants appeared to be just as frustrated.

"I guess we'll end up on the streets somewhere," said Rafael Magdaleno, 44, who has lived at Maury's for 11 years. Magdaleno, a factory worker in El Segundo who has a wife and four children, added two small bedrooms to his single-wide trailer and it would be difficult to move even if he could find a suitable space for it. He said he cannot afford to pay $800 to $1,000 for a three-bedroom apartment in the South Bay.

Marvin and Sharon Shannon have lived at Maury's for more than 20 years. Marvin, 51, is a 27-year employee of United Airlines at Los Angeles International Airport and is three years away from early retirement. The couple had hoped to stay at Maury's for at least that long when they could move their trailer to a half-acre parcel they own in Lake Elsinore and retire.

Those plans have been shattered.

Too Difficult to Move

"What are we going to do?," Sharon asked, explaining that it would be too difficult for them to move to their land in Lake Elsinore ahead of schedule.

"He can't drive 75 miles each way every day," she said "I've checked into flights from Hemet. It would cost $700 a month. Forget it. Maybe what we'll have to do is rent a small bachelor apartment for Marvin to stay at during the week and see each other only on weekends.

"No," she said, on further reflection. "I couldn't live like that.

"If we can't find any land in the area to put our trailer on, then we will just live in my van," she said.

Despite their anger, the tenants said they understand the economics behind the decision to close the park.

No Beef With Owners

"Our beef is not with the owners," Jordan said. "But where are we going to go?"

The situation at Maury's illustrates what has happened--and is expected to continue to happen--at many mobile home parks in the South Bay. The increasing cost of land in the South Bay is making many park sites more valuable for shopping centers or condominiums.

"It may sound cruel," said Hugh Terrell, a mobile home park specialist for Grubb & Ellis, a commercial real estate company, "but it's the nature of real estate."

It is the increased value of the 3/4-acre Maury's park, on Rosecrans Avenue between Prairie Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, that has led to its closure, according to Jan Ruhman, a commercial real estate broker with American Heritage Realty in Redondo Beach, who negotiated the park's sale last year.

Ruhman said Ben and Estelle Strauss of Huntington Beach inherited the park from her father several years ago and wanted to cash in and retire. Frank Ramogida Development Inc. of Playa del Rey purchased the park for $600,000. The park has been a legal non-conforming use since Hawthorne zoned the property for commercial or light manufacturing many years ago.

$250,000 Annually

Ruhman, who was designated by both the Strausses and Ramogida as their spokesman, said Ramogida plans to spend another $1 million to build a 15,500-square-foot mini-mall. He estimates that the retail center will provide Ramogida with annual revenue of about $250,000.

With an average monthly rent of $165 for each of the 22 spaces at Maury's, current annual revenue is $43,560. If monthly lot rents were increased to $500--among the highest of any mobile home park in the South Bay--that would still bring in only $132,000 annually. Monthly rents would have to approach $950 to bring annual revenue to $250,000.

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