BELL — Fearing eviction to make way for a new elementary school, several hundred residents from two mobile home parks showed up in force Monday to ask the City Council to help persuade school planners to look elsewhere.
The land occupied by the trailer parks, along with other homes and businesses, has been targeted by the Los Angeles Unified School District as the site of a new elementary school at Florence Avenue and the Los Angeles River.
"We got all these homeless people in downtown Los Angeles. If the people in here are forced out of their homes, they're going to be living down there," said Estella Fripe, manager of the Del Rio Mobile Home Park on Florence Avenue.
Fripe said most of the residents are senior citizens living on fixed incomes and would not have any place to go if they are displaced. The Del Rio park has 104 units.
"These people can't afford it. They live here because the rent is cheap," said Fripe, noting that the rent ranges from $140 to $213 a month. "There should be other land around here."
Busy Area for Traffic
The residents also questioned the site's suitability for a school because it is near one of the busiest streets in the city.
"I don't know why they would want our park. The traffic is terrific on Florence Avenue," resident Grace Fodor, 74, said in an interview.
The other park, with 12 trailer rental spaces, is Little Live Oak on Live Oak Street, which is a block away and parallel to Florence.
The district is in the process of building new schools in the Southeast area of the county to alleviate chronic overcrowding. The school planned on Florence Avenue in Bell is one of seven proposed in the Southeast area. Five additional schools are under way.
Bell Councilman George G. Mirabal said there is little the council can do, other than to try to negotiate with the district to look at other alternatives.
"We would like to have more input in the selection of a location," Mirabal said. "If the school district gives us a chance, we can try to find another site."
Final Approval Near
Mike Chang, a coordinator in the district's planning branch, said the elementary school site already has received preliminary approval from the school board. He said final approval would most likely take place sometime this month.
He said the district may be ready to present plans--which would include an environmental review and feasibility study--to the city Planning Commission by next month.
However, he said the district has the option to change its mind before final approval of a site. Byron Kimball, who oversees district building, could not be reached for comment.
Fripe said the mobile home park residents are going to collect petitions and show up at school board meetings to protest the proposed siting of the school.
"It's the only thing we can do. We have to fight back," Fripe said.