BELL — The mostly elderly residents of two mobile home parks here expressed joy and relief earlier this week after learning that their community will not be razed to make room for a new elementary school.
"I'm elated," said Louise Boal of Little Oak Trailer Park on Live Oak Street. Boal and about 200 other residents of Little Oak and the larger Del Rio Mobile Home Park next door on Florence Avenue received letters late last week from the Los Angeles Unified School District informing them that their homes are no longer being considered as the site for a proposed school.
In March, three busloads of the residents, many of them elderly, appeared at a meeting of the district's building committee and pleaded to save their homes. At that meeting in downtown Los Angeles, residents said that they could not find comparable low-cost housing if forced to move.
"I didn't know where I was going to go," Boal said after receiving the good news from the school district.
$120 Monthly Rent
Boal, 54, who described herself as one of the youngest residents of Little Oak, said that she pays $120 a month for her space at the park. "You can't even rent a room in somebody's house for that money," she said.
Kathy Friedman, a real estate agent for the school district, said that district officials had been moved by the plight of the trailer park residents.
"There are a lot of older people there that we were afraid of displacing," Friedman said. "We try not to cause any hardship if possible, so we decided to shelve the project in that area. . . .
"We are human," she added.
The district had proposed building the new school--designated now as Bell Elementary No. 3--on a site bounded by Florence Avenue on the north, Live Oak Street on the south and the Los Angeles River on the east. On the west, the site would have extended one lot-length west of Live Oak Lane.
Robert Niccum, director of real estate for the school district, said the district is "looking in that general vicinity for a suitable site. I expect we will have something identified within the next two or three weeks."
Niccum also confirmed that residents of Green Lantern trailer park on Elizabeth Street in Cudahy have been notified that their park is being considered as part of the site of a proposed junior high school. The Board of Education is expected to vote on sites for 13 schools, including the Elizabeth Street proposal, at a meeting April 27.
'A Happy Ending'
"It's a happy ending," Don Gezzi, a 65-year-old Del Rio resident who helped organize the community protest, said of the decision.
According to Gezzi, residents of the park range in age from 5 months to 94 years old and include a number of invalids. Del Rio is a close-knit community, Gezzi said. "It's like a family. When you're sick, somebody goes to the store for you."
Marie Larsen, a Del Rio resident in her 70s, said that the prospect of a forced move had devastated the community. "We were ill," she said. "Where would we go? What could we do? What could we afford?"
Asked how she felt about the decision, Larsen responded: "Is there another word for happy?"