Residents of a Lomita mobile home park won a victory this week when the City Council unanimously rejected the owners' proposal for closing the park. But Councilman Hal Hall warned residents of the Grandview Mobile Park that the council was merely giving them a reprieve. "You can see the handwriting on the wall," he told the more than 100 people in the audience protesting the owners' proposal for relocating residents.
Ten South Bay mobile home parks have closed since 1975, and another seven, including Grandview, are expected to close in the next few years as owners seek more lucrative purposes for their increasingly valuable land.
Grandview owners Craig Knickerbocker and Dennis Barsam want to close their 97-space park, at 2334 241st St., and sell it to apartment or condominium developers. Under an ordinance adopted last year on mobile home park sales, owners must obtain council approval of a "relocation impact report" before a sale can be completed. Once the report is accepted, park residents have up to one year to move.
Report Called Inaccurate
At Monday's public hearing, park resident Jim Dewey called the Grandview report "inaccurate, misleading and incomplete."
"The report says that Grandview is run down. I show you pictures proving that this is untrue. The park is one of the best kept in Lomita. The report refers to park residents as transients. The average length of residence is 13 years. It says there are seven disabled persons in the park. There are nearly three times that many."
Knickerbocker said the report is substantially correct and that Dewey's points were "matters of interpretation."
The report also said neighbors favored the closure and the construction of medium- to high-density housing units, but Dewey submitted a petition signed by more than 600 Lomita residents living around the park, asking that it not be closed.
Several park neighbors at the hearing said they had not been contacted by Knickerbocker and Barsam until last week, after the report was submitted. They said they were opposed to the proposed construction because of possible parking and traffic problems.
The main objection voiced by most park residents at the hearing was the scarcity of mobile home sites in the South Bay. Although the report included a long list of parks with openings, only 14 were within 50 miles of Lomita, and 10 of those would not accept the larger units that are prevalent at the park.
Lomita's mobile home ordinance requires that relocation impact reports include a realistic list of possible relocation spaces within 50 miles, but it does not specify that park owners must actually relocate residents in that area.
'Effort to Relocate'
"My interpretation and intent in passing our ordinance was that an effort would be made to relocate residents within a reasonable distance," Councilman Charles Belba said. "The intent was to work with our people and retain the value of their units."
Knickerbocker said it is impossible to get a current list of local openings.
"Openings in the area are extremely limited," he said. "As soon as there is an opening, you have to run down there and put down a deposit. Openings don't stay open."
However, he said he and Barsam have met with over a dozen families out of the 97 residents affected by the proposed closing and many are happy with the terms they have been offered. He submitted to the council a testimonial from one relocated resident. The partners are offering varying amounts of relocation aid to residents, depending on the value of their mobile homes and the length of time they have been at the park.
At Belba's suggestion, the council voted to table the report and not consider it before November. "The residents want a six-month delay to study this, and the delay will give the owners the time to work to allay the residents' fears," he said.
Mayor Robert Hargrave agreed: "This is a human issue and the law must be complied with. I also feel there are too many unanswered questions raised by this (report) to accept it at this time."
The decision to delay, which elated the crowd of residents and representatives from other parks and senior citizen groups, disappointed Knickerbocker and Barsam.
"When the tenants finally meet with us, they will find out they're getting a lot more from us than the law requires," Barsam said.