MONROVIA — When 88-year-old La Faun Bench rented the space next to her mobile home for her daughter, she thought her problems were over.
Bench's daughter moved in four years ago to care for her mother, who had just broken her arm and was losing her sight.
"I couldn't exist if I didn't have her around," said Bench, who has lived in the mobile home park for more than 25 years.
But now, like the 90 other tenants at Park Santa Anita mobile home park on Fifth Avenue, Bench and her daughter, Helen Preston, 63, have been told they must move because the facility is being sold.
"Where can I find two spaces so we can be together?" Bench asked.
Joseph Sherman of Pasadena and the Harold Looney Trust in Escondido, joint owners of the 63-space mobile home park property for more than 20 years, will not reveal its buyer.
However, Beverly Southers, president of Beverly Investment Group, a Carlsbad-based land development firm--representing both seller and buyer--said she intends to apply for a conditional-use permit for a high-rise office building at the site within five weeks.
Southers said attorney Steve Andersen , who said he also represents the buyer and the seller, said the roughly five-acre lot is being sold for about $6 million.
Escrow on the property was opened in May, a few days before the tenants were informed of the sale, Southers said. But escrow won't close "until the use is changed or the park is closed," Andersen said.
Southers said she has located alternate spaces for the tenants in mobile home parks in Visalia, Banning, Hemet and other areas. But the tenants are concerned because they have been unable to find locations closer to Monrovia.
According to state housing officials, the number of mobile home parks in Los Angeles County had decreased from 770 in 1986 to 742 now.
An agitated but orderly delegation of about 70 tenants of the trailer park sought help from the City Council at a recent meeting.
Elliot Goldyn, who heads the tenant association, told the council that most residents need to relocate within the area because of employment, family ties and medical requirements. More than 80% of the residents are over 60, and 17 are disabled, he said.
Mayor Robert Bartlett directed his staff to study any options the city might have, saying he wants "to protect the residents." But City Atty. Richard Morillo expressed doubts that the city could pass an ordinance to maintain the park's current use, as sought by the tenants.
In a memorandum to the council, Morillo noted that "the decision belongs to the property owner, who is free to change the use of his land." City involvement would be limited to enforcing state law regarding a change-of-use request and the relocation of tenants, he said.
Since the property is zoned as planned development, a conditional-use permit would be required for any new use.
In compliance with state law, a relocation impact report, including possible new sites for the tenants and relocation costs, will be submitted to the city, Andersen said.
The report must be approved by the Planning Commission or City Council before the request for a use permit can be considered. If the use permit is approved, the current owners must give tenants at least six months' notice of when they must move and pay an assortment of costs.
Owners of displaced mobile homes are entitled to all moving costs, including a unit's reassembly and anchoring at the new site, and utility hook-up charges. The current owners will also pay to upgrade trailers that need improvements to withstand the move, Southers said.
The tenants have rejected the recent offer of a 1-year lease at Park Santa Anita. Tenant association secretary Barbara Daly said residents are seeking 2-year leases.
Daly, a 51-year-old secretary in Los Angeles, was trying to sell her trailer before she learned of the park's fate. But she has taken her For Sale sign off the trailer because no one wants to buy it now.
"I'm going to stay here till the last dog is hung," she said, adding that she would rather abandon the trailer than leave the area. "I'm not willing to move clear out to Hemet. . . . I would never find a job, and there's no way I could commute."
Southers denied allegations by some tenants that she has pressured people to move. She said she has encouraged residents to visit possible relocation sites and make their decisions as soon as possible so she can begin reserving spaces for them.
"The biggest problem we're facing is finding spaces for the older coaches," she said, adding that older, smaller coaches--which constitute the majority of the mobile homes in the park--are especially difficult to place.
"The way to solve the problem is to (relocate) to an outlying area. . . . Rents tend to be lower, and the air is cleaner," she said.
Southers said she was concerned because some residents have discouraged their neighbors from moving.
Kenneth Crusberg, 74, who has lived at the park for nine years, said some neighbors were upset when he decided to move to Country Lake Mobile Home Community in San Jacinto. Saying the owners have treated him fairly, Crusberg said it will cost him about $80 more a month to live in the San Jacinto trailer park.
"I hate every bit of it, but gee whiz, you have to protect yourself," said Crusberg, a retired Pasadena Fire Department captain, who pays $207 a month in rent at Park Santa Anita.
Crusberg, who formed the tenants association after he learned that the park would be sold, said he ran up a $72 phone bill last month in an unsuccessful effort to find a closer site for his double trailer.
Said his wife, Mildred, 67: "It's a losing battle. . . . We can't make their (the other tenants') situation better by staying and losing everything.