Mobile-Home Park Owners File Lawsuit Over Monrovia Law

Times Staff Writer

Owners of a mobile home park have sued the city, claiming an ordinance that may require them to pay up to $30,000 to some displaced residents illegally restricts their right to close the park.

The City Council voted in February to set the amounts of compensation that mobile home park owners must pay residents if parks are closed. The ordinance was approved after tenants appealed to the council to save the 64-space Park Santa Anita, which was being sold to developers.

The suit, filed last week in Pasadena Superior Court, asks the court to invalidate the requirement that park owners pay fair market value for the mobile homes of residents who are unable to relocate to a comparable park.

Challenging Payments

Park Santa Anita owners also are challenging a provision that they must pay up to $15,000 over four years to each tenant to help cover the difference between rent at the park and the cost for comparable housing. The owners also object to paying an additional $15,000 over the following four years to elderly or handicapped low-income residents who had lived in the park at least 10 years.

The owners are not contesting requirements that park owners pay tenants who are able to relocate to other parks an allowance of $3,000 to $5,000 and reimburse them for temporary housing and for moving trailers to other parks.

City Manager Jim Starbird defended the ordinance, saying state law requires that mobile home residents be compensated when they are forced to move, but leaves it up to local governments to determine the amounts. The suit contends that the Monrovia law goes beyond "the reasonable costs of relocation" required by the state.

Developers Beverly Southers of Carlsbad and Sharon Ward of San Diego bought the five-acre site on 5th Avenue and the Foothill Freeway in January. Southers would not disclose the sale price or plans for the land.

According to a January report from Mayor Robert Bartlett and Councilwoman Lara Blakely, 80% of a mobile home's value is derived from the land it rests on.

The suit alleges that by forcing park owners to buy some of the homes, the law is giving trailer residents, who own their homes but rent their lots, some of the value of the land.

"Any park owner faced with such an onerous and oppressive condition is compelled to essentially re-acquire the land already owned by the owner," the suit says.

"Monrovia has taken away the property from the owner and must pay for it," said Michael Spata, attorney for the owners. The developers want the city to reimburse them for what they see as a loss of control over their land.

Awaiting Outcome of Suit

Residents of 26 trailers have already left the site under compensation terms reached privately with the owners. Thirty-eight families remain and are awaiting the outcome of the suit.

The suit also charges that the ordinance is discriminatory in targeting mobile home park owners, while not placing similar regulations on apartment complex owners.

City Atty. Rick Morillo said the comparison is irrelevant because residents in a mobile home park owns their own units.

"The city has an interest in protecting the economic investment of tenants," he said.

Starbird said the owners have not applied for an exemption from the requirements, which the ordinance allows for.

But Southers said she had not asked for a waiver because the city had not been cooperating with the owners. "We decided to take the bull by the horns," she said.

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