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HUNTINGTON BEACH : City OKs Limited Buyout of Coaches

In the first sign of resolving a longstanding impasse between the city’s Redevelopment Agency and residents of a doomed seaside mobile-home park, the City Council on Monday agreed to buy 16 of the coaches for $1.13 million.

The move is expected to be a precursor to a full buyout agreement with the owners of all 200 coaches remaining in the Driftwood Beach Club Mobile Home Park, city and homeowner representatives said Tuesday.

If negotiations between the agency and the Driftwood homeowners association continue as anticipated, the city will pay homeowners a mutually agreed price for their coaches, and abandon its original plan to relocate them to a new park, said Barbara A. Kaiser, deputy city administrator of economic development.

Each coach will command a different buyout amount, averaging about $70,000, although that figure could increase during the final stages of talks with the association, Kaiser said.

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The city is obligated to either relocate or buy the Driftwood coaches under its May, 1987, agreement with the builders of the sprawling Waterfront redevelopment project on Pacific Coast Highway at Huntington Street.

For now, city officials are planning by this summer to acquire $31.5 million in bonds to pay for the buyout and a variety of public improvements associated with the Waterfront development, Kaiser said. The bonds would be repaid with tax-increment revenue from the redevelopment project, she said.

Kaiser added that the city has not yet determined how much of that money would go toward the mobile home purchases.

“We’re getting down to the wire” in determining an agreeable buyout price for both the city and the homeowners, she said. “Our differences are definitely shrinking.”

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City officials and many residents have long hoped for relocation, but they have been forced to consider the buyout option instead because of pressing needs of some homeowners to move and to make way for the imminent second and third phases of the sprawling Waterfront project planned for the adjacent Driftwood property, officials said.

Dan Keeney, president of the Driftwood Beach Club Mobile Home Owners Assn., said he is among those who would prefer to relocate rather than accept the money.

“But if this (buyout plan) goes through, I think we’ll be happy to take it, at this point,” he said. Such a plan would require the approval by three-fourths of the association’s members, which Keeney said he expects is realistic.

A buyout committee, composed of two city officials and three Driftwood homeowners, will decide at a meeting later this month which 16 owners will receive the immediate payments, said Keeney, chairman of that group. He and Kaiser said the owners with the most urgent needs to sell their coaches, for health reasons or other financial emergencies, would be chosen first.


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