A woman who has moved a mobile home onto an empty lot in a neighborhood of custom-built homes has every right to be there, city staffers told irate neighbors and City Council members Tuesday night.
In their report during a City Council meeting, the staff members suggested that residents of the quiet Saugus neighborhood of single-family homes make their peace with the mobile home owner, Carol Wise, who took out appropriate permits before moving the home onto the lot.
But dozens of residents on hand for the meeting were in no mood for peaceful coexistence. They were especially outraged by city planner Rich Henderson's suggestion that they "work together to make the mobile home an asset to the neighborhood."
Exasperated City Council members said their only option was to initiate negotiations to buy the property. But this hardly mollified neighborhood residents.
"Something's wrong when the City Council requests a staff report regarding a mobile home on a residential lot and they receive a gallon of whitewash, one quart of gloss and the recommendation by Rodney King, 'Can we all get along?' " said Richard Trimble, president pro tem of the neighborhood's Galaxy Highlands Homeowners Assn.
The association had been inactive for several years, but came to life with the arrival of Wise's mobile home earlier this month. Several of the residents said they feared the mobile home's presence would decrease their property values.
Wise, who was also at the meeting, said she had planned to move into the mobile home on the winding Barbacoa Drive when improvements, including an attached garage and covered porch, were completed.
The high school teacher said her affection for the well-kept neighborhood was rapidly diminishing, but she had no intention of moving if it meant losing the $145,000 she has invested in home and property.
"I would think the City Council members would be more in tune with upholding the law than pandering to public opinion," Wise said after the meeting. "(But) offer me enough and I'll leave."
The city just might. Council members, who have been hounded by complaints from the residents, voted unanimously at the meeting to enter negotiations with Wise over a buyout of the property.
Santa Clarita Mayor George Pederson suggested that "all parties involved," including the homeowners group, meet and discuss how it could be financed. He said some of the money could come from the city.
"I think the role of the city is to take a leadership role, saying 'We made a mistake here,' " he said in an interview Wednesday. He suggested that Wise not demand an inflated price.
"I don't think she's going to want to live in that neighborhood," he said.
Many of the homeowners said they would be willing to pay several hundred dollars apiece toward a buyout. "It's something I would seriously consider," said Jeff Miller, vice president pro tem of the homeowners group.
The lot is one of four on a hillside that had been vacant since the 1971 Sylmar earthquake and only recently declared safe for building. Pederson suggested the properties could be made into a city park.
The council also took Henderson's suggestion that they draft an ordinance that would prohibit mobile homes from being placed on such lots. There is a state law already in place that allows cities to prohibit mobile homes more than 10 years old being placed on residential lots (Wise's is 15 years old), but that law did not exist when Wise applied for her building permits, Henderson said.
Pederson said it will probably take at least 60 to 90 days before such an ordinance would be ready for approval.