Judge rules against mobile home park owner

Residents in the Laguna Terrace Park Assn. will meet Friday to discuss the June 29 court decision that has left them in limbo.

Judge Ronald L. Bauer ruled last month that the California Coastal Commission has final say over Laguna Terrace owner Steve Esslinger's proposed subdivision of the property to convert it into a resident-owned mobile home park.

The judge's decision hinged on an unpermitted lot line adjustment in 1995 that the commission argued gave them jurisdiction over the landowner's subdivision application — a point Esslinger disputed.

"We would have been the beneficiaries if the court had ruled in Steve's favor, but now we are in limbo," said mobile home owner Peggy Ford. "Everyone is reeling."

Members of the Laguna Terrace Park Assn. of mobile home owners were informed of the court decision on July 6 in an email from Boyce Belt, association president.

"At this moment, we do not have any word on any reaction from the park management other than, 'We got our [expletive] kicked,'" Belt wrote. "We will be in discussion with them soon to determine what our next actions will be."

Park Manager James Lawson had not returned phone calls from the Coastline Pilot as of Thursday. He has previously said that Esslinger would not appeal to the Coastal Commission.

"I was told if the court ruled in favor of the commission, Steve would pull out of the deal to sell us the park," Belt said Monday.

The mobile home park was listed on the commission's closed session agenda for a meeting held Tuesday in Marin County.

"Two of our opponents are no longer on the commission," Belt said. "I hope that will give the commission a new direction, but Penny Elia is still very active."

Elia, a South Laguna resident speaking for the Sierra Club, was among the three names listed as communicators at the 2010 commission hearing where the decision was made that the proposed subdivision, approved by the City Council last year, was able to be appealed to the commission.

Paul Esslinger, father of the property owner who has a long history of legal battles with his son, also supported the commission's position.

The park owner challenged in court the commission's decision that it has jurisdiction over the city's approval of the subdivision of the park, which would allow the residents to buy the land under the mobile homes.

Laguna Terrace Park sits on 20 acres, split in 1995 from a 270-acre parcel, for which no coastal development permit was obtained. The lot line adjustment was not appealed to the commission until 2007, but the commission claimed the lack of a permit made the entire 270-acre parcel and development of any portion of the property subject to its review.

"There would be no new development — no change in the use — if the mobile home owners were allowed to buy the 20 acres," Ford said.

The park's civil suit claimed the subdivision of the park as a prelude to individual ownership is authorized by state code and none of the commission's business.

The commission contested that notion, and the judge agreed


Belt said he remains optimistic that eventually the mobile home owners would gain title to the land.

"But it's a challenge," he said.

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