Laguna Terrace Park residents still hoping for ownership

The Laguna Terrace Park Assn. board has shuffled its ranks to meet legal and financial challenges presented by the owners, who are intent to sell the property.

Daga Krackowiser has stepped aside as the president of the mobile home park association, as the board scrambles behind closed doors to try to acquire ownership of the property in South Laguna from the heirs of the late Steve Esslinger.

"When I started as president, I was doing community building," Krackowiser said. "I wasn't prepared for the complexities of what is going on."

Krackowiser said she had been told not to comment on the property ownership situation.

"We're not available for comment on the advice of our attorney," said board member John Schlutter. "Our attorney will make a statement."

Attorney Sue Loftin did not return phone calls from the Coastline Pilot.

Residents were notified in late July that the property was to be listed for sale, possibly before the end of this month.

Mobile home owner Peggy Ford, who moved temporarily to Oregon for family reasons, learned about the sale from a Laguna Terrace Park neighbor.

The neighbor sent Ford an email advising her of the July 25 letter that park residents received from the attorney for Esslinger's widow, Amy, which stated they are ready to sell.

"I emailed him a proxy to vote for hiring an attorney to purchase the park," Ford said.

Ford said she did that before even seeing Esslinger's letter.

"I want to encourage the board and all residents of Laguna Terrace Park to come together to try to take advantage of this opportunity that we have to purchase the property," said mobile home owner and former association president Boyce Belt. "Hopefully, we will eventually be able to divide the property and purchase the land under our homes."

The conversion of the park to resident ownership was the intent of Steve Esslinger. He went to the city in 2010 with an application to subdivide the property. The city approved a tentative ownership tract map that city officials opined wouldn't fall under the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission.

The commission determined that it did have jurisdiction and Laguna Terrace Park LLC took the matter to court. Orange County Superior Court judge Ronald Bauer sided with the commission, ruling in August 2011 that the subdivision fell under commission authority.

An appeal of that decision is pending.

Another lawsuit was filed by the property owner, by then called Laguna Isla Vista LP, on behalf of Laguna Terrace Park LLC in December 2011 against Driftwood Properties, the coastal commission and California Coastal Conservancy. The law suit pertains to the lot line division.

Esslinger bought the mobile home park from his family trust in 1997, two years after the mobile park was split from the rest of the property owned by the trust.

The subdivision was approved by the city and no coastal development permit was required.

Lot line adjustments were routinely approved by the city without requiring the permits at least until 1997, and the city issued more than 100 adjustments without permits after the California Coastal Act was enacted, according to the lawsuit.

The commission approved the Driftwood acres as a legal parcel in December 2010. The parcel was offered to the city, which declined, and then to the conservancy. It is still in limbo.

Laguna Terrace Park sits on 20 acres from a 270-acre parcel. There are 158 home sites, some owner occupied, some rented. Amenities include a clubhouse, pool, spa and ocean views.

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