Marina mobile homes may find new life

An excavator cleans up debris at the Marina Park mobile home park on Wednesday, December 18. (Scott Smeltzer, Daily Pilot)
(SCOTT SMELTZER / Daily Pilot)

When Marina Park residents vacated their mobile homes to make way for a new public park, the fate of the structures fell to a demolition company.

The crews, who had assumed responsibility for them from the city, planned to raze the Balboa Peninsula site.

But in a twilight-hour negotiation, two Orange County companies purchased many of the mobile homes from the demolition company and intend to move them to other parks.

The slight change in plans may create some savings for the city. It also prevents the structures from going to waste. Some will go to Tustin, others to the Sacramento area, rather than to trash and recycling facilities.

The new residents may not get the harbor views that Marina Park dwellers enjoyed, but they will benefit from the housing option, said Amber Monte, president of the Irvine-based Investment Property Group, which owns 70 mobile home parks throughout the western United States.

“Mobile homes provide some of the best affordable housing there is,” she said. “They were all in decent condition, and they’re totally movable.”

It will be hard to find scenery comparable to Newport’s, especially since mobile home parks in coastal locations are more likely to be shut down because of the value of the land, said Abe Arrigotti, president of Anaheim-based Sierra Corporate Management, which owns about 35 mobile home parks.

“We don’t have any vacation resorts, so they won’t be going anywhere like that,” Monte said.

Graffiti and broken windows marred some of the nearly 60 homes after residents left Dec. 2. Appliances disappeared from some. Still, none was rendered beyond repair.

In fact, one resident had recently refurbished a home for more than $100,000, said John Rettberg, president of the Marina Park Homeowners Assn.

Newport Beach has owned the homes since 2007, when the city bought each for $35,000 as part of a settlement agreement. Although the renters had the option to buy back the homes and relocate them, none did.

The city decided to let the demolition company deal with the mobile homes as it saw fit.

“We didn’t want to be in the position of knowing or having to certify the condition of these mobile homes,” said Leonie Mulvihill, the assistant city attorney. “The expensive part of a mobile home is the relocation component.”

By the time Monte became aware of the homes, the bidding process for demolition of the entire site had already begun.

To stay on track, the city instructed Monte to work out a deal with Unlimited Environmental, which the City Council selected for demolition and tree relocation, said David Webb, the city’s public works director.

The city awarded the Signal Hill-based company a $405,000 contract Oct. 22.

Unlimited Environmental sold 47 of the homes to Monte’s Investment Property Group and to Arrigotti’s Sierra Corporate Management, which will relocate 30 and 17 of them, respectively. The city expects to receive some credit on the Unlimited Environmental contract as a result.

One tenant has since expressed interest in returning to his relocated home, Arrigotti said.

“I’m happy to sell it back to him,” he said. “We’d love to have built-in buyers for these homes.”

Monte declined to disclose a total price for the transaction. Unlimited Environmental directed questions to Newport Beach.

The remaining 11 homes, deemed unusable for structural reasons, will be demolished as the rest of the site is cleared by early January.