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Mobile home dispute goes to court

City responds to lawsuit that claims city broke the law when it denied owners' the chance to own land parcels.

October 26, 2011|By Mona Shadia
  • The Pacific Home Mobile Park.
The Pacific Home Mobile Park. (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

The battle between Huntington Beach and a mobile home park over a denied attempt to allow residents to buy the land under their coaches is playing out in court.

The city attorney's office responded last month to a lawsuit filed in August by the Pacific Mobile Home Park alleging the city broke the law when it denied the park owners' request to convert the land and offer renters the chance to own the parcels under their coaches.

In its response, the city told the court what it had said to park owners when it denied the application for conversion twice this year. The subdivision was not allowed because it would have further encroached on city property, according to court records.

The city's response also includes a request to evict or relocate residents whose coaches encroach on city property, a move Pacific Mobile attorney Mark Alpert said would be troubling and hurtful to the residents.

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"Solving the problem over time treats the homeowners far, far better than what the city is doing now," he said.

City Attorney Jennifer McGrath said the city doesn't plan on evicting the residents right away.

Some coaches or their accessories have over the years crept up toward the street and are taking portions of the city's land.

The issue of whether the coaches encroach on city property would have taken care of itself had the city allowed Pacific Mobile to convert the land, Alpert said.

He said the sale of the land under the encroaching properties would not be allowed or the residents would have to get a new coach if their current ones are encroaching.

However, according to the city, those residents would either have to move or continue to rent if they couldn't afford buying a new coach, which would violate a state law that requires park owners to give all renters an equal option to buy.

Pacific Mobile first approached the city in April to convert the park, but the request was denied by the Planning Commission on the grounds that the conversion cannot be done if parts of the land encroach on city property.

An appeal to the City Council by Pacific Mobile was denied 6-1 in June.

The council also voted to sue Pacific Mobile over the encroachment to protect the city's right of way.

When the council voted to go ahead with the lawsuit, McGrath said it was not meant to evict the residents, but only to preserve the city's rights in case street improvements are needed in the future.

That intention still stands, McGrath said, adding that the city doesn't expect to relocate residents in the immediate future.

"Then they haven't read their own lawsuit," Alpert said. "It doesn't even take a lawyer to figure it out."

The city's cross-complaint declares the encroachment a nuisance and calls for eviction.

Had the city only wanted to protect its property in the future, it would have done it through a quiet title cause of action, which would have established the right property lines and ownership of the land, Alpert said.

The city's complaint not only includes a quiet title cause of action, but also a request to evict, he said.

McGrath said that although the city expects the residents to move, there isn't a timeline.

"The expectation would be over time as the coaches are vacated," she said.

A court date has not been set.

mona.shadia@latimes.com

Twitter: @MonaShadia

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