The residents of the De Anza Harbor Resort continue to battle in court for the right to remain in their spaces -- almost a decade after the master lease expired on the property, which is on Mission Bay.
While about 115 of the 513 mobile homes were reportedly vacated not long after De Anza’s master lease expired in November 2003, Vincent Bartolotta, a partner with law firm Thorsnes Bartolotta McGuire who represents the residents, estimated that something less than half the original number remain.
“Some of the mobile homes have been bulldozed, some of the people have been run off and many have died …,” Bartolotta said. “These people were always ready and willing to move, but this has to do with proper notice and what the city is willing to pay for compensation. This should have been done years ago.”
Since 2003 there have been at least a couple lawsuits filed in Superior Court. One alleged the residents were harassed by not only verbal intimidation, but the lowering of the temperature of the pool, the bulldozing of a playground used by visiting grandchildren, and the installation of concertina wire around other formerly common areas, among other reported offenses.
“It was atrocious,” Bartolotta said.
At that time the park was run by Hawkeye Asset Management of Laguna Beach, Calif., which had been retained by the city to manage the park in 2004. Hawkeye hasn’t managed the property for about the past five years.
The plaintiff attorneys were able to negotiate a $3.6 million settlement with the city.
The other litigation against the city includes other alleged violations of the Mobile Home Residency Law, such as appropriate relocation compensation, and an alleged refusal by the city to meet with residents. This second lawsuit also continues to determine just who should be included in the class-action case.
Bartolotta said the appropriate compensation for the remaining residents and those who have already moved is still being determined.
In the meantime, Bartolotta said residents are unsure whether to make any improvements to their units since they don’t know how long they will be living there.
The mobile home park is unique. Although the San Diego Housing Commission approved a citywide vehicle to allow mobile home park residents to purchase their spaces in the 2000s, the law expressly excluded De Anza from the ordinance due to the value of the real estate.
The city-owned mobile home park property had once been considered as a possible site for a 600-room hotel; it is now expected to be transformed into a park-type use. These park uses may range from campgrounds to baseball fields. But given it is still uncertain when or if the remaining residents will leave, those decisions have yet to be made.
William Michael Rathbone, a partner with the Gordon & Rees law firm in San Diego who represents the city, said Superior Court Judge Charles Hayes has appointed Special Master (mediator) Thomas Sharkey to review the tenant impact report. Sharkey will determine such things as whether proper notice was given to the residents and may aid in the compensation determinations. Rathbone said those findings may be made public in April or May.
Hayes will then have the option of taking, rejecting or amending those recommendations -- an action that could foster an appeal later.
Bartolotta is joined on the plaintiff’s side by co-counsels Timothy Tatro and Peter Zamoyski of the law firm Tatro & Zamoyski LLP.
The city of San Diego (the defendant) is represented by Rathbone, Timothy Branson, and Miles Scully, who are also with Gordon & Rees.