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Laguna Terrace Park future in limbo

Family feud over ocean-view land is a hurdle to mobile-home park residents who want to purchase it.

February 16, 2007|By Barbara Diamond

A rift in the Esslinger family has cast a shadow on the future of Laguna Terrace Park.

Paul "Duke" Esslinger is suing his son Stephen, daughter-in-law Amy, Laguna Terrace Park LLC, the Esslinger Family Limited Partnership and Does 1-1000.

Plaintiff Paul Esslinger is accusing the defendants of elder abuse, breach of fiduciary duties and fraud, among other charges related to the management of the partnership established in 1997 after family members settled a lawsuit involving the family trust created by the plaintiff's parents in the 1970s. Esslinger alleges the settlement gave him legal and equitable title to the mobile home park that overlooks Ruby's Diner, Montage Resort & Spa and the ocean.

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"We thought they were going to settle and there would be a sale of the property," said Dan Freeman, president of the residents Laguna Terrace Park Assn. Inc. "Both Steve and Duke issued letters to the association of their intent to sell.

"However, it was learned that both of them had to mutually agree on terms and on the buyer. They went to court [Feb. 2] to discuss it, and the attorneys for Duke notified us that it all blew up."

Orange County Superior Court Judge Jonathan Cannon, who is due to retire in March, set a trial date of July 9 after a mandatory settlement conference came to naught.

"The reason the trial was set for July is to allow a new judge to be appointed and get him or her up to speed," Freeman said.

Paul Esslinger and his attorneys did not return phone calls by press time.

Stephen Esslinger said through a spokesperson that he cannot talk about the park issues due to the pending litigation.

The case has been in the courts since April 2004.

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