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Editorial: Hopes dashed for Laguna Terrace residents

July 14, 2011

Tenants of Laguna Terrace Park got the news they most feared last week: The California Coastal Commission will be the final arbiter of the park residents' quest to become owners of the ocean-view spots on which their mobile homes sit in South Laguna.

Late last month, Judge Ronald L. Bauer ruled that a 1995 lot line split which carved out the park from a 270-acre parcel for ownership purposes — and which remained unchallenged for decades — can now be appealed to the commission. This ruling is likely to put the kibosh on the mobile home park dwellers' dreams of becoming homeowners instead of renters.

The park owner, Steve Esslingler, has indicated he will abandon the idea of turning the park over to the residents if the Coastal Commission asserts jurisdiction.

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The park dwellers, as renters, have little clout and those without leases can have their monthly rent increased at will by the landowner.

The mobile home park has been in existence for some 60 years, long before the Coastal Commission came into being.

The subdivision of the park — the prelude to its turning into an ownership park — was approved by the Laguna Beach City Council in July 2010.

In 2007, the mobile home park dwellers first brought their concerns to the attention of the council, when a feud among the Esslinger family, which owned the land, was headed to trial. At that time, the residents said they would not feel safe in their homes unless they owned the lots themselves.

It has been a long, difficult road for the park dwellers, who have had to meet the complex requirements of conversion while staving off the attacks on their plans from environmentalists and Paul Esslinger, Steve Esslinger's father, who has joined the opponents of the conversion plan.

Many eyes are on the mobile home park and the land surrounding it, which lies across from the Montage Laguna and is extremely desirable from many standpoints. The park in many ways mirrors the old Treasure Island mobile home park, where the Montage itself was built.

While individual ownership of the park lots has its own uncertainties, we feel that promoting the interests of the park dwellers requires it.

Unfortunately, the intrusion of the Coastal Commission has made it very unlikely that this will ever happen.

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