A decade-long lawsuit over prime real estate in Mission Bay Park may be closer to resolution, and it could mean increased public access to the bay.
Next week Superior Court Judge Charles Hayes is expected to decide how much money the City of San Diego will pay De Anza Cove mobile homeowners in relocation benefits before closing the park and kicking them out.
The residents filed a class action lawsuit against the city in 2003 when the park’s lease expired. Their attorney Tim Tatro argues that under state law, lease expiration in a mobile home park does not constitute grounds for eviction.
"Most of the homeowners are elderly and living on fixed incomes. And their homes cannot be moved. So when the park closes, they lose their homes and all their equity,” Tatro wrote in a statement to NBC 7. “The upcoming judgment represents the end of a long struggle to ensure that the City follows the law and helps these residents find a new home before destroying their current ones."
Tatro said at full occupancy, there were 509 homes in the park, about two-thirds of which remain. He said the rest have already been destroyed, taken to landfills or transported to Mexico.
“None of the homes can be re-sited to any other mobile home parks in the state,” Tatro wrote.
Among the most eager for that judgment and the residents’ departure is community activist Scott Chipman.
“Their lease was up a decade ago,” Chipman said. “They should have been out long ago.”
Chipman said he’s given thousands of presentations on the so-called "Mission Bay Gateway Project." It calls for educational, environmental, and recreational improvements to Mission Bay Park.
The project hinges on De Anza Cove being repurposed as an RV park.
“There is dramatic support for a low-cost opportunity for people to stay overnight in Mission Bay Park,” Chipman said. “That's what Campland does. That's what we should have in this area.”
He’s referring to Campland RV Park, which currently sits on land Chipman hopes to see restored to wetlands as part of his proposal. Campland’s lease expires in 2017.
Chipman seems to have support among city leadership.
"We have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to increase public access to Mission Bay, improve bike, pedestrian and recreation facilities, and protect the environment by expanding marshland and restoring natural habitats,” reads a statement from Mayor Kevin Faulconer. “The Mission Bay Gateway Project is one of many exciting proposals I look forward to reviewing with the community as the public input process begins."
But Chipman’s vision cannot begin to come to fruition until the lawsuit is resolved.
Tatro said there will likely be a large crowd at the May 6 hearing, but some will not be present.
“It's just a sad fact that the long duration of this case has meant that some of the homeowners did not live long enough to see judgment day,” he said.