Trailer Parks May Be Zoned To Stay That Way -- Residents Applaud And Operators Deride City Proposal

Six of Seattle's nine remaining trailer parks could be rezoned so they would remain mobile home parks indefinitely under a draft city proposal.

The idea is applauded by park residents and derided as ``laughable'' by some park operators.

Saying Seattle was in dire need of affordable housing, the city two years ago slapped a moratorium on development projects that would eliminate existing mobile home parks. The ``emergency'' measure was extended three times - prompting a lawsuit by property owners - and now will expire in May.

The majority of the parks sit on land designated for commercial use, prime targets for developers. But the park owners say they are being robbed of an opportunity to develop their land.

On the other hand, city officials say that development would break up communities and deprive the working poor and elderly residents of about 600 affordable housing units.

The city's actions would not be an end-all, but one step toward improving the scant amount of affordable housing, said City Councilman Jim Street. Street said he has not yet read the draft proposal, issued last month.

The premise behind the Office for Long-Range Planning proposal is simple: Land designated for mobile home parks needs to be safeguarded for residential development. Principally, that development would be mobile homes, but single-family homes would be permitted as well.

That sounds good to Evelyn Taylor, who lives at Halcyon Mobile Home Park. The bushes, trees and rhododendrons that adorn her home she planted herself. The trailer where she lives was paid for in hard-earned cash.

``I've lived here for 24 years. I don't want to move. None of us would want to move. People are permanent here. Nobody ever moves until they die,'' Taylor said.

The six properties suggested for the new mobile home park zoning designation - Bella B, Halcyon, Trailer Haven, Crest Trailer Park, National Trailer Park and University Trailer Park - share common traits. The parks are at least 2 acres, are part of a larger residential area and are located within 1,000 feet of a major arterial.

The rezoning proposal gives property owners less incentive to demolish aging units or to force residents to find new homes elsewhere, said Bridgett Chandler of the Office for Long-Range Planning.

Public comments on the draft were taken during a heated Dec. 4 hearing. Officials are now establishing the scope of issues to be addressed in the environmental impact statement.

``You don't just change the official zoning map willy-nilly. It's a pretty serious thing when you talk about what people can put on their land,'' Chandler said.

``It's laughable, the draft,'' counters Joel Erlitz, who manages the Bella B, located at 1333 N. 125th St. ``Number one, to say you're going to create zoning for new mobile home parks within the city of Seattle is like saying you're going to take downtown real estate and you're going to zone it for a livery stable to house horses. It's an absurd notion. It's a sham.''

National Trailer Park, for example, has earnest money to guarantee sale of their property to Costco Wholesale for $5.5 million - provided the company can build at least 500 retirement units on the property. But that sale can't take place until the moratorium expires in May because it prohibits changes of use of the land.

The park owner, R.P. Guimont, is among the landowners who sued the city to seek an end to the moratorium, issuance of master use and building permits now on hold, damages and attorneys fees. The lawsuit, filed last May, says the city's actions amounted to ``inverse condemnation'' without due process or just payment.

Erlitz said if the point is to provide affordable housing, the city should allow property owners the right to build. Homes for thousands could be provided, rather than the 592 households that exist in city trailer parks now.

Council member Street said there is no guarantee that replacement housing would be as inexpensive as the low rent mobile home park residents pay now.

``They are part of a community there that will simply be wiped out. If that mobile home park is closed, you've got community issues, you've got real human beings and you've got a question of whether the new housing will be affordable to these people,'' he said.

The rezone proposal also sets guidelines for new mobile home parks that include 2,500-square-foot minimum lot sizes, 30-foot maximum height and a minimum of 25 homes per park.



Areas recommened for mobile home park zoning designation1. Crest Trailer Park.2. National Trailer Park.3. Bella B Trailer Park.4. Halcyon Mobile Home Park.5. Trailer Haven Park.6. University Trailer Park.Areas not recommended for rezoning7. Lake City Mobile Home Park.8. Jensen Trailer Court.9. Westward Mobile Home Park.