In 1980, the State Lands Commission conducted a review of the plot and found that it really wasn’t a tourist area for public use. They were shocked to find a mobile home park on what was supposed to be public land and told the City of San Diego to clear it out and make it into the tourist area as the City was supposed to have done 30-some-odd years earlier.
Well, in the previous 30-some-odd years, the mobile homes had become decidedly less mobile. Permanent structures like sundecks and carports were attached to the exteriors of the trailers. Salt air had rusted the steel and oxidized the aluminum into fixed place. And another thing happened: the residents had gotten old. The occupants were now as elderly, creaky, and rusted into place as their trailers.
Recognizing this, in 1982 the state legislature passed a bill called AB 447, or the “Kapiloff Bill” — so named after its author, Assemblyman Larry Kapiloff. The Kapiloff Bill essentially says, “San Diego, you dumb bastards. We gave you this land to use as a tourist area and you made it into a trailer park with permanent residents. Now, get those mobile homes out of there. But (and this is a big but), we know there are elderly residents there, people who have been there since the damn ’50s, so you have until 2003 to save up the money and transition them to other places. If you don’t like it, we’ll take the park back from you and do it ourselves.” (Paraphrased.)
In light of the “take it or leave it” wording of the bill, San Diego envisioned all that rent money going to the State instead of staying here, so the City “took it.” But, they weren’t happy about it and they certainly weren’t going to do what the State told them to do. (Why would they start now?)
The City of San Diego, always acting like a drag queen who’s just had her wig yanked off, took the Kapiloff Bill to the residents of De Anza Cove and started blaming them for developing the land into a mobile home park, even though most if not all of the residents probably had no hand in building the park. Hell, they probably had no idea how the park even got there and what the State of California had originally intended the land to be used for. I imagine a City official hopping out of a Lincoln Continental with the Kapiloff Bill in hand and screaming, “How could you build a mobile home park here!” at a stunned resident in a robe about to pick up the morning paper.
Since San Diego could smell the money of development like sharks smell blood in the water, the City started eyeballing the spot for a swanky new hotel. This is the part where the City transforms from “bumbling and corrupt” to something akin to the villain in a Scooby-Doo episode. The day that the California State Assembly passed the Kapiloff Bill, San Diego laid out a plan to jack up the rent. Remember that 5 percent the City was scraping from the management company? The City renegotiated the terms to take 10 percent, 15 percent, and finally 20 percent of the gross revenue collected — effectively quadrupling the rent that the management company paid the City.
Skyrocketing the rent like this had two intended consequences. The first being obvious: the management company would then pass on the rent hikes to residents. And those who didn’t have the wherewithal to fight City Hall would give up and move out. The second consequence of skyrocketing the rent was, of course, to make money on more development. If everyone moved out, the City could build that brassy hotel they always wanted. This little plan of ratcheting old people’s rent and popping up a hotel was supposed to garner the City between $50 and $60 million over the 20-something years from the 1980s until 2003. (If the hotel didn’t get built, according to the plan, the City stood to make only about $42 million.)
Now, let’s talk about that little thing that hardly anyone noticed in 1978. The Mobile Home Residency Law. Every resident in California has some sort of protection from being tossed out into the alley with the trash cans and stray cats. If you live in an apartment, the police can’t kick your door in and yank you out into the courtyard. If you own a house or condo and someone else (including the City or State) wants your house or condo, they have to pay you for it. Since mobiles don’t have land and since they’re not apartments or condos, here’s this thing for them: the Mobile Home Residency Law. Before the owner of a mobile home park can kick residents off the land and change the park into something different, there’s a long process of filing impact reports, assessing how much each mobile home is worth, acquiring permits for this and permits for that, and filing a cavalcade of paperwork. Oh, it’s a huge deal.
The Mobile Home Residency Law also says that if the owner of the park is a city, the city has to pay to move the people who live there. Now, if you’ll remember, the City of San Diego was poised to make between $42 and $60 million on rent from the De Anza Harbor Resort. Everyone knew the end of the lease was coming up; the original lease was for 50 years, and that was way back in the 1950s, and the new Kapiloff Bill stated that the residents could stay until 2003. So, you’d think, in light of the Mobile Home Residency Law, that the City would keep the $40 or $60 million in revenue and pay a small fraction of that to move the residents come 2003. You might even think that the City would follow the law and file the necessary paperwork. Oh, you’re so silly for thinking that. How silly you are. Because of failed business dealings, that swank hotel was never built. The City still collected its rent checks on the mobile home park, but it sure as hell didn’t want to use the money for relocating residents. If the City didn’t use it to relocate displaced mobile home residents, what did the City spend it on? Candy bars and ink pens, for all we know. The City of San Diego has a special talent for blowing money like an investment banker in a strip club. Either way, they say that money’s gone.