• Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

In order to visit a beach community, one must wear ugly sunglasses, so I snatch my chrome Elvis reproduction shades that I purchased in Las Vegas last summer and hit the door. From the 8 West I take the 5 North and get off at Mission Bay Drive. Just off the ramp is one of San Diego’s great outdoor spaces: De Anza Cove. Lush lawns meet the bay’s beach. Full shade trees cast big shadows for the picnickers dragging baby carriages and barbecues. Down a little path that runs next to the water, joggers in bright shiny shirts and chunky shoes bounce along. Oh, it’s pretty. This treasured outdoor space also offers a scenic view of a dumpy trailer park and its dilapidated mobile homes.

Bill Killman has owned his De Anza Cove mobile home since 2000. It has a sunroom, 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, and is air-conditioned. He pays about $800 per month for the use of the lot and utilities.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve looked across the water and wondered how in the hell a trailer park is still standing in the middle of a beach community, even more so, right on the bay. It’s 2011, and by now nearly every bit of prime real estate has been built up into a skyscraper condominium complex or a ritzy hotel with polished brass dolphin statues in the courtyard. (Why so many damn dolphin statues, San Diego?) Anytime I see a throwback to good taste like this mobile home park, my eyebrows make a V, my head cocks to the side, and my face registers a decidedly “What in the…?” expression, as if I’d just seen a man riding an ostrich. How could this thing escape redevelopment for so long?

De Anza Cove mobile homes purchased by the City are first posted with “No Trespassing” signs, awaiting their turns to be removed from the lot.

Driving through the mobile home park, I see touches of a nice community intermingled with signs of complete decay. The bulletin board out front reads “Church Service Sunday 10:30 am Bay Club” and has posted “Lilies for sale” and “Come grow your own vegetables. Plots available.” Just beyond the bulletin board are trailers that appear to have only tattered blue tarps for major sections of roofing, and their foundations seem to be made up of shopping carts and bottles. The mobile home park looks like It’s a Wonderful Life before Clarence the angel shows up.

People in the 50s and 60s moved in, set up their homes, and settled down to a quiet life on the bay.

It probably won’t shock you to know that a trailer park in such a prime location has provoked the ire of its neighbors as well as the greedy eye of the City. I’d like to tell you that the City can’t touch it, that this ugly-ass trailer park, thumbing its nose at the superficial beauty and outlandish expense of Pacific Beach, is a permanent fixture, but that’s not true. There has been a fight for this plot of land for decades, and the City of San Diego has been scheming to develop it into a hotel since at least the 1980s. And the City can do it, too. The land belongs to the City. Sort of. It actually belongs to the State, but the State gave it to the City. But not to put mobile homes on. So the State wants it back, but the City… Hang on. Let’s start at the beginning.

In 2003, Hawkeye demolished laundry rooms, cut down trees, shut off electricity and water

Way back between 1939 and 1945, the State of California gave this marshy land to the City “to be held in trust for the use of all citizens of the state.” Isn’t that nice? Of course it is, and of course the City didn’t do that; it did the exact opposite. In 1953, the City leased the land to a developer (you know, like San Diego does) with the provision that the developer put in a tourist area and a trailer park. The original lease calls for “accompanying facilities, businesses and concessions with the written approval of the City Manager.” That sounds wonderful. You can imagine a wide-open park, a little ice cream stand, a boat rental, and Annette Funicello hopping from beach blanket to beach blanket. Yeah, that didn’t happen.

What happened was the developer put in a “trailer park” as requested. But it wasn’t a “trailer park” like you could motor up in your Studebaker towing an Airstream trailer and camp here for a week. It was a “trailer park,” you know, like a mobile home park that contained around 680 units, and about 80 percent of those were made permanent residences. They took this public land and turned it over to developers to use as a private source of income on these mobile home rents, of which the developer would kick back a percentage to the City. It’s an interesting idea to use land as a mobile home park, especially this plot. All you have to do is suck out the marshy muck (birds and fish, right up the tube!), make a peninsula out of sand, pave it, add utility lines, and you’re done with “developing.” No major buildings to construct; just let people roll their houses in and start collecting rent. The City didn’t mind that this wasn’t exactly a “tourist” area anymore, that they had essentially done the exact opposite of what the State mandated for these parcels, because they were scraping a bit of the rent off the top — starting out at 5 percent of the rent that residents paid to the developer/management company. Money rolls in, and everybody keeps quiet that this isn’t “for the use of all citizens of the state.” (Sacramento’s not going to come down here!)

People moved in, set up their homes, and settled down to a quiet life on the bay. They bought and sold the trailers on the land just as anyone does with regular houses. Laundry rooms, a clubhouse, and a pool were put in, the little roads paved and repaved. The people went to work, paid their rent, and in the evenings sat down in front of large console televisions and sucked Hamm’s beer from cans.

And without much notice, in 1978 a bill was passed in California called the Mobile Home Residency Law. We’ll get to that in a minute. What’s far more interesting is just a little skip ahead two years to 1980.

Yeah! The Go-Go ’80s! The greed-is-good era saw Ronald Reagan hand over the economy to the banking industry and stockbrokers take off their nerdy glasses and those green visors and swap their hand-crank calculating machines for shoulder-padded white suits, hair gel, and cocaine. That’s when people started looking at De Anza Cove and going, “What in the hell are mobile homes doing here?”

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

More from SDReader


randiego2 Sept. 14, 2011 @ 12:47 p.m.

I say leave the park there. This city has a long history of giveaways to developers... NTC being the most recent example.

Let them stay!


SUNGAWD Sept. 14, 2011 @ 4:37 p.m.

This is just another example of how inept San Diego Government really is. Over and over we see how totally bad all aspects of this city administration are. This property should be sending millions to the general fund but instead we get ZIP!. The residents of this CITY PROPERTY were well aware of the fact they would have to vacate [I think it was 2004] and that there would be no NEW RESIDENTS ALLOWED. Illegal sublets are the norm and as usual the city sits on their collective hands and says: OH NO! What are we going to do? Drive around this place and see PERMANENT "MOBILE" homes and dilapidated dumps. I wonder if the City of San Diego can EVER DO ANYTHING RIGHT!. I am waiting a copy of the new book "PARADISE PLUNDERED" to learn who is really responsible for the decline of all aspects of the San Diego Government. Its time for a few "HEADS TO ROLL" and many indictments to be drawn up and the perpetrators finally brought to light and justice. De Anza is only one of a very long list of malfeasance in San Diego. Does anyone care?


Oxenfree Sept. 14, 2011 @ 8:03 p.m.

"The residents of this CITY PROPERTY were well aware of the fact they would have to vacate ..."

Whether they knew it or not, there are laws that must be followed to shut down a mobile home park.

"[I think it was 2004] ..."

It was 2003, which I mentioned in the article like 7 times.

"... and that there would be no NEW RESIDENTS ALLOWED. Illegal sublets are the norm and as usual the city sits on their collective hands and says: OH NO! What are we going to do? Drive around this place and see PERMANENT 'MOBILE' homes and dilapidated dumps."

I'm not sure what you're goin' on about here. Thanks for ranting. Be well.


Twister Sept. 14, 2011 @ 10:13 p.m.

Ollie = "All ye"

Oxenfree = "Outs in free."

Is this an ironic coincidence, or WHAT?

Would you keep your property up if you lived in fear of losing it?


PS: "The goddamed human race!" --Mark Twain


Oxenfree Sept. 15, 2011 @ 6:43 a.m.

I would not because of the fear. Fear is the key to how San Diego city has run much of its public programs.


historymatters Sept. 15, 2011 @ 2:11 a.m.

nice story!!!! I was very curious about that project. Very interesting.

But here is the part everyone keeps missing, yes SD is the most corrupt city in the country and the reason we cannot elect these people out of office is because of who is running our elections!!! This is the root of all the evil. San Diegans are smart and they know their City is corrupt and everytime they try and take it back the registrar keeps it in the hands of the crooks.

Do you honestly believe EVERY SINGLE County Supervisor has been re-elected for at least their 4th time or 16th year? No way, but the registrar reports to the County Board of Sups as her bosses which is why they got Deborah Seiler of Diebold and Michael Vu who was implicated in the Ohio presidential election fraud to run our elections. We need much more discussion about this.


historymatters Sept. 15, 2011 @ 2:14 a.m.

I have written about the election fraud here many times but I see very little media coverage of this topic and it is at the root of everything. Please look at this list of facts and developments on the topic of election fraud so we can solve this egregious abuse of power you detail in this story.


Oxenfree Sept. 15, 2011 @ 6:41 a.m.

These are incredibly interesting. I'd like to talk to you about it, History. Thanks, Ollie.


bohemianopus Sept. 15, 2011 @ 7:49 a.m.

GREAT article! I actually know someone who lives in this park. I applaud your accurate account of what has and is still happening in this community.

It isn't the fault of the residents that the park was not in compliance with the law. People invested their money in this housing just as anyone else would invest in conventional property.

How many people check the history, laws or politics involved with a dwelling they are about to purchase? Not many. They put their trust in the title and real estate companies or the property owners.

I think (we) seniors (especially those of us who are of little means) need to rally like other disenfranchised segments of society do. We've paid into the "system" in one way or another for 40, 50, 60 years; and now are scrambling to find safe, affordable housing that will enable us to conduct our business without having to take our lives into our hands to go to the grocery store.


jelula Sept. 1, 2013 @ 4:21 p.m.

This is a somewhat belated comment (2 years later) but you need to know that every owner of mobile home in the park (most of whom have bought since 1990) has been informed since 1981 (legally required real estate disclosure) that the residential us would end in November 2003. However, per someone who lived there in the 1990s told me that new buyers were informed at purchase but then reassured that it wouldn't really happen.

Additionally, due to the city's failure to establish a process to ensure that owners would vacate in 2003 and a state law regarding conversion of mobilehome parks to another use (despite the illegality of continued residential use of this dedicated parkland), we're still struggling to reclaim our parkland and will have to pay these people a lot of money to move off of our parkland. This despite residents' enjoyment of our waterfront property for decades now and at substantially lower rents than anyone would pay at any other property adjacent to Mission Bay Park or the ocean.

Oh, and the city allowed resale of the mobile home units well into 2003! Forget about the sublets that no one monitored.


Zayaz Sept. 15, 2011 @ 8:49 a.m.

This man is a national treasure, clearly his generation's Mark Twain, Ambrose Bierce or Hunter S Thompson. He is already widely read in places as far away as Pittsburgh PA. Until the next article Mr. Oxenfree, be well!


richroble Sept. 15, 2011 @ 11:34 a.m.

Having lived in San Diego since 1962, this is one of the best and most honest stories about the underpinnings of San Diego politics since Don Bauder and the Jerry Dominelli caper.


nan shartel Sept. 15, 2011 @ 11:45 a.m.


i love each and every word written here...i savor them...i swallow them whole!!!

i remember when that park sprang up...in the 60's it was beautiful and i longed to live there...it was a lovely thorn among the roses of all the other very high priced and well heeled property around the bay...i considered those mobiles as landlocked houseboats and i dearly wanted one

this is the best story i've read here at the READER so far...put a flag on it and run it up the flagpole if they haven't cut it down yet


may all the residents live long and begin to prosper there forever

and may the Humane Society give them all free pit bulls to protect their property ;-D


nan shartel Sept. 20, 2011 @ 12:34 p.m.


power to the mobile owners!!!


Twister Sept. 15, 2011 @ 6:42 p.m.

Very similar to the Glorietta Bay anchoring rights case years ago. The people, and their boats, were crushed. The Port Police Gestapo held a public "meeting" under armed guard, and refused to allow the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Kangaroos would have been treated better. May that chief rot in hell!


Facebook Sept. 16, 2011 @ 11:07 a.m.

Marilyn S.: well done...its like a gestapo state in there..i had to stop visiting an elderly friend years ago ...so sad


nan shartel Sept. 16, 2011 @ 1:33 p.m.

heartbreaking Facebook....just so heartless...don't we have enough public parkland without it

a pricey high rise hotel is not my version of public parkland


jelula Sept. 16, 2011 @ 12:30 p.m.

Is it greedy to take back OUR PUBLIC PARKLAND from a use that should never have been allowed to occur? The true story is that De Anza is on OUR PUBLIC PARKLAND and was illegal from the get-go. Private residential use of parkland is illegal under State law and the City Charter of San Diego. Do you really think it okay that someone can claim a right to live in a public park in perpetuity? How would you feel if this was in Balboa Park? Yosemite? The Kapiloff Bill (1981) was not to force the residents out but to enable them to remain until November, 2003, when the master lease with the City expired. Residents were sub-lessees to the Master Lessee, De Anza Corporation; each resident owned the mobile home and paid rent to the Master Lessee for the parcel their home was on. The City had no obligation to pay for moving when the lease, and the provisions of the Kapiloff Bill, expired. Since when has a landlord (in this case, TAXPAYERS) been obligated to pay moving expenses of a tenant whose lease expires? The Court's decision was not that the City must pay residents' costs to move but that the City must do an "impact study" for the residents regarding conversion of De Anza back to its legal use as public parkland. The Court also required the City to pay damages for the City's bad choice of security/management company once the lease expired with De Anza Corporation. The residents of 1981 and all subsequent owners of these "mobile homes" were clearly informed of the 2003 expiration date, after which their continued residential use would be unlawful under State law and City Charter. In later years, some owners lived elsewhere and sublet their mobile home, in effect profiting from renting our public parkland to a third party. By the 1990s, a large majority of the owners and renters were newcomers but all were informed, through required disclosures when signing a lease with De Anza Corporation, of the 2003 expiration date and told they could not remain after that date. Nonetheless, some owners decided that they have a right to remain on our public parkland as long as they wish or that we, the taxpayers, are obligated to pay their costs of moving if they do not remain. Now does this make sense? The writer does, however, have it absolutely right that the City has handled this situation badly from the very beginning. You & I get to pay for the City's failure to handle things in a reasonable and business-like manner, and we still have not regained our public parkland, over 50 years after the City originally leased the property for development of an RV camping facility.


froggie Sept. 23, 2011 @ 9:19 p.m.

In response to jelula , who questioned that the City has some obligation to the tenants regarding the impact of their being forced to move…

CA State Code Section 65863.7 (i)This section is applicable when the … change of use is the result of a decision by a local governmental entity … In this case, the local governmental agency is the person proposing the change in use … and is required to take steps to mitigate the adverse impact of the change as may be required in subdivision (e).

And, jelula, you also might be interested to know that the tenant impact report required by CA State Code Section 65863.7 (a) (“Prior to the conversion of a mobilehome park to another use, … the person or entity proposing the change in use shall file a report on the impact of the conversion, closure, or cessation of use upon the displaced residents of the mobilehome park to be converted or closed.”) has still not been completed – even after the Judge ruled back in 2008 that the City must prepare one. We have been waiting three years for them to bother to get around to doing it. One might ask why? They are so determined to get rid of us, yet the City fails to do the one thing that keeps us from getting the suit settled and our moving on. Could it be because the hotel deal the City had planned fell through when the economy went south so now they want the income from our rent?

And I might add, that if you think that you will ever get OUR PUBLIC PARKLAND back, don’t fool yourself. It will be public only insofar as you might be allowed to walk on the grounds of the hotel, eat at their expensive restaurant or play golf on their luxury golf course.


Wickstawatcher April 2, 2015 @ 7:37 p.m.

Private residential use exists in virtually all very large parks in San Diego County, County Parks, State Parks and Federal Parks included. I lived in one. The little-noticed houses are designed to blend in with the foliage and other structures. The State property only belongs to the City if if follows the conditions of the transfer, similar to violating a lease.


Sarablu87 Sept. 16, 2011 @ 1:25 p.m.

I happen to live in De Anza cove and I will tell you that yes everyone is afraid to fix things because they don't have ay clue when their HOME will be snatched out from under them... could you imagine? Would you fix up your car knowing it might get re-possessed at anytime? Would you do that to your grandparents, maybe your sibling and their children? I have to tell you that this is the first time in any neighborhood (and I have lived in various places in SoCal and Texas) I have ever lived in, that I feel a sense of community. I know everyone that lives on my street, we have a "snack shack", on Saturday nights during the summer we play free childrens movies. We do have a camping area in the middle of the park, and it is VERY family oriented. All of my neighbors look out for one another, we have zero crime there (but the city tries to blame crime that happens in MB park on De Anza Cove). Does San Diego REALLY need ANOTHER hotel? Why is no one complaining about the "RV city" that has sprung up Mission Bay? They pay no rent, no taxes, no sewage (I believe they are dumping it somewhere as a smell has developed). My husband and I both work, our kids go to school, we plant flowers, have a monthly pest control service, and pay our rent on time. How would you like it if I knocked on your door and told you "I understand that you were 'allowed' to build your house here in the past, but we've changed our mind, your time is now up. We need this area to put up another dolphin statue."


nan shartel Sept. 16, 2011 @ 1:36 p.m.

spruce it up city...improve it...and charge reasonable(for the area)space rent for the property these HOMEOWNERS sit on

hoping 4 better treatment 4 u in the future Sarablu87


Walter Mencken Sept. 16, 2011 @ 8:20 p.m.

Such a pleasure to have Ollie in these pages again.


juryrig131 Sept. 17, 2011 @ 9:14 a.m.

It is great to see someone talking about the Mobile Home issue even if it does not make it sound like Parks can look good and the fact that it allows people that are not rich to enjoy water access. When I moved here a Mobile Home is all I could afford. I moved into Terrace View Mobile Homes Estates and after reading your article about the underhanded handling of the Park in the article I now understand what is going on in my Park. Since being here my rent has gone from $543 to $1244 this year, the rent you quoted in the article was even this high. I have tried everything to get someone interested in seeing what the park is trying to do to us and no one seems interested, this includes our elected officials, have all answered they can charge what they want. I wish Ollie would take a look at this and give it the coverage like the Water Mobile Home Park because I am sure that these people are pulling the same type of underhanded tactic that is being done in the other Park.


mridolf Sept. 18, 2011 @ 3:55 a.m.

As well as this is written, I still come away with some very simple questions, that I'm sure most other readers have as well. And the answers should have been a part of the data supplied by the writer. First, what is the rent paid by the residents? Second, if there are no new residents allowed, why are there families with children living there?


marshaag Sept. 18, 2011 @ 1:43 p.m.

I have lived in PB, Crown Point, and about to do so again. I must say I feel sad for anyone who struggles financially. But there is no excuse for lack of cleanliness and lack of pride in your property and home. It is a disgusting area and I personally hope something can be done about cleaning it up. Ollie's article accurate or not, is hilarious. He reminds so much of Dave Barry. Also reminds me of John Stewart's way of delivering the news - very clever and funny.


Jill Ballard Sept. 19, 2011 @ 1:06 p.m.

We should stop electing city government officials who have a track record of greed.


thai4267 Sept. 20, 2011 @ 4:35 p.m.

well i used to visit my grandparent and uncle at de anza when they lived there they had a nice spot across the street from the playground when first pulling through the area i mean the very first space right smack there and it was such a treat to b there i had such great memories the 4th of july was beutiful i ended up attending mission bay high for a minuite and it was neat becouse during p.e. we had to run from the high school all the way to the hilton n back and wouldnt you know it if the chosen path we ran went right next to my grandmas haha i lost some time and place in line for a manditory ice cream grab i scuba dived for the first time there i saw jelly fish and stingray and fished and had a crush on a girl and wow it goes on and on so just wanted to say deanza is a good part of my memories that im blessed to have and always smile for the good times she gave me


ekleber Nov. 15, 2011 @ 12:12 a.m.

I wonder if the City will have learned any lessons by the time the lease for the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club comes up? Will it ever become a public golf course? Don't bet on it.


indigo Jan. 11, 2012 @ 7:31 a.m.

Why is the city always in the "build and develop every square inch" mode? Of course the article answers that question repeatedly. But with our periodic water crises and water rationing, I have to ask; when is enough - enough? Too many people = not enough water.


zwilliams1231 May 7, 2014 @ 11:48 a.m.

WOW UNBELIVABLE! To some this might be an ugly ass trailer park. But to a lot of us We call it home. I agree there are a lot of Ron down trailer. However there ate alloy of nice trailers. I sure tGreene there would be more nice trailers if they weren't threatening pot us out on the street. Honestly who wants to pay to fix somthing up when they are unsure when they will be displaced. Ipeople like this guy who wrote this article & the ones who are trying to Get rid of us honestly blows me away . You have no regaurd for anyone but your selves. I mean everyone i have ever talked to. Who dorsnt live here would kill to live here. Not to mention if you put a hotel here that would destroy the scenory way worse then our ugly ass trailer park. The worldalready has enough hotels. How many more dumb tourist do you want to bring to this town. That nice little bike path by the creek you were hyping up. Is full of homelesssmells like sewer. You my friend cant see behind those dumb ass elvis glasses you discribed earlier. The only people who ware those these days are people who think they still got it or alcohols who dont relize how stupid they look you my friend must be both. I love my home. This is where i got married, had a baby & where me and my wife started our face painting & party rental business. This place has a beauty of its own that cant be seen by elvis loser wannabes .


dwbat April 2, 2015 @ 8:24 p.m.

That has to be the worst spelling I've ever seen.


Sign in to comment

Let’s Be Friends

Subscribe for local event alerts, concerts tickets, promotions and more from the San Diego Reader