A King County judge ordered the city of SeaTac and the park’s owner to redo some of the paperwork required for the park’s closure, reversing a portion of an earlier ruling and buying the 170 residents additional time.
Hailing it as a victory, residents of the Firs Mobile Home Park in SeaTac won’t be immediately evicted from their homes after a judge partially ruled in their favor Thursday.
King County Superior Court Judge LeRoy McCullough ordered the city and the park’s owner to redo some of the paperwork required for the park’s closure, reversing a portion of an earlier ruling and buying the residents additional time. The ruling means that the case will be sent back to the SeaTac planning director for review.
About 170 residents, almost all Hispanic, have faced eviction since October 2016 when the park’s owner, Jong Soo Park, told them they must leave within a year because he was going to develop a hotel and apartments on the land.
“I’m feeling happy because we have more time to stay in our homes, “ Firs mobile homeowner Anita Brito said outside the Kent courthouse. “It means everything to keep up the fight.”
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Rosa Munoz, who has lived in the park for 17 years, said “we’ve been trying to win for so long. We have more time and hopefully we can keep our homes.”
While eviction isn’t imminent, it’s unclear when — and if — residents of the park south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport must leave.
McCullough’s ruling was in response to an appeal filed by mobile homeowners who claimed the park owner and SeaTac violated the city’s mobile-home-park closure and relocation requirements.
McCullough adopted most of a hearing examiner’s previous decision to move forward with the park’s closure but reversed the part of it involving the paperwork.
“Basic data was missing or incomplete notices and related processes were short circuited, errors were compounded by language issues,” McCullough said.
Owner Park and SeaTac were required to coordinate and complete an inventory that includes demographics from Firs residents, such as income, age and number of years living in the park.
McCullough said “the inventory is defective” because the city didn’t gather information on residents’ income, a crucial component of determining the needs of the residents and their housing options.
In response to the judge’s ruling, SeaTac City Attorney Mary Mirante Bartolo said “the inventory needs to be beefed up a bit” and will be sent to residents within 30 days as ordered.
Once it’s complete within the next few months, it will be part of a relocation plan that the city’s planning director will approve, modify or send back for more information.
Mobile-home parks are one of the last affordable housing options for low-income wage earners, disabled people and seniors not dependent on government subsidies.
Almost all the park’s residents face losing their mobile homes that they have paid off and upgraded. Many aren’t structurally safe to move, and space isn’t available in other parks.
The eviction would affect nearly every aspect of the residents’ lives. Some might lose their jobs because of longer commutes once they relocate. Children, including those with special needs, would need to find new schools and doctors. Free child care from the older teenagers in the park would no longer be available.
Park, the owner of the property, attended the court hearing but left afterward without commenting. A phone call to him was not returned.
After the hearing, mobile-home residents hugged, clapped and chanted “Si se puede,” (Yes, we can.)
Cruz Medina, president of the Firs Mobile Homeowners Association, said “we are so happy right now mostly for the kids and the kids in school.”
About 90 children live in the park.
The state has said it will allocate $2.5 million in grant money to someone or an entity that buys the land and keeps it as a mobile-home park. But the value of the land is about $11 million.
But Park, during an interview in January, said he had no intention of selling.